Springbank Vertical

This week’s tasting from TLWC comes from the Springbank distillery where we will be exploring a range of different wood finished Springbanks. The session is hosted by Grant Macpherson, Springbank’s UK sales manager, and our every own Andy “Ardbaggie” Purslow. Given the popularity of this event it could only be offered up as a ballet and limited to 2cl of each of the 6 drams.

The Springbank distillery is a family-owned single malt whisky distillery on the Kintyre Peninsula in western Scotland. Owned by J & A Mitchell & Company, which also owns William Cadenheads was formed in 1828 by the Reid but less than a decade later they had to sell the distillery due to financial difficulties. Springbank is one of only a few distilleries left in Campbeltown which is somewhat of a fall from grace as Campbeltown was once home to over thirty active distilleries. The distillery is very much involved in the end to end whisky production. From malting the barley to bottling the spirit.

Springbank now produces three types of peated and unpeated whisky and is bottled under three different labels: Longrow, Hazelburn and Springbank. The difference is achieved by using Springbank’s three copper stills(one using direct-fire, the other two using steam in different combinations as well as adjusting the peat levels. 

  • Unpeated Hazelburn is triple-distilled to produce a lighter, higher abv end product of 74-76%.
  • Medium-peated Springbank is two and a half times distilled at  71-72% abv. 
  • Heavily peated Longrow is double-distilled prodcuing a heavier, smoky distillate at 68% abv.

The distillery uses traditional worm-tub condensers, which limit copper contact and make for a richer, oilier spirit. This could be partly the reason for the famous funk or dirty, earthy notes but so could the wet peat of many other of the ways that Springbank is distilled.

The distillery has c90 staff and a small capacity of just 750,000 litres annually which makes some of the limited releases very difficult to get your hands on. Even the regular releases don’t stay on the shelves for too long. Fortunately, the chairman has set up a trust fund which ensures all profits are invested back into the distillery. This has enabled an expansion of the distillery and therefore, capacity. This also means a new warehouse is required will hopefully be opening this year. Fingers crossed this also means more whisky for us to get hold of.

Our exciting line-up for the night’s tasting:

Springbank 12y/o Bourbon Wood, December 1991 – February 2004, 58.5% abv

Springbank 12y/o Calvados Wood, April 2000 – October 2012, 52.7% abv

Springbank 9y/o Gaja Barolo, February 2004 – October 2013, 54.7% abv

Springbank 9y/o year Marsala Wood, October 1996 – August 2006, 58% abv

Springbank 14y/o Port Wood, 1989 – September 2004, 52.8% abv

Springbank 16y/o Rum Wood, June 1991 – August 2007, 54.2% abv

Dram 1 – Springbank 12y/o Bourbon Wood, 58.5% abv

Distilled in December 1991 and bottled in February 2004, A cask strength which has been matured for 12 years in bourbon barrels and hogshead with an outrun of 5,986. 

Nose:  Wax, apple and cereal notes. Cut hay and salt..

Taste: Red grapes, raspberries, smoke, chocolate and funk. Waxy and peaty smoke. Smoked meat, sugar and some aniseed. Oak, tannis, spice and chilli.

Dram 2 – Springbank 12y/o Calvados Wood, 52.7% abv

Distilled in April 2000 and bottled in October 2012. A limited edition having spent six years maturing in a refill bourbon casks and another six in fresh Calvados casks. Only 9,420 bottles were released.

Nose: Apples, apple pie, apple peal and more apple. pears and limes. Oily with light smoke. Salty and citrus fruits. Caramel, earth, straw and nuts.

Taste: Peat, sweet smoke, funk, salted caramel. A sugary glaze with some pastry notes, pepper and of course apple.

Dram 3 – Springbank 9y/o Gaja Barolo, 54.7% abv

Distilled in February 2004 and bottled in October 2013. After spending four years in refill Bourbon barrels, the single malt Scotch whisky is aged for five further years in fresh Gaja Barolo wine casks. This was limited to 11,000 bottles.

Nose: Apples, salty sea air, a little bit of rubber notes and furniture polish. Black currant, strawberry jam and cherry. Light smoke, cream and orange peel.

Taste: Funk, spirit but also sweet with butter and. Some heat coming from spicy notes. Strawberries, blueberries, ginger and currents. Creamy, peppery and orange peel.

Dram 4 – Springbank 9y/o year Marsala Wood, 58% abv

Distilled in October 1996 and bottled in August 2006, matured for 7 years refill Bourbon cask and finished for 2 years in a fresh Marsala cask. An outrun of only 7,740 bottles. This is an old style Springbank.

Nose: Dried fruit, barnyard notes, lemon and mineral tones. Grapes or maybe raisins with leather and earth. Nutty, dusty and oaky.

Taste: Green fruit, grapes, apples, pears. Earthy and costal with some tropical fruit and pepper. Raisins, lemons and crème caramel before the nutty notes coming through. Some honey and cinnamon before leaving a drying on the back of the throat.

Dram 5 – Springbank 14y/o Port Wood, 52.8% abv

Distilled in 1989 and bottled in September 2004, matured for 12 years in a refill sherry butt before being finished for 2 years in a fresh port pipe. A limited release of only 7,200 bottles. The one bottle tonight that doesn’t have distilled month. 

Nose: Berries, wood smoke and jam. A nice light spices with nuts, chocolates and cranberries.

Taste: Buttery almost like buttercream with pears and apples. Added salty notes turning into salted butter. The dark fruit from Christmas Pudding and a nice oaky finish.

Dram 6 – Springbank 16y/o Rum Wood, 54.2% abv

Distilled in June 1991 and bottled in August 2007, matured for 8 years in a refill bourbon cask and a further 8 years in a fresh rum cask. This offering is from the series “Wood Expressions” with an outrun of only 5,100 bottles.

Nose: Citric and vegetal like cut grass, green tea, lemon grass and lemons with orange peel. Cream, banana with rum. It’s sweet and fruity with vanilla.

Taste: Apple or even cider with vanilla ice-cream, pears and toffee. There is a well-balanced peat with a waxy feel that coats the mouth over time more lemon notes come to the front while maintaining the undertones of apple. The sweet notes continue with caramel and more fruit.

I don’t recall the being an official dram of the night (or maybe I had to drop off before the count) so I going to go with my favourite of the night. All drams were great tonight and I enjoyed everyone. The Rum, Marsala and Gaja Barolo stood out for me for being just being a little bit different. If I had to choose one, I would go for the Gaja Barolo. 

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The next club tasting is the Daftmill tasting with the one and only farmer, distiller and co-founder, Francis Cuthbert on 2nd December 2020.

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