After yesterday’s fun and last night’s big dinner ending in a serious session with a bottle of Kilkerran 12 years old, we woke up for the Springbank open day a little bit worse for wear (although better than some others). One full Scottish breakfast later, a quick trip to see the lovely people at Cadenhead’s in Campbeltown and we were in the queue for the festival bottles.
Day Two - Springbank Open Day
The festival bottles were as follows:
- Kilkerran 8 years old, first fill sherry cask
- Springbank 9 years old, refill Marsala cask
- Longrow 21 years old, refill bourbon
The weather was absolutely terrible, particularly shocking given the amazing sun that was had across the country in the previous few days. Biting winds, driving rain, absolutely freezing…
Chatting to Mark Watt outside the distillery he mentioned a cask of 1977 Littlemill and a recharred sherry Springbank 19 year old would be being bottled as part of the celebrations. It was only then that the enormity of what was about to happen dawned on me. We had a packed schedule ahead of us!
Note that most tasting notes in this set are just micro-notes - short impressions. I was enjoying myself too much to write proper notes!
Springbank - How wood influences our spirit tasting
First tasting of the Springbank open day, and we had six whiskies to blind taste, and 6 liquids from the represented casks - Port, Marsala, Madeira, Oloroso sherry, South African Shiraz and Rum. As they were blind tasted, my guess is given then the result. I only had two swapped round, pretty close!
1. Guess - Springbank Rum
Nose - Clean, soapy and lightly minty, light waxes. Weirdly unbalanced, perhaps rum.
Body - Very sweet and quite young, a touch of banana. Quity soapy again.
Finish - Medium long, uneventful.
[Springbank, 19 years old, Rum cask]
2. Guess - Longrow SA Shiraz
Nose - Sweet but dirty. Toasted oak.
Body - Sweet but drying, dirty wine cask, quite sulphured.
Finish - Short, sweet and uncomplicated (maybe it was a bit early in the morning!)
[Longrow, 14 years old, Oloroso sherry butt]
3. Guess - Springbank Port
Body - Herbal (fresh mint leaves), sweet oak.
Finish - Clean and quite short
[Springbank 15 years old, Fresh Port cask]
4. Guess - Springbank Madeira
Nose - Sweet, clean, mint bonbons
Body - Darker and more petrolic
Finish - Short, clean.
[Springbank Society 2013 bottling, 15 years old, Madeira hogshead]
5. Guess - Springbank Marsala - Very good
Nose - Slightly dirtier, riper
Body - Darker and more petrolic
Finish - A little longer, more sulphur
[Springbank Festival 2016 Bottling, 9 years old, refill Marsala], full notes here.
6. Guess - Springbank Oloroso
Nose - Sweet and classy, great wax and floor polish
Body - Very sweet and nutty
Finish- Beautiful and clean with a little brazil nut
[New Longrow Red, August 2016, SA Malbec cask], full notes here.
The last two were particularly good.
Kilkerran "mini masterclass"
A quick tasting with a trio of Kilkerrans, including the festival bottling and the Gaja Barolo that Belgium got when we got the Calvados cask.
Kilkerran 9 years old, Calvados single cask
Reviewed properly before.
N - Lovely hard wax and apples. B - Sweet and brutal, black pepper. An awesome drammer, robust and confident.
Kilkerran 8 years old, Oloroso sherry hogshead first fill, Festival bottling 2016, 350 bottles, 56.4% A+
N - Immediate hard, young sherry. Chocolate covered toffee. B - Roasted coffee with Mexican hot chocolate and wood splints. A touch of sulphur funk. F - Long and rude, young and confident as usual. Long instant-coffee at the end with sharp red fruit.
Full notes here.
Kilkerran 8 years old, Gaja Barolo (Belgium and NZ), 276 bottles, A⊕'
N - Quite closed, a little cold perhaps (at this point we were freezing cold and wet, the weather was terrible). With time, nail polish and red fruit. Classic Kilkerran sour, hard fruit. B - Blackcurrant chews, beautiful. F - Long and fruity, very good.
A fair few whiskies I’ve had before on this tasting but a first chance to taste the festival Longrow 21.
Hazelburn "tasting room" cask, Solera cask (10-14 years old) A+
This is the living cask at the Cadenheads shop in Campbeltown.
N - Sweet sherry and a touch of cardboard. Some waxed red fruit, waxier with water. B - Sweet, hot and slightly sulphured, ripe and toasty (toast, honey and sulphur). F - Hot sulphur. Quite satisfying, long and peppered with red wine.
Hazelburn, leaky society bottling A+'
Reviewed before, but interesting to taste it next to the living cask.
N - Darker and winier, good cherry complexity. B - Ripe and lots of peat. Red cherry. Wood char. F - Long and juicy, a touch of sulphur.
