Springbank 16 year old Local Barley Review

expectations

Expectation is an interesting notion. It can bring excitement, worry or joy, amongst other things. However, when we expect something of someone, then it shows that they have given us a reason to believe in them. I have high expectations of Springbank as a distillery. High, but fair expectations. They produce beautifully crafted whiskies year in year out, don’t scream and shout about what they’re doing, whilst never seeming to succumb to the pressure of “certain trends” in the whisky industry.

When the news came out that there was to be a new special release of a local barley Springbank. My head was definitely turned. Only last year had I been lucky enough to taste a 14yo Springbank Local Barley which was a Society special release. 9016 It blew my mind. The perfect mix of light peat, spices, dark fruits and light sherry.
This news however was not only dangerous for my expectations, but also my wallet. £90 for a bottle of 16yo whisky isn’t shocking by any means in this market, but when parting with close to £100, you want to make sure you are more than happy with the contents. More pricey than last years 17yo sherry-wood, but with the wonderful provenance behind this new whisky, you can understand the slight price hike. I hope to see more in regards to provenance over the coming years, what with distilleries such as Springbank and Bruichladdich taking the lead.

 

When this new release hit certain online whisky retailers yesterday, many of the bottle stocks had sold out before people had a chance to say “Ooo I love Springbank”. There may only be 9000 bottles of this in the world, but it also shows that it’s not just me who has high expectations. Let’s hope that we don’t see too many of these appearing on auction sites over the coming months. However, how was this going to live up to my expectations? I expected it to be brilliant when ordering it yesterday. I expected it to be brilliant when it arrived on my doorstep less than 24 hours later. I expected it to be brilliant when I saw the classy and classic bottle design. It was Shakespeare who wrote “I am giddy; expectation whirls me around!” in his play Troilus and Cressida. I’m not whirling, but pretty close to giddy. What did I think?

Springbank 16yo Local Barley (54.3%)
1454162438SpringbankLocalBarley16yo54.3Jan2016 N: One of those beguiling Springbank noses. Deep sweetness, light peat, hint of floral tones and pepper. Giving it some time in the glass opens up aromas of wet rope and engine oil. Interestingly wine like. Some spice, stewed apples and raisins. It is like walking through a crop field on a damp summer day. Water opens the nose more, playing with the sweetness. Perfection of a Springbank nose.

P: Gristly on first arrival, before quickly alternating to a velvety delivery. Wow that was impressive. Pepper, toffee, earthy and full of depth, yet incredibly easy on the tongue and palate in general. This is oily, has a hint of rose petal and incredibly smooth for 54.3%. The gentle peat sits on the edge of the tongue. Each drop of water intensifies all of these flavours.

F: Long. The oil lingers before leaving a shred of salt water and apple peal. Peat disappears gently. A splash of water brought out the pepper on the finish.

Comments: This is one heck of a 90’s Springbank. This isn’t only the exact balance of fruit, peat and oil I was looking for; but it is complex and juicy with a finish that goes on for hours.

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This is a whisky that not only makes you sit up and question what some other distilleries are doing with their time, but most importantly puts a smile on your face. I would call this a near perfect Springbank in my book. Of course it is slightly rough around the edges, but that is what makes this distillery wonderful for me. Would I recommend you try to taste this whisky? It is beautifully made, delivers brilliantly and is without a doubt worth the money. Enjoy picking this apart, playing with drops of water and letting it draw our your smile. You can’t go wrong.

Alexander Pope once wrote “Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”. I shall however keep expecting only the best from Springbank. I know I won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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Bruichladdich 10yo (Single Cask) : Day 10 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

I mentioned in my last post just how much I enjoy bottlings from the marvellous Bruichladdich, and out of the distilleries I have been privileged to visit, I would have to say that they are currently my favourite. So it seems right that Day 10 brought me another one of their delicious whiskies. However, this time I am treated to a private single cask of a 10 year old Bruichladdich.

Every time I meet another member of the #whiskyfabric, I find the conversation flows, along with the whisky. Andy Purslow (@Ardbaggie) is not an exception to the rule. Andy is a whisky investor, chairman of the Wet We Whistle Whisky Society, Limburners brand ambassador and a mad West Brom fan. After meeting for the first time in February, we spent hours chatting over everything from Ardbeg (did I mention he is an impressive collector too?) to jazz. It’s always exciting when he’s around and whenever we meet, I know we are going to have a fun filled evening filled with laughter and catch ups. Along with his vast knowledge of all things whisky, he has proven himself to be more than generous (randomly giving me half a bottle of single cask Port Charlotte as a gift back in October). I look forward to heading up to his in the near future, and when I do… I will update you!

