Campbeltown

Sprinkbank Gaja Barolo Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

springbank-gaja-barolo

This unique little gem from Campbeltown’s Sprinkbank Distillery is a fascinating drop in that every time I sample it, it tastes different! No, I don’t think it is rapidly changing in the bottle, oxidising or degrading. I think it just messes with your head.

Let me just provide a bit of context. The Gaja Barolo Cask is part of the limited edition ‘Wood Expressions’ series which, as well as making me snigger immaturely, sounds rather interesting. The bottle in question takes the Springbank spirit and ages it for four years in refill ex-bourbon casks before being transferred into ‘fresh Gaja Barolo casks’ where it remains for a further five years in Campbeltown’s seaside atmosphere.

For the uninitiated (like me before I did my research), Gaja is an Italian wine producer and Barolo is a light red grape. Both aspects make this a very specific maturation for the whisky and one unlikely to be replicated any time soon.

Completing a list of tasting notes for this bottle is a tricky task due to the aforementioned chameleon nature of the dram. If I have just had a light Speyside number then I notice a whole heap of peat on the nose. If I’ve just had a highland dram then I discover raspberries and cream. The palate is sometimes spicy – it is bottled at 54.7% – but other times goes down smoothly and evenly. Occasionally I notice the oily maritime notes although often I find flavours of lemons and oranges. The finish usually lingers, with a wisp of smoke or hint of chocolate.

The bottom line is, no matter the flavours I get out of it, I’ve always enjoyed this dram. Sure, I haven’t been able to put my finger on its true nature, but that just adds to the fun. It is a mystery of a dram. I’ve still got a third of a bottle left – feel free to stop by and help me solve it.

***

(Although sometimes ****)

Springbank 15 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

springbank-15-year-old

The best drams are those that come with a sense of place. The Islay peat monsters smell like the fresh peaty air of the island on which they were made and taste like the fires the locals use to keep warm in the winter (and the summer). The drops from Speyside are as luscious and floral as the green fields which line the roads in the sunny north east (at least it was sunny the day I was there. Maybe I used up Scotland’s sunshine quota that day…)

Equally, whisky made at Springbank distillery tastes like the town in which it is made. Campbeltown was once a thriving maritime city full of trade, shipbuilding, and of course, fishing. Now, hold your horses there Whisky Waffle. Surely I’m not implying that this dram… is the whisky equivalent of fishing? Crazily enough, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting! And it works. As in really, really works.

Unlike the 10 Year Old Springbank expression, the 15 has spent its extra maturation time in ex-oloroso sherry barrels and the added complexity is clear from start to finish.

On the nose, oily, briny characteristics are immediately noticeable. There is the faintest hint of smoke, perhaps blown in from nearby Islay. The palate is gently spicy, courtesy of its 46% nature. There are flavours of caramel and pineapple contrasting intriguingly with meaty and, dare I say it, fishy aspects. The finish is pleasingly long, really encapsulating the seafaring town with notes of salt and sea-spray.

On this blog, I do boast about a range of things, but even I can’t say I have ever been to 18th century Campbeltown (or even the current 21st century edition for that matter). However, by simply pouring myself a dram of Springbank 15 and closing my eyes (don’t try it the other way around – you’ll waste good whisky!), in my mind I am immediately transported there. I can smell and taste it for sure!

★★★★

Springbank 10 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Springbank 10 Year Old

Welcome to Campbeltown. I shall begin by clarifying to my fellow Tasmanians that I am referring to the town in Scotland, not the eternal toilet stop halfway between Hobart and Burnie.

Campbeltown is located at the tip of the suspiciously shaped Kintyre peninsula in the south of Scotland and was once known as the ‘whisky capital of the world’, being home to as many as twenty-eight distilleries. Sadly (at least for the sailors who make port there) this is comprehensively no longer the case. Several distilleries, however, are still going as strong as ever.

Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn are all based in Campbeltown. In fact, they are all based at the same distillery. And despite being located at the same premises, all three make many varied and fascinating drams. Longrow whiskies are heavily peated, and often aged in unusual and quirky barrels. Hazelburn whiskies are triple distilled, and as smooth and creamy as their similarly produced Irish counterparts. Springbank, the biggest and most well known of the three, makes whisky with a maritime influence, harking back to drams made in the nineteenth century when the town was in its pomp.

Their entry level is the 10 Year Old and it is a perfect dram to demonstrate what they are about. The nose is oily and buttery with a sweet seaside edge. This is whisky doing salted caramel. There is also the faintest hint of smoke, of course nothing like the Islay peat monsters which linger only a small stretch of water away.

It is bottled at, in my opinion, the optimum level for whisky: 46%, and the slightly higher alcohol percentage gives this whisky a pleasantly light spice across the tongue. The flavour is slightly fishy, and I mean this literally, instead of labelling it ‘suspicious’ (although some people would take this claim to be very suspicious indeed).

The Springbank 10 Year Old has been matured in both ex-bourbon and sherry barrels, and the sherry in particular is notable on the finish where raspberry jam flavours mingle with the slightly smoky notes creating something memorable and completely unique to Campbelltown.

While the flavours in this dram are all fairly gentle and subtle they combine nicely to create a pleasant and easy drinking whisky. It therefore serves as a perfect introduction to the lost whisky region of Campbeltown and to the wonderful drops made there by Springbank and its two sister distilleries. Of course, if the 10 Year Old is a little light and inconsequential for your liking, you could always jump straight to the 15 Year Old – now there is a dram that means proper business…

★★★