The series. A new blight on the whisky calendar that is growing in popularity. By uniting casks or handcuffing a marketing theme to a release, the series entices and draws many in. There are several principle exponents of this format. Yes, Highland Park, but also Dalmore, the Macallan and Arran are well versed in a series along with countless others.
Ulimately though is there any real substance to these experiences beyond the mere packaging and proclamations? In reality, very little. These exist to almost guarantee annual sales and it’s a shame when the price rises each year. Having bought into the initial release you’re almost duty-required to see it through till the very bitter and costly end. I suppose Dalmore with Custodian cask range – casks distilled at the turn of the millennium – bottled at ages of 12, 15 and the final piece sometime in 2018, has an interesting slant. The prices for Dalmore have also been reasonable which probably underlines just how much prices are rising nowadays.
Step forth Springbank. Their local barley series actually has a purpose. It’s to showcase the individual barley crops grown within the vicinity of Scotland’s whisky capital. The range underlines the regional emphasis of the distillery and supporting the local community. It’d be easier and cheaper to bring in barley from elsewhere, but as we’ve seen with Waterford distillery there’s a pride and satisfaction from farmers who are selected for distillation. Financially as well, the prices will be presumably more rewarding than crops destined for cattle feed and such like. Ensuring money goes into the local economy brings benefits to the wider population and area, so it’s a win-win all round.
The sensible types amongst us will have kept their bottles intact. Not for financial gain but to sit down with all 5 once the Local Barley set is complete and then truly experience the differences. Regretfully I’ll admit to opening and reliving the glassware of its contents twice now. I suffer from flashbacks now and again regarding the initial duo. Both were distinctive and layered, plus enjoyable whilst retaining that Springbank DNA. Whilst the debut bottling featured Bere barley, the 2006 11 year old Springbank offered a demonstration in Prisma barley. For this specific 10 year old we’re relying now on Belgravia that was grown less than 5 miles away from the distillery at West Back Farm. In essence, replicating the old ways of using local farmers to provide an essential building block towards whisky. As you’ll no doubt know, Springbank utilises its floor maltings for 100% of its needs. This is the difference between Campbeltown and the pretender on Islay at Bruichladdich that has to ship its locally grown crop off to the mainland for malting.
You can read more about the Belgravia type of grain here which is more suited to distilling and surviving the less than tropical weather climate of Campbeltown. Of course, the previous 2 strains used so far in the Local Barley series have been older styles of grain, with Bere being able to survive the rugged climate of Orkney. Belgravia offers a more reliable yield and less strain on mashing equipment compared to the hardy Bere.
This Local Barley was a limited release of 9000 bottles at 57.3% strength and is comprised of 70% bourbon and 30% sherry casks within its makeup. Needless to say, it sold out pretty quickly amidst the usual madness that seems to surround these Local Barley releases. I’m now like many others resigned to such a fight each year. For now, let’s enjoy the spoils.
Springbank Local Barley 10 year old – review
On the nose: pineapple chunks, a light smokiness with some marzipan. Cotton sheets, a resin quality followed by more buttery notes. The refreshing sharpness of strawberry followed by French toast and a zesty citrus burst reminiscent of lime cordial then freshly shaved pine wood. Yes, this whisky has character a touch of wax and above all balance.
In the mouth: is where this Springbank really turns up. There the anticipated peat and fruitiness with juicy pears, pineapples and lemon. A touch of paraffin wax, a rich orange marmalade, a gentle sea salt and pancakes drizzled in honey.
When faced with a whisky such as this its difficult not to think of the sentiment that the old ways are superior to the cost-effective whiskies of today. This Springbank has a personality and compared to some of dull whiskies I’ve endured recently, it’s vibrant and jumping out of the glass. It has a soul and message for us all. Yes, it’s not cheap for its age, but you’re getting more bang for your buck here whilst supporting the additional costs of such a concept. Bravo.
Lead image kindly provided by Abbey Whisky. Sadly this Springbank sold out shortly after release.