I became a member nearly two years ago as a means of obtaining the 2014 Local Barley bottling (reviewed here, and the star of the masterclass at TWE). Membership of the society is £50 for life and gets you a few bits and pieces but most importantly gets you access to society bottlings, bottled about twice a year. These are single cask exclusives that are usually just awesome. I fully recommend signing up.
On that note, head here next, and sign up. Then, some whisky!
Hazelburn, 18 years old, Springbank Society Bottling late 2015, the "Leaky Hazelburn", 54.4% A⊕
Refill sherry butt, 18/7/97, Warehouse 15, Rotation No. 1013.
This cask was selected to be the next society bottling at a society tasting last year at the distillery during Campbeltown festival (a tasting I will be at this year!). However, when they went to bottle it, they found the cask had leaked and there wasn’t enough to bottle for the whole society. So they bottled the next one instead (an 18 year old Springbank). The remains of the cask were bottled for the attendees of the tasting, one of whom was kind enough buy one on my behalf (thanks Jon!).
Nose - Deep, but bright and pure. That's to say, delightfully sweet, balanced and fresh, but still a sherry bomb. But also some surgical spirit, strawberry laces, fresh flower petals (not just floral, but in a new bunch), and cherry pie. It's pretty on the nose.
Body - That light toffee, damp cardboard, and delicate cask delivery that's very Hazelburn. I'm definitely less of a fan on the whole of Hazelburn than Springbank, that third run through the stills knocks the meat out of the spirit a bit without providing so much of the toffee funk it does at Auchentoshan. Still this is delicious, with a slight funk, fizz and sulphur that complements the nose to make the nose to delivery promise hang together. It tastes like strawberry laces too.
Finish - Long and complete, sweet toffee funk right through to the end, ripe fruit and wood. They definitely get the casks right at Springbank too.
Recommended if you can score one, another dram I finished before I could try it with water. This is always an excellent sign.
Springbank, Springbank Society Bottling late 2015, 18 years old, recharred sherry butt, A⊕+
May 1997 to September 2015, 502 bottles. The replacement for the Hazelburn above.
Nose - Sherry and virgin oak, that's the idea, right? Sharp (like a lemon sherbets outer shell), with acrylic paint and honey. Buttery, yellow and fresh, with metallic ozone, a floral middle and a little cough medicine. This is a sherry bomb, but it's been transformed.
Body - Rich, ripe, massively Springbank. There's no denying this whisky's heritage (mind you I thought a Speyburn was a young Springbank at a tasting the other day, I'm becoming obsessed). Sweet but balanced, ripe toffee and burnt wood, quite a lot of peat, like one of those surprisingly peated single cask Highland Parks.
Finish - Long and delicious. Burnt caramel, burnt oak, ripe fruit and a touch of funk. Reasonably intense with more lemon and deep sherry fruits; Springbank usually starts to calm down in its late teens.
A fabulous whisky.
Longrow 1996 12 Year Old Springbank Society, Fino Sherry cask, 57.6% A+
Thanks to Sjoerd for the sample of this.
Nose - Big, complex and herbal. Dusty and austere, but big, sweet and young. Caraway seeds fried in beef fat (there's an idea for a sausage). Salty like the sea with gentle, clear sherry and classic Springbank engine block. There's something perfectly balanced, and slightly dirty about the Longrow peat and the Fino sherry here. Lovely stuff, fingers crossed…
Body - Quite a rollercoaster. Hammy, lots of sulphur, chewed matchsticks, lots of salt. Quite harsh. More rounded with water but still demanding like an oversalty brisket burnt end - charred and drying. With time though there's an intense sweetness that comes through and starts to work with that sulphur.
Finish - Bags of black pepper, lots of wood oil, lots of joss stick. Very long and very astringent.
This is so challenging (and complex) that I'm reminded of Balcones Brimstone (having just written about it the other day when tasting the Octomore 07.4). Woody, drying, tannic, dirty, complicated and a little bit indescribable, I'm not sure how to score it. Let's stick with "Very Good"
Springbank, Springbank Society Bottling 2013, fresh port cask, 12 years old, 50.5% A⊕+
Nose - Fresh and chalky, a gentle lick of port cask, but a really exciting apple and granite note backing it up and dripping with age. This funky, petrolic note is a happy clash of (relatively) young Springbank spirit and a fantastic first fill cask. It's so warm, fruity and waxy. Seriously lovely.
Body - Perfect in the initial delivery. Dark, ripe plum, raisins, wet oak and blackcurrant travel sweets. While the nose is slightly sweeter with water, the delivery isn't quite so wonderful, keep it neat.
Finish - A brief wander through "too bitter" and then back into the fruit and port. An old briefcase with its papers. Very long and intensely sweet, but never unwelcome. This can stand toe to toe with the biggest sherrybombs.
I have to say this is even better than I thought it would be, quite the port bomb but very sweet, and with the Springbank character and spirit played perfectly. Wonderful, wonderful whisky.
JOIN THE SOCIETY.