Friday 17 February 2012

Whisky Review: Springbank 15 Year Old

The world of single malt scotch can be somewhat over whelming.  With hundreds of single malts varying in style, age, and most importantly, price, it’s not easy to lay down your hard earned cash on just any whisky.  In the province of British Columbia, where tax rates on liquor run in excess of 111% one must be particularly careful when deciding to purchase a pricy single malt.  Luckily, there is one distillery in Scotland making that decision a little easier.

An Overview of Springbank

On the southwestern tip of Scotland, nestled on the edge of Campbeltown, is the Springbank Distillery.  Founded in 1828, Springbank Distillery produces three very distinctively different styles of single malt: Hazelburn, a triple distilled, unpeated, single malt; Longrow, a heavily peated single malt; and the signature of the distillery, Springbank.  Springbank, the lightly peated single malt, best reflects the style of the once thriving Campbeltown whisky scene: Briny, sweet, with a hint of smoke.

Of the three distilleries left on the south-west peninsula of Scotland, the Springbank Distillery is know for being the only distillery in the whole of Scotland to execute every asset of production on premises.  Malting, kilning, mashing, fermenting, distilling, aging, and bottling, all done within the walls of this family owned distillery.  In addition to carrying out all methods of production on site, a characteristic unique to Springbank that is not commonly practiced in the world of single malt whisky is their approach to leaving their whisky unchill-filtered and abstaining from adding any E150 caramel coloring. 

With such attention to detail put into every bottle of whisky one must ask them self, “is it all worth it?”  Does taking the time to do everything by hand result in a final product superior to other Scottish whiskies?
Criteria of Single Malt Whisky

When assessing a single malt whisky, there are four aspects one must look to assess: aroma, taste, finish, and lastly, over all balance and complexity.   To ensure that all four of these aspects of the whisky are displayed to their full potential, the whisky is tasted in an ISO tasting glass.  In addition, no ice or water will be added to the whisky.  This will ensure the whisky is left unadulterated.

Assessing Springbank

At the zenith of Springbank’s core line-up of whiskies is the Springbank 15 year old.  Aged for 15 years exclusively in ex-sherry casks, peated to approximately 15 parts per million, and costing of $150 a bottle, this is certainly not your “every day” whisky.

From the first scent of the Springbank 15 year old, it is evident that this whisky is heavily sherry-influenced.  Dark chocolate, liquorice, orange zest, maple sugar, salted almonds, and a touch of peat smoke can all be detected in this incredibly complex and pronounced nose.

On the palate are notes of rich milk chocolate, tobacco, raisins, leather, and again, a hint of smoke.  The sherry influences more than just the flavor characteristic of this whisky; the mouth feel is rich and chewy.

The finish is rich in flavor, and long in length.  Notes of chocolate, raisins, and leather can all be detected in this whisky’s finish.  Although spectacular in nearly every asset, this whisky is not without it’s flaws.  The finish is slightly too gentle and, most tragically of all, there is the slightest hint of sulfur taint in the finish.  While the note of sulfur is of the outmost minimal severity, it is still a flaw that cannot be entirely over looked.

Balance and Complexity
The Springbank 15 year old’s balance and complexity is possibly the star component of this whisky.  After spending 15 years in ex-sherry barrels, this peated malt is teeming with complexity.  In Addition, all aspects of this whisky stand on equal ground with one another.  Neither the sherry, nor the peat over takes this exceptionally balanced single malt.


The whiskies being produced at the Springbank Distillery are direct reflections upon the care being taken in every facet of production.  The Springbank 15 year old is no exception.  With a phenomenally complex aroma, and taste, a great finish, complexity and balance, this is a whisky that –regardless of price- should remain a permanent staple in the cabinet of any malt anorak.

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