Welcome to Springbank-week here on the blog! Six different Springbank-bottlings will be reviewed, and in addition to this an interview with David Allen, Regional Sales Manager for Springbank, will appear during the course of the week.
Campbeltown is a small town on a peninsula at the west coast of Scotland, not far from Islay. The town itself is situated in a bay of the eastern side of the peninsula, and not entirely unexpected many generations have made a living out of fishing here. The name of the town was initially Kinlochkilkerran, but was renamed in the 1600s after the Earl of Argyle, Archibald Campbell. Campbeltown was once the whisky industry’s great pride, with a total of 34 distilleries and the slogan “Whisky capital of the world”. As the focus shifted more and more to quantity the reputation of the Campbeltown whisky got a bit tainted and when alcohol was prohibited in the States most of the distilleries had to shut down, one by one. Today only three distilleries are alive and kickin’: Glengyle, Glen Scotia and the focal point of this week – Springbank. If many Campbeltown distilleries in the past went for quantity, the distilleries today go for quality, and genuine craft whisky.
Springbank is a family owned distillery founded in 1828 on the same spot where Archibald Mitchell previously ran an illegal still. Today it’s his relatives (fifth generation!) that run the distillery, and here they do more or less everything on location and from scratch. Springbank make three different types of malt spirit here: Hazelburn, Springbank and Longrow. Hazelburn is the distillery’s unpeated whisky and is distilled three times instead of the traditional two in Scotland. Springbank is fairly peated and is distilled two and a half times (1) while Longrow is they’re peatiest expression and is distilled only twice. During the course of this week I’ll be reviewing bottlings belonging to all three categories!
Springbank 10 yo
General facts: This ten-year-old whisky is Springbank’s entry level bottling, and is matured on a combination of sherry and bourbon casks. The ABV is 46% and the whisky is neither chill-filtered nor artificially coloured.
Colour: Light golden
Nose: Sweet, creamy and with a hint of minerals or wet stone. Lightly creamy and tangy together with some sweetness, kind of like Turkish yoghurt with a lot of honey. Freshly baked buns and a hint of peat smoke in the background. Oven baked apples, banana cake and a faint sensation of raisins. Bread spices and some wet leather.
Taste: Distinct peat smoke, sweet smoke actually, with beeswax and mixed fruits. Cocktail fruits? And after a while, some leather appears too. Ripe banana and honey in abundance. Caraway, cinnamon and black pepper. Dark brown crispbread and some more leather. Finally some polished wood.
Finish: The leather sensation start off the pretty dry finish, together with some fresh fruits and smoke. The medium length aftertaste ends in some kind of spicy, dark chocolate.
General facts: This is the distillery’s entry level whisky for the most peated segment of the bottlings, under the name of Longrow. This specific bottling is a NAS-whisky where the age of the spirit isn’t specified on the bottle, and cask type isn’t revealed either. The whisky is, in true Springbank-style, neither chill-filtered not coloured.
Colour: Golden straw
Nose: The same kind of mineral type of note as with the Springbank 10 yo, but more evident here. Even the smoke if more pronounced, and is accompanied by lime. Then some lovely, creamy vanilla custard, ginger pears and some more peat smoke.
Taste: Tangy peat smoke with white wine gums. Some honey, some molon, some lemon and after that quite a bit of oak. There is also the same kind of creamy sensation as in the nose, but more like vanilla-flavoured Chantilly cream than über sweet custard. Finally some firewood and smoke.
Finish: The medium length aftertaste starts surprisingly enough a bit sweet, and becomes both peatier and maltier as time goes by. Burnt bread and peat smoke follows and subsides into something that reminds me of sweet pickled onions and smoked leather.
To conclude these two bottling in just a few sentences, it’s all about young, qualitative whisky with a lot of flavour and personalities of their own. Longrow Peated is a lot of fun and has quite a deal of character with an unexpected amount of creaminess, which I like. However, if I have to choose I pick Springbank 10 any day of the week. It’s a crackin’ entry level whisky with both a flirty fruitiness and some rougher notes of peat smoke and leather in a terrific balance which, in my humble opinion, keeps being interesting year after year no matter how well-trained taste buds you get.