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Springbank 10 Year Old

Nuanced, Eccentric, and Challenging

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@ScotchNoobReview by @ScotchNoob

20th Feb 2011


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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[Reposted from my Blog: See Profile]

Springbank is a composite of rarities. It is one of the very few distilleries that performs the entire distillation process from malting on-site (its own floor maltings) to bottling in its private bottling plant. In fact, it is the only fully self-sufficient distillery in Scotland. Located in Campbeltown on the lyrical Mull of Kintyre, it is also one of the few surviving distilleries (of three, with Glen Scotia and Glengyle) from a once-great region of Scotch distillation. In 1887 there were 21 distilleries in Campbeltown, and it was sometimes called "The Whisky City." Hard times and a self-perpetrated degradation in quality (and thence, reputation) during the American period of Prohibition scoured the region, putting most distillers out of business.

Springbank claims that hand-turned floor maltings (as opposed to pneumatic or machine-aerated commercial maltings), while labor-intensive, yield a malt that is better because it germinates more slowly. The distillery uses traditional worm tubs, a cast-iron mash tun, and employs mechanical 'rummagers' (to prevent a buildup of burnt deposits) in the copper stills, which are heated with a combination of steam and direct oil fire. Springbank uses three stills to create a 2.8-time (not triple) distillation. For a and in-depth guided tour of Springbank distillery (and a good explanation of the 2.8-distillation thing), be sure to check out Ralfy's video tour at his website: January 2011 archive (scroll down).

Springbank also makes Longrow (a peated malt) and (new in 2006) Hazelburn (unpeated, truly triple-distilled). These, along with the distillery's flagship Springbank bottlings, are all non-chill-filtered, have no caramel coloring, and are reduced to bottling strength on-site with the same water used to produce the whisky. The water, like all Campbeltown whiskies, comes from the Crosshill Loch in the hills above the town, and is supplemented by a private well from a borehole drilled deep into the rock beneath the town.

Nose: Oily, non-smoky peat, hints of tar and woodchar, spicy and mossy. Salt breeze, almost savory, like the air outside a Teriyaki joint. A dash of water brings out a lot of barleywine and fresh fruit scents, dulling some of the peat.

Flavor starts with smoked meats, vanilla, big wet earthy peat but no campfire. Saltiness continues with mid-palate cerealy sweetness... Complex and spicy, a bit vegetal. Water brings out a sweetness like refined white sugar, but covers up some of the eccentric meaty flavors. Definitely savory.

Finish is long and complicated, more spices, salted fish, boggy peat. Evolves as it fades.

Summary: This is eccentric and nuanced, challenging and satisfying. Great stuff - I can't wait to come back and discover more!

Note: Noticed some black particles swirling around the glass (which I purchased at a bar). At the time I guessed barrel char that had escaped through the barrier filtering process. When I asked on twitter, I got the following response from @Springbank1828: "More than likely is barrel char. Sometimes these wee bits manage to escape through the filter so it isn't unheard of."

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