J & A Mitchell & Company not only keep the flag flying for Campbeltown whiskies with both the Springbank and Glengyle distilleries under their wings, but they also own William Cadenhead’s, Scotlands oldest independent bottler. It was not all that long ago that Springbank was largely disregarded or panned as an obscure whisky – my how times have changed – critical acclaim, legendary status for some expressions, and releases that fly off the shelves. This is Springbank in 2017.
Springbank’s 18 year old is a batch whisky usually released at least once, and sometimes several times each year. It was first released in 2009. Each batch has its own nuances, but of late tends to be a marriage of 80% ex-sherry casks and 20% ex-bourbon casks. The bottle we have here at Dramble HQ is slightly older, harking from 2014 with the pink branding rather than the newer (redesigned to look more like the 21 year old) blue styling. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and was a release of 9,000 bottles. Prices for Springbank 18 year old vary incredibly depending on where you are in the world. In the UK, you’re looking at around £85 for a latest batch bottling (assuming you’re quick off the draw!) – but in some states of the US, you might be doubling or even trebling that figure. Colleagues in the US oft-times request me to pack a little something from Campbeltown for them when I go visit.
Nose: Sweet and fruity but takes a little time to completely open up. Orange peels and oodles of blueberries and raspberries alongside some candyfloss-like sugars. Sweet stuff, but tempted by some deeper notes of earthy slightly pungent, but gentle smoke.
Taste: Oily and mouth coating. An initially hit of wet soil mixed with caramels, sugary grains and roasted malts. Our berry-fest is still present and is joined by some real nuttiness – almonds in particular – almost akin to marzipan with all the sugars flying around. Cask spice is much more prevalent and the palate than on the taste with some heavy cinnamon and interesting light salinity. Those wondering where the peat had got to, fear not, it’s present and correct and offering the dusty pungency that you’d expect from Springbank. It’s dialled up much more on the taste than on the nose. To finish things off, we have some vanilla, light chocolate, raisins and deck varnish. There’s a lot going on here.
Finish: Quite lingering with a really nice slowly fading astringency. Cask spice is the order of the day with ginger, cinnamon and even a hint of chilli pepper.
This Springbank 18 year old is a story of two halves. A rather sweet, berry-packed nose with light smoky inflections totally transforms into an oily, complex and multifaceted pungently smoky and spicy whisky. It’s a tough one to score frankly as the palate to my taste far exceeds the initial aromas from the nose. So we’ll go for an average mark between the two poles of what I’d considered scoring this. As to whether you should look to buy a bottle – well, if you can find this for around its original RRP then absolutely, it’s a riot of taste and flavour and well worth your time. But, you’ll probably be paying a premium now for an older batch. This said, I would heartily recommend waiting for a new batch of the 18 year old to be released and getting ready on your trigger finger. It’s a whisky which all enthusiasts should try at some point. The Dramble is going to attempt to obtain other batches from different years to provide you with some comparisons with older and new versions. Watch this space.
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