Bruichladdich 10yo Single Cask (1st fill sherry) (56.3%)
(A 1st fill sherry with a wonderful colour)
B3uBTddIYAEn2q_N: The first thing that jumps out is the heavy sherry – dark fruits, cherries and blackcurrant jam. Thick, dark, old leather and freshly cut wood. Little Islay character, perhaps more of a Glendronach feel to this. Then a slight briny note appears with a small layer of sweat peat smoke. When opening up it brings some gentle sweetness some peppery spices. Water brings cured meat with some sulphur.

P: Intense arrival here with a strong taste of alcohol. There is quite a powerful sherry hit too. Strongly sweet with raisins, sour fruit, dark chocolate and saltiness. Hard to pick out any particular laddie notes until a slight maritime taste with seaweed towards the end. Water makes it saltier and calms down sherry, becoming earthier and fruitier.

F: Long and lingering. Pretty dry with lots of sherry still. Wine like tannins too. Some spices right at the end with hints of peat.

Comments: Very interesting Laddie here. Profile seemed hidden behind the sherry. Meaty and peppery. Water calms it down but looses complexity slightly. A fun experience. (Think I prefer the Port Charlotte he gave me…. watch this space!)

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Thanks again to my good friend Andy!

Forty Creek Confederation Oak : Day 8 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Today’s dram is extra special. Not only is this the single whisky I’ll be tasting from outside of Europe, but I wouldn’t be writing on here about whisky at all if it wasn’t for the generous soul who sent it to me. Forty Creek is from Canada, as is Johanne McInnis (what an awesome segue). If you haven’t come across Johanne, or @whiskylassie as shes more commonly known, then sort yourself out. Not only does she write fantastically poignant posts, reviews and musings on her blog, she is also pretty much the pioneer of the mighty #whiskyfabric. Passionate, insightful and simply lovely, Joanne is one of those people that you really know would do anything for you. She was the first person I talked to about whisky online, the first to welcome me into the #whiskyfabric community and one of the first to generously send me samples from her collection. A lot of my passion for whisky has been encouraged by her or her writing. The pleasure was all mine when we met this summer, becoming the “Son she never wanted”, and I look forward to hopefully sharing a dram with her again in the future. This sample has been hidden away for the last year, waiting for its moment to shine. So here we go:

Forty Creek Confederation Oak (40%)
imageN: Pretty clean cut to start with, doesn’t seem willing to give too much away. Very bourbon-esq nose with warm vanilla and wide woody notes. There is a fair amount of spice here, a really nice level actually, backed up with a smooth sweetness. Some honey, maple syrup (I’m not just saying that!), bananas and some fresh sawdust. After some time in the glass it became quite nutty and slightly metallic.

P: Smooth and gentle arrival. Incredibly light mouthfeel, it just glides in and evaporates off the tongue quickly. Holding it in the mouth for longer brings vanilla, sugared sweetness, and syrup (I can’t get maple syrup out of my mind, but I might have made myself think of that). Strong oaky notes and some vanilla pipe tobacco which I have at home. Hint of spices towards the end with gingerbread men and rum soaked raisins.

F: Short/medium. More sweetness, brown sugar, sour sweets, vanilla and the tobacco still hanging around. Drying right towards the end.

Comments: Flip me, this is an easy drinker. Too easy, if that is a thing! I enjoyed so many of the elements to this; with so many beautiful and distinguishable flavours, how can you not? Sadly I just found it a tad too weak and watery on delivery which is such a shame. I’m really torn by this dram. I keep flicking between low or high 80’s due to the different factors. Due to the flavours, I think I’ll say 86 (but on another day it could easily be higher or lower). I’m very lucky to have tried this.

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Myself and the Lassie (I apologise for my stupid mouth)

 

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Meeting Johanne and a few others at the SMWS

Massive thank you to my wonderful “whisky big sis” Johanne!

Balblair 1978 : Day 6 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Sticking with the Highlands, I found this old Balblair in today’s spot. This will be the oldest Balblair I’ve tasted to date and I heard that the 1975 was spectacular, so I’m looking forward to this. This was sent nearly a year ago by the duo which bring us WhiskyCorner. Stewart and Kirsty are a Scottish couple who constantly show their passion for whisky (not just Laphroaig!) again and again online. Now the couple write reviews, interviews and news for their ever expanding website. I met the couple very briefly at Whisky Live last year and I’m sure I’ll bump into them again at some point. I know I’m not the only member of the #whiskyfabric who they have generously donated special drams to; we are all very grateful.

Balblair 1978 (46%)
IMG_0024N: This has such a grassy hay like quality to it, clumpy and thick, reminding me of picking wet grass out of the lawnmower. Really fresh and fruity with lots of green apples – there are similarities to the Tomatin 30yo I tasted a few days ago. There’s quite a waxy quality, with a slight nuttiness and some salt. With time in the glass it gets slightly more meaty and coastal with the fruits taking a back seat. Quite a gentle easy going nose.

