Springbank. That’s all we need to say and the end of this review. The score will follow after the tasting notes.
In all seriousness, and trying to take an impartial stance, there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to this Campbeltown legend. It’s very existence and admiration proves that you can operate a distillery without selling your soul on the crossroads of greed, efficiency, ineptness and marketing. Springbank confirms you can help support the local community, produce a very good whisky and do things your own way, as arguably they should be done.
Sure, you can sell yourself like William Grant, Chivas, Diageo, Edrington and the rest. Try to foster a traditional image and cling onto the past, when in essence you’ve chucked it away. Whilst having a distillery that pumps out millions of, well, whatever it is. You can maximise your crop yields from the maltsters and cut fermentation times down to the bare minimum. Then fill into variable casks and adopt a pile ‘em high ethic. All too commonplace, sadly. You can taste it in the final product even with the most eye catching marketing and buff ambassadors. This thankfully isn’t the Springbank way, nor will it ever be.
And that’s something to celebrate.
In an era of rising prices, dubious themes, whisky that is as dull as the latest episode of EastEnders and Mark’s chat. It reminds us things don’t need to be this way, which is why Springbank is a victim of its own success.
As the level of awareness and interest in whisky grows. Consumers want to explore the recesses and some stumble onto Malt in a slight daze. I doubt we help too much. I know when I started investigating the whisky realm online a decade ago, there were very few welcoming ports. Serge most certainly and the Maniacs, but little else. More and more, the team here become aware of our ability to guide others and demonstrate the pros and cons of whisky. Quite often I hear someone state that they don’t like whisky. Rubbish, and certainly I felt that way with my first mouthful of whisky at a very underage moment in time. You just haven’t found the right one.
As starters go, Springbank isn’t for everyone. But when you’re ready to discover the essence of this distillery, you’ll know it. Only then will you be able to appreciate the complexities and nuisances of the Campbeltown style. It does amaze how many self-proclaimed influencers lack an experience with Springbank or its other distillates in the form of Hazelburn and Longrow. Probably because Springbank as such don’t engage with such types, or have a marketing concept around social media. They’ve only recently joined Instagram and have only within the last year pieced together a cohesive website. That’s the Springbank way; change comes very slowly if at all.
Even then, the experience is all about sourcing a bottle yourself and sitting down with it. Not a fancy dinner, Viking long ship or a swamp monster. Springbank doesn’t need gimmicks. The whisky does the talking and that’s why any release nowadays has a very short shelf life.
For the dedicated there is the Springbank Society. A members club where the first rule is not to talk about the Society. See it’s becoming very popular. The days of being able to purchase 2 bottles from the new member’s outturn seem at an end. A bottle is enough after all. However, if a particular experiment really pushes your buttons, you’ll have to source another somehow. And to be fair not all these Society releases sit well, but we’re more than glad to take that chance. A fair price, minimal packaging and the chance to try something uniquely Springbank. The Society is a welcome extension and an option well worth considering.
Today, we have the latest release. Thanks to Michael for the sample via the Whiskybase Gathering, where he opened a bottle as part of the bring your own on after the Friday night dinner. My bottle sits at home waiting. If you’re fortunate to be invited around to my humble abode, then it’s likely you’ll be allowed to pick out a bottle to open and enjoy that evening. This could be your choice.
This Springbank was distilled in May 2003 before being bottled in September 2018. A maturation of 15 years in fresh port hogsheads resulted in an outturn of 1020 bottles at 56.2% strength. You have to be a member of the Springbank Society to purchase a bottle and even then it’s not guaranteed, given the rising popularity of such releases. Especially when you consider the asking price of £65.
Springbank Society Springbank 2003 – review
Colour: A worn bronze.
On the nose: Fresh and fruity, with the emphasis on raspberries, cranberries, orange peel and a rosé burst of sweetness. The classic Springbank farmyard aspect is still present adding a murky depth. Assisted by toffee, peaches, spent tobacco, a hint of peat, wood polish and a wicker basket. Water reveals a floral rose bouquet and a nutty aspect.
In the mouth: not as sweet as anticipated, on yes there’s a redness combined with an earthiness. Spent matchsticks, cranberries, a dying barbeque, red liquorice, cherries and a touch bitter in places. Orange bitters so essentially cardamom, caraway seed, coriander and burnt sugar, alongside a touch of smoke and menthol. Towards the end chocolate comes through and I preferred it without water.
Springbank remains classy and the Society allows it’s passionate membership to experience different nuances of production and cask experimentation. Again, confirmation that the distillate can hold its own against the most forceful and determined of cask types. The end result is good fun and good value; a winning combination.
My thanks to Michael from WhiskyNews for the sample.