Today, we’re back on whisky hallowed ground with the latest Springbank bottling from the Facebook group It’s All About Springbank, otherwise known as IAAS. This is an increasingly rare opportunity to try a private cask from this distillery that hasn’t been inflated to astronomical prices by an independent bottler.
For a while, Springbank, did sell casks to individuals and many of these remain in situ in Campbeltown; much to the dismay of the distillery team. I can recall from attending the festival in 2018, the tales of frustration around maturing stock and some of the oldest casks on site being out with their reach. Such casks are a legacy of a bygone age when Springbank needed cash flow and sold off stock to enthusiasts and independents. These casks are now into their 2nd decade of maturation and for any distillery this represents a sizeable period. For Springbank, with its continuously well received 21 and 25-year-old expressions, such an age is arguably the crown jewels. Eventually given time, only the most resilient private casks will remain untapped and all Springbank will have to come from Springbank.
Until then in recent months, we’ve seen a clutch of these casks coming to market from various bottlers across Europe. Demand and prices for anything Springbank related are rising, as market behaviours now encircle this remote Scottish outpost. The eager gold rush is on, with a frenzy of prospectors willing to chase and queue for the opportunity to bag a Daftmill, Springbank or whatever else is currently in vogue this whisky season.
Personally, I’m adopting a common sense approach. I had the opportunity to purchase the 24-year-old Springbank as part of the Xtra Old Particular Series from Douglas Laing. At an asking price of £800 this for me was too much; not in terms of having the capital available for my own whisky spending, but rather the opportunity cost. I felt £800 was excessive and for my money I could pick up several other bottles that were of more interest – including this IAAS release – and still have change. A phrase I’ve used for many years is that fools are easily parted with their money. This isn’t aimed at anyone specifically and is more of a reflection of the gold fever we’re seeing above. I don’t even care if Serge (Whiskyfun) felt the need to call it ‘masterful’ and awarded it a 93. I’m a man of principle and if something costs too much (a topic that Whiskyfun by principle don’t discuss, which I disagree with, but that’s their gig), then I take my currency elsewhere.
Recently, we did a blind tasting with Springbank 15-year-old receiving varying scores. The experiment was interesting and in particular the reactions it sparked. Apart from Phil living in a bunker for a few weeks, existing solely on a diet of potatoes, everyone emerged relatively unscathed. As a co-editor here I could have said that score is rubbish as I really enjoy the 15 myself. However, we value all voices and opinions, regardless of whether there is a difference of opinion. I rarely agree with Mark for instance and have no intension of starting anytime soon either.
If all whisky was idyllic, then scores of 8 or above would be as regular as the late 80’s and 90’s we see given out elsewhere. Yet we choose to embrace different opinions and whiskies of all shapes and sizes. Not just the latest releases, bling bottles or fancy geeky historical gems. MALT takes in all forms and our recent schedule which took us to Peru, Australia, Scotland, Sweden and Spain within a week. That’s not commercial sense if you’re pursuing hits and traffic, or looking to cosy up to the industry. Instead, it underlines our commit to the whisky and an open minded embrace of different opinions; even Phil’s.
Thankfully, I’ll be reviewing this Springbank today and thanks to Ronnie for the sample. I do encourage you to read our previous IAAS review if you haven’t done so already, as this still applies here with an interview around finding and deciding upon casks. These Springbank casks are not a cheap commodity and IAAS could ask for more than the finalised price. In essence, they are fans of the whisky and I’d rather see the majority of private casks heading their way for appropriate treatment, rather than a fill-yer-boots approach as seen by Douglas Laing.
A few words on Springbank and this taps into the theme I mentioned during my recent Hazelburn 2003 Oloroso cask review. Not all Springbank is great or even good. There; someone had to say it and I think even the most diehard fans would accept this. Even a distillery such as Springbank has lows or misfires – like us all in reality – but on the whole it rewards perseverance and dedication. Then personally, the knowledge you are supporting a family owned distillery that tries to do things the right way and support the local community with jobs. Few distilleries are the focal point nowadays of a village or community. Times have changed and not necessarily for the better.
This private cask was bottled earlier this year at 21 years of age, with an outturn of 150 bottles from a refill sherry hogshead. At 57.4% and a price of £240, it has since sold out. While the distillery name isn’t on the label, you’ll recognise the hint and why would someone who is all about Springbank, bottle Glen Scotia?
IAAS Springbank 21 year old – review
Colour: a morning haze.
On the nose: a sugary sweetness leading into a refreshing citrus apparel. Pine nuts, a touch of smoke, pineapple cubes, bashed apples and hay bales. Petrichor, fresh wood, syrup, oily with an engine residue. Vanilla and salt with a wonderful balance throughout. Water reveals more fruits, dried orange and a coastal influence.
In the mouth: a spectrum of flavour. Sweetness, saltiness, smoky and robust. A gentle sherry rub, sappy, wine gums, stewed apples, pear drops and lots of complexity. Black pepper, liqorice, used tea leaves, sugar cubes, white grapes and a dustiness. Water reveals more cask influence, a dirty vanilla and sweetness.
As a bonus, let’s review this, bottled very recently. From a refill barrel with an outturn of 312 bottles at 50.8% strength.
Cadenhead’s Springbank 1994 24 year old – review
Colour: light honey
On the nose: plenty of character and an old skool dustiness that is reminiscent of taking down an old pair of curtains. Buckets of meadow fruits, honey, orange peel, tinned apricots, wood chips, lemon oil, caramel, goes more tropical with time. Subdued vanilla, almonds, smoke, a used shammy, mace, oily, liquorice and hazelnuts.
In the mouth: the fruits keep coming. Beeswax, lemon peel, oranges and dried fruit. A little smoke, eucalyptus, apricots, milk chocolate, resinous and wine gums.
Gorgeous juice all round. Simple as that. Almost a 9 for IAAS, but if you visit MALT on a regular basis you’ll know the score is something I rarely give. The Cadenhead’s release, has the edge (just), but is double the price.
The IAAS is a Springbank that even Phil would enjoy I’m sure. It’s pretty much all here and for whisky fans of all persausions, there is something to celebrate. Masterful? Within a whisker of, and £560 saved.