As this is my favourite distillery, I am delighted to post this wrap up of nearly all the 2018 official releases so far (I’m just missing the 12CS - the Longrow 18, Springbank 21 are here with the HB Oloroso, and that amazing re-charred HB and Chardonnay Longrow are here). These below are still available, except I think the (not core) Longrow Oloroso which has finished showing in the UK.
August 2018 batch. Triple distilled, "unpeated", and bourbon casks.
Nose - The purest expression of Hazelburn (aside from remembering the R&K); the slightly off-sweet waxy oils, the sweetshop cask, a sherbet dib-dab dibber. Floral (air freshener and pot pourri), a tiny amount of cherry pipe tobacco, maybe some liquorice Rizlas.
Body - Wax crayon and buttercream icing after a toot on that cherry roll-up. The engine oils make this dry when the notes read as sweet. Quite a lot of peat builds up with repeated sips.
Finish - Sweet, floral, a little burnt and quite short, liquorice imps and coffee granules are left at the end.
I wonder if it's the equipment that has all the peat in it, or if it's in the casks? Either way, this is a very compelling drinker and an absolute steal - as a more "pure" or austere version of Springbank it's extremely balanced and very well put together.
August 2018 batch. 2.5x distilled, peated, sherry and bourbon casks.
Nose - More three-dimensional than the Hazelburn, but then this is less distilled, has more cask variety and non-incidental peat! A very confident nose, with linseed oil, Campari, singed rosemary, vanilla cream and candle wax (big ones, not birthday ones). Water makes it sweeter, with a touch of superglue and clay.
Body – Off-dry with metal filings, engine oil (properly) and quite burnt. Dank and dusty, although the dustiness does have a hollow side to it here, particularly with the low ABV.
Finish - Charred wood, licked joss sticks and cigar tar.
The nose is just stunning in this batch, but the peat is really quite high in the delivery and it seems a little aggressive.
August 2018 batch. Sherry casks.
Nose - The sweet spot for Springbank, it comes alive with currants, toasted almonds, sweet fruit cake, gastrique, blackcurrant jam, new carpet tiles and new library. Medicinal too; fresh bandage and Sudocrem.
Body - The peat in the 10 is turned down a couple of notches and the sherry cask fills in the gaps perfectly, adding chocolate icing, more blackcurrant jam, sulphur and walnuts. There's an almost red wine cask feel to this as you keep drinking, cloves and leather start to develop (a character that is explored more fully with Longrow).
Finish – Long, with new lino, fondant icing and vanilla ice cream. Nutty and oily at the end, the sherry cask and the Campbeltown dry the mouth out and make you sip again - one of the most compelling whisky experiences there is.
It's my favourite drinking whisky, those that you can just pour yourself into. I should make a list of those, and this will be #1.
August 2018 batch, bourbon casks.
Nose - Cleaner (because of the bourbon) than the 15 and more elegant than the 10, this has the best of the Hazelburn 10 and the SB15. It's fresh and waxy, but deep and poised - "complete" is the first word than came to mind. So; waxy cask, gently "tropical" fruits like peach and ripe pear, with plastic book covering, polished leather, cut grass (and a big sod of earth) and whistle pops.
Body - Whistle pop first, again, then red apple, strawberry mivvi… and Marlboro reds, toast and honey, Christmas cake and acrylic paint. Peppery notes build with time, but the engine oils back them up.
Finish - Very long, peppery and perfectly balanced bitterness. Victoria plum jam at the end.
Campbeltown just matures whisky faster. While you can hardly miss in the Springbank warehouses, it's impressive that this blend of casks just hits the mark so perfectly. This is as complex and intense a whisky you could ask for but it's so perfectly drinkable. And we haven't even got to Longrow yet, where the fireworks are.
August 2018 batch, 2x distilled.
Nose - Sweet, sour, dusty, off-dry, but weirder. The heavier the peating, the fewer the distillations, the deeper it becomes. The peaches are there again, with baked red apples, Germolene and old school permanent markers, but as with Octomore the heavier peating somehow mellows the peat and makes it more alien.
Body - Clean, a little sweet, with baked bramley apples, raisin, coffee and anise.
Finish - Medium-short and very clean, with window putty, royal icing, aniseed and fizzing lemon sherbet at the end.
The dusty nose with this balance and complexity is something that you need to spend a lot of money to achieve on Islay and Longrow has always nailed it. When I first tasted Springbank, I had a dram of this and then bought a bottle and stashed it, thinking "you won't be able to get whisky at this price and quality for much longer" - and you still can.
9,000 bottles, 2018 official release, refill Oloroso. I've been looking forward to this, thanks Jon for sharing this with me!
Nose - Deep, intense, with menthol and new fence panel. Reminds me a lot of the society Longrow Sauternes with added lavender and crushed marble. And with time it really deepens - leatherette, sriracha sauce and cut spring onions. Much more new paint with water.
Body - Dirty sherry, oily and ripe, restrained nut, sweet sulphur and then so much Campbeltown. It's an archetypical Springbank whisky turned up a couple of notches. Lots of liquorice with water, roots and imps, very tannic and black.
Finish - Sweetly jewelled, grapes and paint. Very long and acrylic, especially with water.
I imagine this is what Campbeltown whisky was like 50 years ago. I bet in 20 years' time a closed bottle of this is going to be incredible. It's a Campbeltown rollercoaster today, extremely challenging and rewarding… but an open bottle will last a long time!