An Anti-Springbank Tasting

I had recently completed dinner at our family dining table and, sensing that my girls had at least a half hour of picking at their food remaining, decided to cheekily scan my emails.

I can’t recommend taking phones to the dining table; it is exactly as anti-social as it sounds, but when you have that much time on your hands to stare at 9- and 7-year-olds mulling their roast vegetables, a distraction can be in order.

It felt like a jolt through my body to see that an Australian retailer had only just that moment sent a message to announce they had a new Springbank allocation.

SPRINGBANK. Chances like this don’t come along very often. If I had checked my email a half hour later, surely the allocation would be exhausted. I rapidly browsed the selection, and added a Hazelburn 10 year old, Longrow Peated 10 year old and a Springbank 10 year old 2021 bottling. All up these came to $675; steep, but how often do you have the chance to buy Springbank products at retail?

I was about to proceed to the checkout, but then gave a moment’s pause. Do I love Springbank or its subsidiary brands? Not personally. I haven’t owned any from J&A Mitchell’s most famous brand for several years – a combination of availability and apathy. Was I tempted to buy those three bottles then try to flip them at auction? Not for a second. What a life that must be.

Moreover, I thought, how many bottles of other whisky that I truly covet could I buy for $675? Four or five? I was glad I was able to control myself and emptied my digital shopping cart for a more enthusiastic punter to snap up. Sure enough, all stock of those three bottles had sold out shortly after.

A point to note here is that clearly retailers are incorporating expected results at auction into their pricing. Recently, equivalent Longrow, Hazelburn, and Springbank releases have sold for around the amounts I listed above in Australian auctions. I truly don’t know how to feel about that, but it does make me queasy. Perhaps my discomfort is in a retailer appointing themselves a de-facto auction house by charging expected auction price outcomes. They want a slice of the action, and maybe that is fair enough to discourage flipping, but does blur the line between what their business is and should be.

It wasn’t always this way with Springbank. In fact, whatever the heck happened, happened in very recent memory. I first explored Springbank in June 2016, when my whisky club in Australia emailed members with a sale on excess stock; they had bottles of Hazelburn 12 year old discounted to $115. In October 2017, I decided to try a bit more and browsed The Whisky Company for Springbank. I was able to purchase a Springbank 2001 8 year old at cask strength for $150, but I distinctly remember having a choice of several bottles. SMWhisky.com.au has the 18 year old 2019 Springbank release listed for $260 (long since sold out). Nicks Wine Merchants listed the 2021 and 2022 editions for $800. Sheesh.

Stories like that may make me feel old, until I think: 2016 and 2017 weren’t that long ago. Can you imagine being new to whisky, hearing about the Springbank phenomenon, and then learning a handful of years ago stock was discounted or laying around in warehouses?

Hopefully I’ll live long enough for the current mania to pass and those days to return. Whatever exactly is driving the Springbank frenzy, and however it started, it isn’t that it is by far the finest single malt whisky on the market. Though I am confident from personal experience that Springbank/Hazelburn/Longrow are indeed strong products, when one of these bottles sells the liquid quality would only be one of three potential motivations of the buyer (the other two being hoarding or flipping).

While I wait for the bubble to burst, I did owe it to myself to reallocate that $675 to several other bottles. So that is what we have today: an Anti-Springbank tasting session. Take that with a grain of salt, but as someone who loves whisky for the experience of… well… drinking it – not hoarding it, not flipping it – I don’t think I am alone among Malt readers. Here are some recent purchases I made in the weeks after I had my chance at Springbank.

First up, a young Aberlour. Mostly known among whisky-philes for their ongoing cask strength A’Bunadh iterations, Aberlour rarely appears independently bottled. The Portuguese red wine cask finish gave me pause but, at cask strength and discounted for end of financial year sales to $100 (or 50% the cost of a 10 year old Hazelburn), it was worth the swing.

Dram Mor 2012 Aberlour Cask #800914 – Review

7 year old single cask. Portuguese red wine finish. 54% ABV. 328 bottles produced.

Colour: Gaudy gold with a distinct Portuguese red wine cask hue.

On the nose: Distinctly earthy, muddy, and doughy. A freshly drawn Guinness. Not all that appealing on the nose, though Guinness is basically the only beer I still drink, so no disrespect intended. Seasoned breadcrumbs, chopped celery and leather.

In the mouth: I am definitely intrigued by the finish here. It is not a complete success, nor is it a failure. What strikes is how savoury this dram is; dry pastry, wheat, and a dry red wine (naturally). Then come baked strawberries and milk gently bubbling on a stove top. The finish certainly lingers and a drop or two of water reveal some fresh citrus.


