Feb 282020
 

Only the second Coleburn review on ATW. Tsk tsk. For shame. It’s almost like some strange factor is limiting access to malts from this Speyside distillery. Hmmm. Oh…right.

For the record, Coleburn was yet another casualty of that devastating extinction event that claimed so many distilleries in the early 1980s. The distillery was a bit of a Frankenstein’s lab throughout a fair chunk of its existence, used mainly for production experimentation, and largely dedicated to providing malt for the Diageo family of blends. Seems a shame in retrospect, as we begin to realize the long term ageing potential the malt had. We say that far too frequently of late, I realize. I also concede we sentimentalize a bit too often as well. Such is.

This 21 was one of the iconic Rare Malts releases that sits in high stead and coveted pride of position for many malt drinkers. And rightfully so, I’d argue. We may see more nuance and subtlety through other ranges (and bottlers), but for pure bombast, it really is hard to pip the Rare Malts.

Coleburn was founded in 1897 and shuttered in 1985. RIP.

59.4% abv. Distilled in 1979, bottles in 2000.

Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Sour and just slightly cheesy. Sour Ju-jubes and quality eau de vie. Greengage. Orange, apple and cranberry. A wee bit of smoke. White chocolate. Honey. Riesling and green grape skins.

Palate: Oh, wow. Great arrival. Enormous, actually. Malt and rubber. Grapefruit zest (and a bit of pith too). Kinda makes it a bit weedy and bitter. Adds complexity. Rubber bands. Vegetal notes. Crunchie bar. Band-Aids. Reminds a bit of old Ledaig (a ’72 Cadenhead, in particular). Kinda dirty.

Finish: Drying, with firm tannins (though not overly aggressive). Let’s call it a ‘fair’ wood presence at the back end. Somewhat grassy. Some rubber. Vaguely industrial or chemical-y. In a great way.

88.5/100

 Posted by at 11:22 am
Feb 112020
 

Everybody’s darling. And rightfully so. It’s gotten to the point where most Springbank expressions don’t even hit the shelves anymore. At least locally. Preorder lists are a mile long, the din of begging voices is nearly deafening, and the tears of those who miss out are nearly voluminous enough to swim in. And why? Well…I think it ultimately comes down to something that would make other brands shudder: A complete lack of consistency. In short, Springbank is the most wildly inconsistent distillery in Scotland. In every sense of the word. They produce what and when they want (irrespective of distillery capacity or clamoring legions of thirsty fans), and they’ve managed to turn the idea of batch variation from something akin to the proverbial albatross into their greatest strength, and even their ‘misses’ are better than most distilleries’ ‘hits’.

This is what whisky making used to be. Period. Before the age of yield and consistency, the industry was very much at the mercy of barley and yeast variance, all-over-the-map wood policies, greater fluctuations in demand and pressures on stocks, less calibrated and measured production techniques (still firing, cut points, etc), and on and on and on.

And while Springbank is not immune to the many changes in the industry, Hedley and Co. have made it their business to march to the beat of their own drum. Status quo is not Springbank’s MO. And it probably never will be. A visit to the distillery will leave you…ahem…’woke’ (to cop an expression the ‘kids’ are using nowadays) to just how alien Springbank is to most of the industry. And just how utterly brilliant it is for it. Also…this is the only distillery on earth that can get away with as much sulphur as it does. I utterly detest the brimstone, but even I can’t fight just how singularly compelling Springbank is.

I’m rambling now, but perhaps a proper Springbank ‘Distillery In Focus’ feature is in our near future. Hmmm.

Anyway…let’s discuss this expression. Springbank 15 is a juggernaut of a malt. At once monstrously bold and mellowed enough by time to be approachable by all. And if the flavours are not particularly your cup of tea? Well…that’s fine, but it’s hard to argue objective quality with a whisky like this. And the dram in hand…I must say that this particular batch is an absolute cracker. Better than the most recent 18 we had, I’d wager.

46% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Noses older than 15, I have to say. Decent wafts of peat smoke. Salty, coastal, briny, and all of those other Campbeltown superlatives. Purple fruit. Oily dried fruits. Engine oil. Tobacco. Old libraries (in a 15 y.o.?!?). Cinnamon. A bit of sulphur (that largely blows off with time). Grape juice. And maybe some bramble jelly. Dunnage. Stables. White pepper and ginger. Just a hint of florality.

Palate: Flinty, Dirty and slightly matchstick-y. Chocolate. A very toasty malt profile, doused in over-caramelized sugar. Plum and prune. Sticky raisins. Some berry notes. Lapsang souchong tea. Licorice. Wet earth. Old World wine, four or five days open. Like spilling spent coffee grounds and a lit cigarette into a glass of Bowmore 18. Yep.

Finish: Long and smoky. Smoked fish and berry coulis. Candied apples. A bit drying, but oh, so long.

Thoughts: Thrilling, really, that a whisky like this still exists in our age of homogeneity. Gives me hope. And 46% is the perfect strength for this dram.

90/100

 Posted by at 5:43 pm