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.
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.