Something a little different today as we take a trip to Campbeltown (physically!) and check out some of the rare drams available in the Washback Bar at Springbank Distillery. It's fast approaching the Campbeltown Malts festival 2022 and we thought we'd share our thoughts on these to help anyone who's attending choose from the good sized list.
We'll be rating the bottles based on the dram price, as you can't really buy bottles of these any more.
For reference, our scale is...
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
Springbank 11yo Sauternes single cask, 56.2%, £8 a dram
This wasn't listed on the menu when we visited, so you may need to request it specifically.
We're getting apricots, a fair whack of peat, light oak, a mustiness and a real depth as we nose the dram. There’s also a nuttiness... maybe walnuts, along with a sour plum note. The palate is dominated with vanilla, marzipan, a hint of white chocolate and a warm alcohol bite. The mid palate is a little light, but the finish brings it back, lasting quite a long time and bringing vanilla custard, sweet oak and profiteroles. The peat is present on the palate, but well integrated with the cask flavours and plays more of a supporting role giving it another dimension.
Water brings out more oak, prunes and champagne vinegar on the nose. The diluted palate is warmer, richer with brioche, creme caramel and white chocolate ganache. Sad that we’ll never get a bottle but this is an easy 9/10, the only thing letting it down is the slightly lost mid palate.
Springbank 1996 vintage amontillado cask, bottled 2008, 56.0%, £10 a dram
Rich toffee and maple, a little smoked brisket with barbecue sauce, following on to milk chocolate, caramel and dark brown sugar. The palate has raisins, spiced chai tea, a good hit of alcohol and toffee popcorn. It’s a very rich and powerful dram, one for cold winter nights. Going back after some air we’re getting more oak, a little fudge and some of the peat right at the end. The finish has good length and the alcohol is not too overpowering.
Water bring out more earthy, vegetal notes, as well as enhancing the peat aromas. There’s a slightly sour smell appearing, apple cider vinegar perhaps, but it still retains the strong, rich sherry aromas. The reduced palate follows along the lines of the reduced nose with more earth, fresh forest aromas backed up by burnt toffee, cherry liqueur and a touch of rosemary. It’s delicious, but it’s a one dram a night sort of whisky.
Springbank fresh burgundy 12yo, bottled for USA in 2017, 57.5%, £8 a dram
Strawberry jam, a lovely, oily feeling with with whipped cream backed up by slightly sour smoked cherries. It’s very fruit forward, with the alcohol nicely balanced in the background. Weirdly, we also get tomato ketchup with the balance of sweet and sour. The palate opens with cranberries, a hint of cinnamon, vanilla and strawberry syrup. The Campbeltown funk is there, and the peat makes an appearance giving it a solid finish that leaves the red fruit lingering in the mouth.
Water brings out some more smoke and a meatiness that wasn’t there before. The alcohol seems a bit harsher now, more in your face, but still ok overall. The watered palate has more of the meatiness as well, along with smoked fruits and sweet oak. For us it’s probably our least favourite of the 3 Springbank single casks we've looked at here, but it’s still an easy 8/10.
Hazelburn refill bourbon 20yo single cask bottled for Germany in 2018, 55.5%, £20 per dram
Very creamy on the nose, damp oak, warehouse funk, freshly squeezed lemon and a bit of wholemeal bread. The alcohol fairly discernible on the nose, and we’re also getting some light tropical fruits like pineapple. The palate is oily, has a nice mouthfeel and explodes with tinned pineapple, both the fruit and syrup. It’s actually really really sweet, strawberry sponge cake and icing, but backed up with a fairly powerful alcohol bite following into a warm, peppery spice finish. The mid palate is a little bit of a let down, but it starts and finishes strong.
With water the nose takes on the oily, full body of the palate. We’re getting some tangerine on the nose as well. The reduced palate brings the spice to the forefront, and we’re getting a bit more vanilla and oak. The finish retains the length and spice level, but you get a little more citrus coming through. Overall a very spirit forward dram just taking on minimal flavour from the wood, but slightly out of balance with the alcohol after 20 years in the cask.
Longrow 12yo oloroso single cask bottled for Canada in 2009, 57.9%, £12 a dram
Meaty, beefy, a little winey, comparative to a beef bourginon. It’s a very potent nose, promising big things on the palate. Digging into it we’re getting some rosemary, a little mushroom but not too much peat. The palate brings forward some red fruits, not nearly as meaty as the nose suggested. There’s a nice background sweetness backed up by more of a smoke presence, finishing with a slightly bitter chocolate/cherry flavour.
Water tames the meatiness slightly, and brings forward the peat we expected. Smoked cherries and strawberries, wood shavings and damp grass. The watered palate brings a little more of the fruit forward, a cocktail of the aforementioned cherries and strawberries with the addition of raspberry. The finish and mouthfeel are retained, but overall more sweetness coming through. A comforting dram and we’d happily have another one.
Interested in trying drams like these? We've created the Two Whisky Bros Dram Club to help you get access to high quality, rare whisky by the dram.