Well, I would recommend the addition of water. It’s hard to score this above a 5, and it might’ve been a 4 if not for the benefits of H2O. For the price, and the fact this is by every means an eminently satisfactory dram from outside the box, I’ll go smack bang in the middle.

Score: 5/10

Next up, we have an 11 year old cask strength Adelphi bottling of Glenrothes (the bottle does not state the source distillery, but the Australian retailer made it clear). Drawn from a refill Oloroso cask, this was originally intended to sell for around $200 for a new Australian organisation called Flight Club, but the club folded and the remaining bottles, after sitting in a warehouse for two years, were sold off by Nicks Wine Merchants for $140 (or 70% of the cost of a 10 year old Longrow). On paper, that’s a great price for any Adelphi single cask and well worth the punt. I am also chuffed to be reviewing an Adelphi release for a change, as the ongoing Ardnamurchan lovefest can be cloying.

Adelphi “Speyside” – Review

11 year old single cask, bottled for Flight Club Australia. 58.6% ABV. 174 bottles produced.

Colour: Dark gold.

On the nose: A bit like Donald Trump: rich and heavy. Probably smarter than big DT. This is everything you’d expect from the specs: raisins, fruitcake, salted caramel, brown sugar. Nutty. Sponge cake. Coffee flavoured ice-cream. I will not go on further. It’s sherried Glenrothes. You know the drill.

In the mouth: Hard to argue with the results. Full bodied, sweet, and oily in the mouth. Figs and toffee. The wood comes to the fore. A well done classic, with raspberries and blueberries, cinnamon, and some brandied custard. Water unlocks orange peel.


I am very fond of Glenrothes. I’ll never know exactly what Flight Club Australia was intended to be but before it folded, but I hope the proprietors stashed a couple of these bottles away to console themselves when it fell apart.

Score: 7/10

Finally, the Glenfarclas Private Reserve 46th Anniversary release, and another (in theory, at least) great buy. Intended as a French exclusive, 9,999 bottles were released in April 2022. It is part of a series of Private Reserve releases from Glenfarclas dating back to around 2010, and aimed at the French market.

This release is a tribute to 46 years of partnership between Glenfarclas and the prestigious Bordeaux wholesale merchant of fine wines and spirits, Mahler-Besse. No information is given as to the casks, but given this is Glenfarclas, one could assume there is a high proportion of sherry. I picked this up from Nicks for only $110 (or 44% the cost of a 10 year old Springbank) and at the time of writing is still available from many retailers in Australia.

Glenfarclas Private Reserve 46th Anniversary – Review

46% ABV.

Colour: Dark gold.

On the nose: Gunpowder, concrete, smoky tea. A distinctly different profile from the Glenrothes. Rusty nails, seared beef. Pan fried fish skin. Soy sauce. The whiff of sulphur, which, if it does translate onto the palate, I hope is only subtle.

In the mouth: The sulphur is there, but in equal parts with other flavours. This settles down in the mouth to red grapes, shoe polish, fudge and candied sweets. A whiff of sea breeze and freshly sheared wool.


Most of my experience with Glenfarclas has been the 105 batch strength releases, or “Secret Speysides”. This release has some lovely dimension and as such, earns an above average score. At this price, and if this suits your palate, it’d be well worth stocking up on multiple bottles.

Score: 6/10

This has been a fun thought exercise: three bottles, $350 spent, a smidge over half of the $675 I very nearly spent on Springbank releases. $325 stashed away (probably to be spent on my own ongoing North Star Spirits bottle acquisitions). Three bottles of varying quality, but that is to always be expected on batch releases or single casks.

I’ll admit, a rather pointless exercise in that it’ll only really have any deeper meaning to me. Springbank incites passion like few other topics among whiskyphiles. Opinions are baked in and immovable.

I don’t think there are many fans of folk who buy bottles to immediately flip on for profit. If you are buying Springbank to stash away and expand ongoing collections, that’s your prerogative. Once your money is spent, do what you like with your bottles; I won’t stand by like a snob and demand they be opened… unless, of course, you are inviting me around for a dram. In that case, let’s sample that renowned Campbelltown funk.

All prices in Australian dollars.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Adrian says:

    Thanks Mark for an interesting article. I have found consistently for a few years that a sum of money spent on various indy bottlers buys you a lot more satisfaction than mega overpriced sought after distilleries, both in terms of volume and taste. Some of those distilleries you can sneakily obtain as indies anyway, but not (as far as I aware) Springbank.
    And agree re North Star…been acquiring those for a while now. Better get round to drinking some soon, otherwise it’s just hoarding

    1. Mark P says:

      I’ve hoarded a few North Stars myself. But with the intention of drinking each and every one someday.
      There is some indie SB around…just be prepared to hunt hard for it and pay a fortune.

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