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Springbank Local Barley 2009 9 year old

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.

Conclusions

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.

Score: 7/10

The lead image is from the Whisky Exchange.

CategoriesSingle Malt
    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Good question.

      The initial 16yo, although my memory is hazy now, remains the best of the bunch. Then I’d say, it is a bare-knuckle fight between this review and the 10yo from West Back Farm. Behind the pack is the 11 year old Aros release.

      They are all enjoyable for their own reasons and different. But that’s the order I’d expect.

      1. Avatar
        TomW says:

        There’s a bottle of the 10yo Local Barley sitting on the shelf of one of my local liquor stores, unloved and too rich for my blood at $160. I’ve been tempted to make the stretch a few times but I can’t bring myself to do it. I have to keep telling myself that just because it’s sold out literally everywhere else doesn’t mean it will be a transcendent whisky experience. Or will it? It doesn’t help that the last Springbank I bought was a sulphur-bomb.

        This isn’t a big single malt town. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for lovers of distilleries like Springbank to see their whiskies shipped across the ocean for a bunch of indifferent bourbon drinkers. There’s another store which has a heaving supply of Longrow Red (the Cabernet Franc one, go figure.) I bought and drank one bottle which was enough for me. It’s frustrating to me that we don’t have a better selection of single malt but I can’t be surprised when nobody seems to be buying.

        1. Jason
          Jason says:

          Hi Tom, well the Local Barley’s are thankfully free of the frustrations some have highlighted regarding sherry and wine casks. These bottles are very much journeys of exploration. The twists of and turns as you plough into the fill level are very satisfying.

          $160 does, however, sound like quite a bit for the experience. I suppose it depends on whether you want to take that chance. The 10 isn’t the strongest in the series so far but collectively it is hard to fault. Many of these limited series’ that some distilleries ship out fail to deliver. On the whole, the Local Barley offers flavour and aromas and a reminder that local is best.

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    Welsh Toro says:

    I know you like your Springbank my friend but they are beginning, or, indeed have, been testing my patience and pushing my commitment to this great distillery to the limit of late. I had the opportunity to buy a bottle of this but didn’t pull the trigger. £90 for an 11 year old whisky, no matter who makes it, is asking a lot. It would have to be amazingly good. Why is it more expensive than the 12 year? Local Barley? Maybe, but I think they know they are on to a good thing. The same is true of a number of recent releases. Why is it that we have in Britain, the country it’s produced, so little of its recent releases? I have tried the 11 Local Barley and liked it but I think it’s pricey for what it is.

    Luckily for me I love the excellent high quality entry level Springbank/Hazelburn/Longrow expressions. I love Springbank but I think they are being a bit naughty with their U.K customer base. Please pass that on. Enjoyable review as always. Cheers. WT

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi WT,

      Sorry missed your comment. Yep, these are criticisms levelled at the series. For me having the farmer giving up fields for a lower yield and then working with whatever the end result is costs. But when you have other distilleries asking much more for less, the complexity here warrants the entry fee.

      A good idea for a blind tasting. Put out the drams and as attendees to say which one tastes the most expensive versus how much they’d pay for each one? I think the LB would fair well. Cheers, Jason.

      1. Avatar
        Welsh Toro says:

        Thanks for replying Jason, I hope I didn’t sound too stroppy. I agree with you about the lower yield and I’m prepared to pay for that. I think Springbank are charging too much though. The Springbank Green 12 and 13 was half the price just a few years ago. Bruichladdich do Local and Organic barley too and I just got through a splendid bottle of the (not local) Organic 2009. My main beef with Springbank of late is their terrible distribution in the U.K. The Local Barley range, wine finished Hazelburns and Longrows and any other sort of ‘Special’ seem to grow on trees in parts of the States and Canada but we can’t buy it anywhere after one or two days of release and the price rockets. (Sounds like another well known distillery.) I’m concerned because I don’t want Springbank, of all the distilleries, to start treating us like mugs.

        1. Jason
          Jason says:

          No worries WT, yes, I feel your pain as well. Easily demonstrated by the recent release of the cask strength 12 year old. Sheer madness and perhaps a reflection of an era of limited production. Demand outstrips supply currently and especially so in the UK.

  2. Avatar
    Jessica says:

    Very nice review. This is my first Local Barley and I’m blown away by it. While I nod in recognition at your tasting notes, I’m surprised at the lack of mention of its light maltiness. It makes sense to me that it was bottled at a comparatively young age. Longer time in wood would overwhelm some of that beguiling subtelty. This isn’t a whisky for every kind of weather or occasion or mood. But what is? I’d rate it much higher than a 7, but to each her or his own. I wish I could taste the previous LBs. (Perhaps past gloriousness explains your 7?) But I have rules for myself about how much I’ll pay for any drink of anything, no matter how good. Ah well.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Glad you’ve managed to pick one up in this series. Oh, I’m fussy and rarely give out an 8 personally but these releases do come close. I wish I had kept a bottle of each release for the final vertical. A true comparison when the series has ended. Maybe there is still time? I’ll see what I can do. A lovely, complex, whisky and a nice point about the delicate maltiness.

  3. Avatar
    Graham says:

    Regarding the discussion in price between WT and Jason; I just discovered that Bruichladdich are charging twice the price for their Octomore 9.03; it’s half as old and the outturn is twice the size! Thought that really put this discussion in Perspective.

    1. Avatar
      Welsh Toro says:

      Hi Graham, You are quite right to mention Octomore and, furthermore, I completely agree with you. I’ve only ever owned one Octomore (for the experience) and it was the legendary 6.3. I enjoyed it but thought it was completely overpriced. I’m on record for suggesting that three bottles of Port Charlotte Islay Barley, for the same money, was a much better option. My muted criticism of Springbank is only because they are a distillery I respect and enjoy. They are a business, of course, but I really don’t want them to drift into the shameful and disrespectful direction of many a distillery of late.

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