Longrow 21 years old, Festival 2016 bottling
N - Light, peppery, light waxes. Orchard, burnt candles. B - Pepper and white wine, beautiful waxes. F - Elegant and spicy cereal.
I'm wasn’t passing judgement on this until I could taste it in a relaxed environment, I learnt that lesson with various Springbank 21s at whisky festivals! Full notes here.
Springbank Warehouse Tasting
A fantastic warehouse tasting in one of the dunnage warehouses at Springbank distillery. One of the highlights of the trip, nothing beats tasting whisky straight from the cask in the warehouse.
Hazelburn 1997, 19 years old, A⊕+
N - Sweet, hard oak, vanilla, bread. B - Deep, very rich, slightly dirty, lots of vanilla sponge cake. F - Long, very fruity, quite tropical even with pineapple and mango
Kilkerran, 12 years old, Cask #6, Fresh Port A⊕+
The remnants of the sixth cask of Kilkerran, part of the 6 bottle set that was released of early Kilkerran casks. This was so good it caused someone we were chatting to to go and buy one of the remaining sets for a four figure sum. He was in shock when we met him afterwards!
N - Deep, mellow, classy blackcurrant and pineapple. B - Beautiful ozone and sea-side notes, intense but elegant. F - Long, lots of blackcurrant.
The next Springbank 21 year old vatting, 48% A⊕+
This was one of the vatting casks for the January 2017 release of Springbank 21. All of the various casks of 20 year Springbank are mixed together and racked to a set of refill sherry butts for one year to take on a little colour. It's going to be a good one. This might be the Springbank 21 I buy! But there’s a release before then (in August I think) which will be special as it’s single casks – different casks for each country.
N - Sweet and perfect, dusty sweets, refreshers - beautiful. B - Deep, floral and slightly alien.
We then tried the new Longrow Red Malbec again, but from the cask. Still cracking. It's 11 years in bourbon casks then into Malbec for one year. Next year they'll be trying Chardonnay casks for a Longrow White.
Springbank 22 years old, refill Chateau Lafite finish, 48% A⊕⊕
N - Sweet but dry, gloriously dusty. B - Perfect fruit, slightly sour. F - Very tannic, beautiful.
The last tasting of a very long day, this culminated in the sale of one of the whiskies - a cask of 1977 Littlemill which had been rolled into the maltings for the tasting and we bottled and bought there and then. Cuan tried to get his bottle filled so full that the cork wouldn't go on properly and it broke the capping machine, spraying 77 Littlemill everywhere. It's a cracking dram.
Miltonduff 21 years old, Lafite since 2009, 51.5% A+
From the recent outturn?
N - Dark wine but quite soapy. B - Fresh wine, oak, soap, rich and fruity. F - Long and biscuity, quite dry. A competent, well matured but quite ordinary whisky.
Cadenheads blended whisky, 43 years old, cask sample from one of the marrying casks at 45.2% A⊕
An upcoming very old blended whisky from Cadenheads, this will be popular. If my notes can be read (tricky) this is 4 casks blended, some understrong 1972, one 1973 (Glenlivet and Glenfarclas I think) and a cask of Invergorden. It's marrying in 2x sherry and 2x port casks. This sample is from the sherry cask. It'll sell for about £125 a bottle.
N - Massive. Winey and musky like burnt honey. B - Big, ripe and fruity with old wine. Extremely good. Soft and old with some gentle fruit.
From the recent outturn.
N - Dry, bright and coastal, lemon and cardboard. A day at the beach. It's lovely. B - Ripe and darkly jewelled. F - Beautiful and balanced, loads of fruit.
Littlemill 1977 cask sample, 39 years old A⊕+
Pulteney 25 years old, 50.5% A⊕+
From the recent outturn. This one’s sold out though. Here’s Jason on this one.
N - Bright and beautiful tropical fruit. Good, hot radiator. Fabulous fruit on the nose. B - Fake fruit, great balance. F - Medium, quite hot at the end, then cereal.
Caol Ila 20 years, 57.7% A+
As just pimped that morning by Cadenhead's greatest salesman, Serge of Whiskyfun.
N - Coal and ash, toffee, charred pear and crackling. Honey on buttered bread. Beautiful. B - Sweet and biscuity, baked apples. F - Very long and twiggy. A great Caol Ila but not the second coming. The previous 25 year old was better.
We ended the evening at the dance (with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers) on the malt floor, drinking rehydrating pints of ale and a final dram of Springbank 15.
It was a pretty epic day. We completely missed the open day bar, which sounded great, due to a gapless programme of tastings. Next year I might drop a couple of those in order to catch breath, actually do a distillery tour and spend some time at the bar… but not many. I wouldn’t drop the warehouse tour or the Cadenheads masterclass.
So with our feet firmly on the accelerator we crashed into our hotel (via the above bar), expecting an easier time of it at Glengyle open day. Although there is that 10am Cadenheads warehouse tasting…