Let me just come out and say this. Springbank is tied with Ardbeg and Amrut as my favorite distillery in the whole world. Not only are they a genius distillery (creating three expressions from the same equipment!) they also claim to be the only distillery that performs the complete production process in its own facilities — including floor malting, maturation, and bottling.
Add to that their consistently brilliant flavors and you'd guess why I hold them in such high esteem.
I've sampled their 10, 10CS, 12, 12CS, 15 and 18 and each one, while similar in profile, has it's own subtle nuances that sets it apart.
Now here I was ready to test the flagship 21 (complete in blingy gold packaging). This age is a bit of a legend and there are many versions of this 21 year old spirit.
They were bottled in dumpy bottles during the 1980’s. After that, regular bottles appeared with a cardboard box and slightly different printing, first with a jagged label and then with a straight cut label. In 2005, the last batch was released (2400 bottles).
Since the distillery was closed between 1979 and 1989 it was only very recently that the 21 hit the market (2011) again. Now I never got the chance to sample the pre-2005 expressions but if this is any indication then they must have been gorgeous.
The liquid has been matured in both fresh and re-fill sherry casks.
Nose: Brilliantly balanced sherry with hints of black peppercorns. There's a touch of smoky meat stew with underlying salty peat. But it's the fruits that bring up the rear so admirably. Red apples and bears mulched with a honeycomb sweetness that make you savor the nose longer than most whiskies.
Palate: Crisp dark honey with pepper dust. There is that mild salty peat again but now with a lovely woody chocolate cinnamon paste. But it's the perfectly balanced consistency of liquid that forces you to hold on to it for so long.
Finish: Unbelievably long with the same dark peppers and woody cinnamon.
This one reminds me of the 18 a lot but there must be something in that extra three years that make this one that much more complex. Don't be put off by the snazzy gold packaging. It's the spirit inside that is pure gold.