Springbank 18 Year Old Single Malt (700ml)
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Springbank is one of the few surviving distilleries in the Campelton region which was once the epicenter for illegal stills and by far the highest producing whisky region in Scotland. In 1828, the Reid brothers (in-laws of the Mitchell family) and Archibald and Hugh Mitchell built the legal Springbank distillery on the site of a former illicit still in Campbeltown. A decade later, the Reids fell on hard times and sold their remaining shares to the Mitchell family who still own and operate the distillery today.
A combination of an excess of low quality Cambeltown whisky and prohibition hit the region hard in the early 20th century and the Springbank distillery went on hiatus from 1926 – 1933. Many other Cambeltown distilleries were not so lucky and never reopened, and this led to the near collapse of the whisky industry in the region.
Today, Springbank remains one of the only family-owned single malt distilleries in Scotland and is one of only two distilleries (the other being Kilchoman) that carries out every step of its production on-site. They still use in-house floor-malting for all of their barley and even bottle their whisky on-site. As a result, they are one of the most sought-after by whisky lovers but also one of the best places to learn the entire whisky-making process from grain to bottle for aspiring distillers.
This dram is a deep amber hue with loads of berry fruit (red and blue), yogurt, turkish apricots, vanilla, and a subtle bonfire smoke accent on the nose. The Palate is rich, oily, and powerful with flavours of toffee cakes, marzipan, prunes, and chocolate giving way to stranger savoury notes of mushroom and oyster shells. The finish is bold and long with waves of saltwater toffee, honey, and peppery anise and smoky cloves.
This is certainly a thinking dram as the sherried fruit and richness leap out at you at first but there are tons of mysterious and savoury elements that lurk in the background. A bit like playing “Where’s Waldo” trying to figure exactly what that flavour you’re tasting is.
There are a few Scottish distilleries that still malt their own barley but Springbank is one of only two distilleries which malts 100% of its own barley, using the traditional floor maltings. The whole production process: malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation, maturation and bottling happens on site in Campbeltown. A small portion of the malt for Springbank is peat-kilned lending the finished spirit a subtle coastal, briney, and smokey flavour.
Springbank uses two 6000 liter copper pot stills with a speyside shape (wide bottomed with relatively tall conical necks) to make their spirit but are once again unqiue in that they use a distinctive two and a half times distillation method to preserve complexity while creating a smooth-textured spirit.
In the case of the Springbank 18 year, a combination of ex-sherry casks (80%) and ex-bourbon barrels (20%) are used for maturation to impart depth of fruit without obscuring the distillery characteristics. After a minimum of 18 years maturation, the whisky is diluted to 46% alcohol by volume and bottled. None of Springbank’s bottlings are chill-filtered nor is any additions for colour stabilization or caramel used.
It is a poorly-kept secret that although I love wine, whisky was my first love. As the air gets crisp each autumn, I return to it. There is no better way to celebrate Halifax’s best-dressed season than with a dram of whisky. This year I’ve chosen the exclusive (9000 bottles made) Springbank 14 Bourbon Wood. The nose has plenty of warming spices, vanilla, and baked pear richness but doesn’t forsake the sooty and sea-breeze driven profile of all good Campbelltown whisky. The palate has an added toasty sweetness and depth that helps balance the creosote, liquorice, and more challenging phenolic flavours of Springbank without obscuring them. This is like a liquid wood-stove ready to warm you up just as the chill sets in.