A spring clean is always a worthwhile venture. When dusting down the drafts backstage here at Malt, I found an abandoned review. A lost Springbank review in fact. Well, I say review, but as you’ll see Mark only had started the intro and provided his notes in October 2017. For whatever reason, the article was never completed.
Now, a Springbank is always worth reviewing and coming across a few samples of my own at home I thought it was an opportunity to resurrect this lost piece and bundle together a haphazard vertical. Reading the promised intro, it gives us a snapshot of 2017 and what things were like. The flipper mentality was just taking hold and Springbank was just slipping into the clutches of the speculators.
‘The photos for this post actually came from the auction house Just Whisky, which Jason was at when he saw bottles being sent directly from the show. This was alongside that new Glenfiddich Winter Storm – people were literally buying it and having it literally sent directly to auction. That’s our world now, people.’
And as we step into 2020, that world continues.
There is always an important distinction to be made I feel when it comes to the secondary market. You have those, like above, who immediately buy and sell without ever having seen the bottle. This is clearly wrong. I wish retailers would do more to prevent this and blacklist auctioneer addresses. It might be a token gesture, but it would make the purchaser more hesitant if they did not live nearby an auctioneer or pick-up location. After all, these are bottles that will sell. Even minus a few flippers. We are all chasing the same commodity with different agendas and purposes. As Francis at Daftmill is trying to, let’s put the whisky bank in the hands of the drinkers.
Then you have others who are perhaps collectors or putting things aside for their retirement fund. What this constitutes is open to debate. It could be to sell on, when possibly whisky is only affordable to the very rich and jet set? Maybe it has a more practical use? The opportunity to sit back in decades to come and enjoy a dram, fine memories and share with friends in the twilight years of your existence. Even a nest egg, when the bottle could be potentially worth something, or at least will be a good drinker if values have fallen.
I doubt any of us have an issue with the retirees and whatever their purpose is. The venom is more aligned to those who wish to sell immediately for personal gain. We don’t know the cost of living in 10, 20- or 30-years time. Whether we’ll have an existence given the prospect of several years of Rees-Mogg and upper-class rule. There are many unknowns including what is your bottle worth? And when I’m in my retirement in 20 years or so, looking up whatever MALT has become and reading some old reviews, will be enhanced with a dram from that era. The only guarantees are that Jura will still be terrible, Macallan will be overpriced and the Vikings from Orkney will still be around.
I often question what’s the point of review a particular whisky. This weekend I’ve started work on a 1968 Coleburn and a 75 bottle only Islay release. Neither will be widely available or within reach to many. Should we just review the mainstream? The widely available and accessible? Or should we continue to mix and provide a rich stream of information and experiences? The same applies to Springbank. Any release from this distillery officially or otherwise, sells out pretty promptly in the UK. The name alone guarantees interest. Should we resist, or continue to explore whiskies such as these? Today, we’ll do some Springbank.
For the whiskies themselves, we’ll start with the original Art of Whisky, which Mark was sent to review by the Whisky Exchange. Long sold out at retail, 191 bottles were released at 51.7% strength. The 2019 Campbeltown Festival release was a kind sample from the London Whisky Club and is from fresh sherry casks. Distilled in March 2011 and bottled on 23rd May 2019, an outturn of 1100 bottles at 56.8% strength were unleashed. Last but by no means least, is the Cadenhead’s 175th Anniversary release from their shop series. This specific 13-year-old represents the Aberdeen outlet and comes from a single butt, producing 540 bottles at 57% strength. My thanks to Dave for sending on this sample to try.
Springbank 24 Year Old: Art of Whisky – Mark’s review
On the nose: that’s a beautiful Springbank nose. Slightly dirty, linseed oil note, candlewax, balanced by intense vanilla. Grapefruit and citrus. Lime marmalade. Green tea, slightly herbal. Once the fruit fades there’s plenty of woody notes: old school desks, pencils. Lemon zest. Tangerines.
In the mouth: not as viscous as I had hoped: there’s a curious lightness to this, unusual for a Springbank, though with a touch of oiliness. Vanilla led, and there are echoes – just echoes – of any of the distillery’s dirty character. Tangerines, lemons. And then towards the end come gentle cloves and black pepper. Toffee fudge notes.
Light, zippy. Not a great Springbank, but a good one – and certainly something a little different. Reasonably inactive maturation, but it’s still good spirit at the end of the day.
Springbank 8 year old 2019 Campbeltown festival – Jason’s review
Color: Light gold.
On the nose: Caramel, then the sherry strength and sweetness comes through. A gentle peat, toasted bark, cask char, slight farmyard, strawberries, liquorice and cherry menthol. Chocolate, honey, nutty and lots of dried fruits.
In the mouth: a pleasant if heavy sherry focus. Chewy, leather, oily and nutty. A mineral aspect. Salty, peppery, chocolate, cured meats, berries varnish, brown sugar and tobacco.
Cadenhead’s Springbank 2003 Aberdeen shop – Jason’s review
On the nose: Gentle, creamy with accessible aromas of fudge, honey and then the earthy peat and farmyard funk. Walnuts, oranges, an earthy clay, tobacco, brown sugars and a gentle smoke.
In the mouth: Very sherry comes through but it is restrained, more fudge and brown sugars with tobacco, cranberries and a hint of dryness alongside a touch of rubber – but a pleasing level of.
There’s a common misconception that all Springbank is great, which isn’t the case and that the sherry casks can be full of sulphur: not the case here either. But you can see the roots in some of these beliefs. The festival bottling is very sherried and aggressive, I felt the balance has shifted just a tad from what could have been a more memorable experience.
The Cadenhead’s bottling in comparison has more balance and is less forceful on the palate. It lets you sit back and appreciate what you’re experiencing rather than fighting off the sherry. The pick of my duo, although I cannot say anything for Mark’s whisky except that it was probably too expensive compared to my drams.
Whatever Springbank you prefer, grab the bottle, open it and see where it takes you.
Springbank 8yo image from Tyndrum Whisky, Cadenhead’s from the Whiskybarrel.