P: This glides down easily whilst retaining a thick mouthfeel. Pears, grass again and some orange zest. Strong oaky flavours with a few rough and ready edges. Pretty smooth this and towards the end I got some dried fruit. No huge complexity here, but some nice notes.

F: Medium. Some forest fruits along with a minty toothpaste edge. Quite a bit of bourbony flavours at the end, and quite a dryness too.

Comments: This is an easy drinker for its age (30/35 years?!) Fruity, fresh and ripe, whilst retaining an edge of maturity. I wouldn’t have guessed it’s age though as it felt like there was less interaction with the wood than a lot of 30+ year old I’ve tried. It does lack a bit of complexity and it’s not the most balanced Balblair I’ve tasted, but it’s their oldest expression I’ve tried and I still thought it was quite nice…. Just not blown away! 86

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Thanks again to Kirsty and Stewart

 

 

Tomatin 30yo: Day 4 of #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Tomatin is one of those distilleries that slipped my radar when I first got into single malts. This was a huge mistake as they produce some fantastic whisky. Over the past year I have been pointed towards some lovely expressions from a number of #whiskyfabric friends including a certain Ben Cops. A blogger who writes very regular reviews on Benswhisky.com, Ben has opened my eyes to a number of new distilleries, is incredibly persuasive when it comes to bottle shares and an all round good chap. We don’t meet up enough, but when we do, he is always a bad influence good fun. Not to forget he is a generous sharer of his fabulous whisky collection (I don’t know how he has space in his study!) This sample was given to me a number of months ago and has been sitting with a few others, waiting to be enjoyed and reviewed, so here we go.

Tomatin 30yo (46%)
IMG_0017N: A really full and rounded nose which noses stronger than the ABV suggests. Sweet and waxy to start. I get sour apple Hubba Bubba chewing gum straight away with huge juicy fruits, in fact very fruity without being overbearing. Apples, pears, pineapple and mangos. Old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, marshmallows and gummy bears. After some time in the glass, lots of honey and a herbal note towards the end. Quite an enticing nose this one. Enjoyable.

P: Oaky…. Very oaky in fact. Fresh and vibrant on the tongue with freshly cut grass and fresh fruits again; Bananas, apples and mangos. Lots of penny sweets, particularly Fruit Salad sweets. Victoria sponge cake with vanilla icing sugar. Hint of honey again.

F: Long, oaky finish with a soft fizzle of spice. Well balanced. Fruits still hanging on with some rich tea biscuits too.

Comments: Robust and fresh fruit bomb. Nice and vibrant for a 30yo, I would have guessed at it being a 21yo. Sweetness leads this one, but doesn’t dominate. 88.

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Thanks again to Mr Cops for the sample. Go check out his site!

Review: Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

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Dalwhinnie 15 year old – 43%

I was thinking through what whisky should feature in this first review. It then occurred to me that the first whisky I ever bought would be a great one to start, and it helped that it’s a complete cracker. Don’t be swayed by the fact that this is part of Diageo’s Classic Malts range… it is there for a reason!

Since buying the Dalwhinnie 15 three years ago, it has become a staple whisky in my collection. I remember buying it before even trying it, something I probably wouldn’t usually do now, but I loved its classic look…and would later discover that I would love its classic taste.

Dalwhinnie, Scotland’s highest and most remote distillery uses water from the highest mountain source of any malt. So you would usually expect something a bit special. Luckily, they don’t disappoint. Now, what do I think?

Nose: This is such a cracking nose. Big first smell, and it is always incredibly floral and fruity. Honey and toffee are entwined in some real smooth malty notes. There is a dry, crisp heathery scent that I find in many highland whiskies too. I seem to have thoughts of walking through a flower garden with plenty of apple trees present. After some time in the glass a small hint of smoke teases the nostrils.

Palate: Without a doubt this is an incredibly smooth, malty dram. I wouldn’t say this is light or heavy, but includes some strong flavours. Vanilla, honey and a sweet nuttiness are all present. These are all balanced with smidgens of smoke and gentle peppered spiciness. It glides down the tongue effortlessly.

Finish: This is one silky smooth finish. Long, lingering and malty with small wafts of coffee. The honeyed sweetness is still present, now slightly more bitter than before. Relatively intense, but gives way to hints of gentle smoke and malt.

Overall, this is a solid and quality whisky. Some may say the flavours are relatively simple, but they are pretty flawless nonetheless. Compared to other whiskies of similar age, it is a complete steal for the price (especially if you can get it on offer). With some time it can be quite complex too. I always want to make sure I have this beauty in my whisky collection…and it’s made even easier due it’s availability in numerous supermarkets up and down the country. It is the perfect single malt to turn anyone into a whisky lover…. Come to think of it…. it turned me into one!