So far on whiskyreviews.net I’ve reviewed whiskies from Islay (Lagavulin), Speyside (Glenfiddich), the Islands (Arran), the Lowlands (Auchentoshan) and the Highlands (Oban) which leaves one region still to cover…
Campbeltown has a rich history of whisky production. At one time, the area was home to some 34 distilleries but alas today there is a very different story… Just three remain: Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank. The latter is responsible for the production of three very different malts… Springbank is a lightly peated malt which is distilled two and a half times (more on this later), Longrow, distilled twice and heavily peated and finally, Hazelburn which is three-times distilled and unpeated. I could spend pages discussing the merits of each of these fine whiskies but instead I’ll be focusing on the original Springbank, matured in this case for 15 years.
Springbank was founded in 1828 on the site of an illicit still owned by Archibald Mitchell. 187 years and 5 generations later, the distillery chairman is one Hedley G. Wright: great, great grandson of Archibald. At a time when everything to do with whisky is romanticised in the extreme there is something genuinely satisfying about a distillery remaining under family ownership throughout it’s entire history.
Springbank is also rather unique in that every part of the whisky making process is done onsite. Everything from malting the barley, kilning, distillation, maturation and even bottling is done on the premises, making it easily the most self-contained distillery in Scotland. In a time when most distilleries order their malted Barley from bulk suppliers and some others send their spirit halfway across the country to mature in centralised warehousing, it’s reassuring to see Springbank operating the old fashioned way.
Earlier I mentioned that Springbank was distilled two and a half times. This may seem an unusual statement so let me try to explain… Most single malt scotch is distilled twice, while Irish whiskey tends to be three times distilled (some lowland scotches like Auchentoshan use the Irish method to produce a lighter spirit). Other than that, the process is much the same, Barley is malted, milled and then mashed to produce sugars which can be used to make alcohol. The sugar is collected as a substance known as Wort, added to yeast and then fermented to create a kind of beer called Wash. It is this Wash that goes into the Pot Still for distillation. After one distillation the Wash becomes Low Wines, after two it becomes New Make Spirit. As with all distilleries, Springbank don’t mature every drop of liquid to trickle off the still, the output is broken into three sections: head, heart and tail. Only the heart of the run is sent for maturation while the head and tail is held back. Most distilleries would then add this leftover spirit to the next batch of Wash about to be distilled but at Springbank they mix it with the Low Wines hot off the first Still and send them both through the second Still. This means that most of the Spirit used to make Springbank has been distilled twice but a small percentage has been distilled three times, hence two and a half times distillation! Now, if wrapping your head round that paragraph hasn’t given you a thirst, I don’t know what will…
On the nose there’s Caramel and Toffee, Apple and Pear and a hint of fresh, Salty Sea Air. The palate is nutty – like Dry Roasted Peanuts, with Toffee, Caramel, Almond, Brown Sugar, Chocolate and just at the finish there’s a waft of Peat Smoke.
Springbank bottle their 15 year old at 46% ABV and without chill filtering, meaning it has an oily, viscous texture that coats the mouth with every sip, delivering a great deal of flavour along the way.
The Scores: About the scoring system
Smell: 17/20. Chocolatey with a touch of fruit and a strong hint of the sea.
Taste: 19/20. Really delicious stuff, well balanced, good mouthfeel and long finish.
Value: 9/10. Should be around £50 – £55 and its 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour. Can’t complain about this level of quality for that price.