Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Spirit Log: Springbank 10

Time to delve a little deeper into the Campbeltown region, and add another 10 year old to the spirit log.
This one was £41.44 (incl P&P) for 46 ABVs, and as such, is my new most expensive 10 year old, narrowly edging past Ardbeg by 65p. It will have its work cut out to beat that on quality.
Starting out with aesthetic considerations, I don’t feel the producer has tried too hard with this one. It isn’t a very attractive bottle or label – all a bit underwhelming really, with no information at all provided, though I understand there is supposed to be cask and bottling information under the label. It will take a bit of time to be able to see that, I think. (Postscript – I forgot to look when the bottle was empty).
If you compare the packaging to Ardbeg, there isn’t really that much difference. The bottles are a similar shape (though Ardbeg’s hides the spirit’s natural colour by being tinted green), both labels are black and composed in a similar fashion, even utilising similar fonts. Even the boxes are of similar dimensions and the card they are constructed out of is of a similar grade. There’s just an indefinable quality about Ardbeg’s. You might disagree and prefer the Springbank. That’s up to you.
I think that’s enough direct comparison with Ardbeg. Any spirit should be judged on its own merits – maybe with a conclusive comparison at the end.
Springbank is aged in bourbon and sherry casks and the distillery malts all its own barley, actually producing 3 malts on one site. The distinction between the three seems to depend on whrether the malt is dried over a peat fire (Springbank), hot air (Hazelburn) or a combination of both (Longrow), and how many times the spirit is distilled – two and a half for Springbank. I’m not sure, and the distillery’s site doesn’t specify, how you can distill something half a time.
So let’s have a look at some critics and customer reviews. It receives glowing reviews from Jim Murray (89.5 points), and especially from Ian Buxton, while it’s unbridled enthusiasm from the reviewers at TWE.
I think I’m starting to realise what it is I want from my whisky these days – and what I don’t. And finally, all those flavour lists that whisky reviewers delight in are starting to be useful. This one, for example, from MoM sounds like just what I’m looking for:
“The nose is big-bodied with oaked aridity. The peat is present and quite pungent with an earthen rootiness. Notes of exotic fruits and a hint of salinity. The palate is full-bodied with a good helping of cereal sweetness. There is a richness to the peat, with a dark nuttiness and whirling smoke. The finish is long and crisp with a coastal tang and a trailing peat with oaked dryness.”
Peat, earth, salinity, sweetness, smoke, dryness… elsewhere I’ve read that it is oily and creamy – this could be the one to renounce all other whiskies for. It might even eclipse long time favourite Caol Ila 12
Not sure how much credence I should give this next one though, also from MoM; “No doubt a wonderful whisky for those who drink it but it can make the drinker rather nasty and argumentative.” How much are they drinking?! Anyways, that’s just alcohol in general, as far as I’m aware.
Enough with the prevarication then, and on to the experience.
Peaty and sweet, warming. The flavours are strong and the sweetness lingers for the finish. It is briney, oily – even a bit squeaky in the mouth - and full bodied. I enjoyed it, but in spite of all those positive features,I can’t say it made the impression on me that I was hoping for (as is suggested by how little I have to say about the experience of it overall). It just didn’t feel special enough, and given a choice between the Springbank 10 and the Ardbeg 10, I’d have to choose the Ardbeg every time.
Against single malts in general, I’ve only placed it at number 20 in my all time list, while in specific competition with other 10 year olds, I’ve placed it behind Ardbeg, Bladnoch, Ledaig, Laphroaig and Glenfarclas – but above Talisker, Glenmorangie and Aberlour. That’s not bad really, because I really enjoyed all the ones I’ve placed above it, and the ones that are below it are still favourites to many though a little changeable (Talisker) or uninteresting (the others) to me.
The whisky exploration continues apace then, and next time we discuss whisky on these pages, I believe it will be to take a look at the no age statement Talisker Skye. That should be in a couple of weeks. Next week I think the focus is on tequila. See you then.

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