We have a fixation on time as a society in general. Many want to roll back the years, or refuse to accept its passage. Instead, going to considerable efforts to slow down the inevitable progress of mother nature.
Personally, I welcome the ticking of the clock and the new possibilities that lie in wait around each corner. The life-changing events that would not resonate, or implode, with the sheer force of glee and emotion if we tried to put a dampener on time. The moments to saviour and those you need to forget. That perfect setting on the pier at Bunnahabhain with a dram, or with family and friends from afar congregating around a stash of whiskies. The opportunities that slip through your fingers, the kindness of strangers, the sense of accomplishment and above all family. Now in my 4th decade, I’ve learned to embrace time and go with the flow. And you know what? Life much like whisky, keeps on giving and surprising.
No, I’m not going to fire a broadside at the whisky and Rolex watch brigade who do their own thing on Instagram, if that’s where you think this is heading. Whisky is very much about time and the appreciation of. That dram has waited years for the moment to be experienced and hopefully enjoyed. Take your time with it, treat it kindly and open up the layers beneath. This approach is fundamental to enjoying entries in the Springbank Local Barley series so far. It’s a uniting force across the range, in spite of their varying ages and different uses of barley. These whiskies deserve time – hence why this review is reaching you in 2019 and not 2018. We don’t rush things in the pursuit of hits here at Malt, our whisky takes the lead.
I’ve often reeled in horror at tastings, or in bars, when shall we say, lesser individuals order a whisky of a reasonable age and knock it back without much consideration. Sometimes yes, I do want to ease myself alongside at their table and point out the errors of their ways in a firm yet polite manner. As much as I accept it is your whisky to enjoy, I’d rather the experience was maximised as much as possible for your own tangible benefit. After all, if you’re drinking in an expensive whisky bar anywhere in the world, it is a moment in time to saviour.
There’s no need for the orchestration of a tea ceremony around whisky, or the nonsensical behaviours that some have propagated in recent years. You know the exact ones. Refraining from certain activities prior to a whisky, avoiding cologne or perfume, holding the glass in a certain manner and so on. As a society, we can take things too far. It has become about being seen with a whisky rather than truly exploring its delights. Simplicity is often the best approach. Personally, a calm setting or a favourite chair. The style of glass you enjoy the most. Maybe some vinyl in the background, a worn tasting journal and comfortable pen by your side and above all; time to enjoy the whisky at hand.
This takes us nicely into the 2018 entry in the Springbank Local Barley series. We’re slowly reaching the end of this journey from Scotland’s most vital and important distillery. I really appreciated last year’s 10 year old from West Back Farm and prior to that the 11 year old from the Aros farm. As you can see, we’ve opened and experienced these whiskies. Including the initial 16 year old that was thoroughly appreciated and shared – so much so, I forgot to write the review. I do treasure such moments where I can sit with a bottle, devoid of the requirement for tasting notes or the angle for an article.
Given the existence of these Local Barley articles, I don’t feel the need to go into what the dynamics of this series represents. It is more than just a clutch of bottles to collect and sell at auction. These are whiskies that symbolise Campbeltown and the ethic of Springbank. The power and validity of keeping things local. Going beyond the mere terroir that some proclaim, by taking that extra step with floor malting and bottling on site. Before each bottle is released into the wild, to be discovered and hopefully enjoyed.
This release heralds from High Cattadale farm, which is just 10 miles from the distillery. Meaning this whisky and its core ingredients have resided on the Mull of Kintyre – think about that for a moment. Featuring the modern Optic variety of barley, the whisky is made up of 90% bourbon casks and the remaining 10% coming from sherry casks. Bottled at 57.7%, this is an outturn of 9700 bottles and is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered.
I know some criticised the price of this release coming it at around £90 but considering the hands-on nature of this, the age, the un-economic principles behind it and newer distilleries charging the same (if not more) for a 3 year old, it is elementary, my Dear Watson.
Springbank Local Barley 9 year old – review
Colour: Pear flesh.
On the nose: A touch of menthol, fleeting and oily, before lemon peel and a light farmyard dynamic arise. Cream soda, singed hay, a batter mixture and Custard Creams. Toasted pine nuts, olives and a freshness and vibrancy. The more I returned to this, the more I was reminded of good quality smoked salmon and lemon thyme towards the end.
In the mouth: Mmm, texture. Buttery with a touch of smoke, more lemon peel with a coastal, salty vibe. Freshly baked shortbread, sherbet and plasticine. A loved shammy and lime towards the finish, which is a gentle passive smoke. Water reveals more zest and apple peel.
A chameleon of a whisky. Always changing, laying out new tricks and setting trapdoors. Each time I returned, there was something new to unlock. In this modern era, many whiskies are flat and one dimensional in comparison.
It’s all about the wood they tell us, which suits their agenda and efficient style of production. This Local Barley series highlights that there is more to whisky than a tree and the ways of the past are more relevant and vital than ever before.
The lead image is from the Whisky Exchange.