Amongst the vicious circles that form the whisky hemisphere, the mention of the Society will mostly prompt a grunt of recognition from onlookers as pertaining to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This is true, in being the most recognisable exponent of the ethic, however recently I left the comforting bosom of this Edinburgh institution to seek out new whiskies and liberated experiences, to boldly go where no Rover has gone before.
The SMWS has become more profit orientated since changing hands and maximising its revenue streams. Of late it’s all felt a little youthful and cask finished orientated. I’m still not sure about the new bottle design either when the previous incumbent offered a wonderful, yet stylish simplicity. With prices reaching skyward, seeing trends materialise and take form, I felt it was time to pack up and move out. I suspect I’m not alone in this stance or course of action.
Where next on this whisky voyage? Frankly I still haven’t taken stock and found that homestead. Visiting Cadenheads on a regular basis and purchasing various bottles it’s probably a surprise to many that I just never have gotten around to joining the Springbank Society. For the one-off fee of £50 you’re entitled to the opportunity of purchasing one of the club bottlings. In recent years, like all things, limited and whisky related, it’s become a breeding ground for those enticed by auctions. It’s easy to see why given Springbank’s consistently fair approach of charging a reasonable price for a very good, or at least interesting whisky.
Given the physical limitations of a single cask release or vatting of a couple of such casks, there is never enough nowadays to satisfy demand. For the record I was fortunate to be able to purchase 2 bottles of this release and the spare has been promised to a friend for the cost price of £45. Yes, financial suicide I’m sure to many but see my middle finger…
Ironically, the debut release is all about a handful of fresh Sauternes hogsheads. This is a sweet French wine for those that don’t venture down the plonk aisle in Waitrose. Regulars will know this is my least favourite type of cask utilised in the whisky maturation process. My experiences of Sauternes are often as a finish, mainly a dubious intent to mask the limitations of a benign or disappointing cask by applying a fresh lick of magnolia. Yes, it’s the trade default tactical nuke to inject flavour into a terminal ill maturating whisky.
Funnily enough, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society does like to deploy such a cask type at the tail end of maturation. I do recall one very advanced cask that was in its late 30’s and yet for some reason was finished for 6 months in a Sauternes.
On paper there is no reason for this unless you’ve been fortunate to taste the whisky prior to its second voyage. The motto of the story is treat with caution especially when applied as a finish given the power and ferocity that the Sauternes missile can deliver.
Back to Springbank and this 9-year-old was distilled in November 2007, before being bottled in May 2017, at a strength of 57.1% volume. In total there are 1125 bottles, selected by Findlay Ross, the General Manager.
Springbank Sauternes 9 year old Review
Colour: cinder toffee
On the nose: a powerful cacophony of stewed fruits with plum jam, apricots and dried cranberries. There’s a further element of dried fruit with raisins and a scattering of lemon and orange peelings. It’s what lies beyond that is intriguing with an almost tomato relish brazenness mixed in with a hint of smoke and a layer of maple sweetness. Certainly an assortment of cracked walnuts and almost polished brass aspect to the voyage as well. Water delivers raspberries and a creamy vanilla custard.
On the mouth: a total contrast on the palate, there’s an elegance here and lacking some of the sickly sweet characteristics you associate with a Sauternes cask. A diluted jam-like quality, red liquorice with more cranberries towards the finish and a dollop of vanilla cream. Beneath there’s that distinct Springbank earthiness trying to burst out but its being held in chains. Then into a brown sugar finish with a hint of dryness. Water I felt brought out a cherry menthol aspect
the nose certainly can take a drop of water to tone down its youthful vigour, whereas the palate is perfectly behaved. A youthful and playful Springbank that works well with its host and at £45 is perfectly palatable.