SPRINGBANK OPEN DAY
Today, was the day of the Campbeltown Malts Festival I was most looking forward to. It’s no secret that Springbank is my favourite distillery, for a number of reasons; they are still independently owned, they perform every part of the whisky producing process in the one location and by doing so support the local community and last but not least, their whisky tastes amazing! Today we had three whisky tastings lined up, the Longrow & Hazelburn Masterclass, The Director’s Cut and finishing with New and Forthcoming Releases.
Campbeltown really turned on the weather for their Malts festival and the Springbank open day was no exception. All of our tastings today were held inside the malting barn, but other tasting took place in other parts of the distillery, which I am bound to become much more familiar with next week during the whisky school.
The first tasting kicked off with a perfect whisky to begin my day, the light and fresh Hazelburn 10 year old. Next up were the Hazelburn 13 year old sherry wood with a slightly higher ABV of 47.4% followed by the excellent Springbank open day exclusive, Hazelburn 10 year old Marsala cask at a healthy 59.6%. The open day exclusive had one of the most divine aromas of any whisky I have ever nosed. It smelt like the best breakfast you have ever had; buttery, malty and delicious. So good, my dad bought a bottle for himself afterwards.
The next three whiskies were from the peated Longrow range, a NAS Longrow heavily peated, a Longrow 18 year old and a Longrow Red finished in New Zealand Pinot Noir casks and bottled at 58.6%. This was my first tasting of the Longrow 18 year old and it was my pick of the bunch. The Longrow Red suffered from the common inconsistency of wine cask finishes, unfortunately for this one it fell on the not so great side of the spectrum unlike some other expressions in the range such as the brilliant Longrow Red Malbec finish. After a quick bite to eat, it was time for the second tasting of the day, this time entitled The Director’s Cut or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
This was without doubt the best whisky tasting I have even been part of.
The Directors or the Good, Bad and Ugly, were Findlay Ross, Director of Production at J&A Mitchell Ltd., Ranald Watson, Director of Sales and Marketing for Springbank and Mark Watts, General Manager at Wm Cadenhead Ltd. These three gentlemen have access to almost any whisky they want beneath the J&A Mitchell umbrella and they did not disappoint with their selections.
Findlay began proceeding with a 1997 Hazelburn refill sherry cask, not just any old Hazelburn, but the oldest owned by the distillery. Next was the very funny Mark and his first selection, no less than a 29 year old Macallan from 1989. Ranald follow up with the next two whiskies, a 1990 Springbank refill oloroso sherry cask at 43.7% – the oldest whisky Springbank currently own, which if the Director of Sales and Marketing can be believed, may make it’s way into a 30 year old limited release in a few years time; perhaps even an open day exclusive. Next was a 1991 Springbank refill oloroso sherry cask at 48.7%.
The last two whiskies were a ‘Summer Batch 2’ Kilkerran 11 year old from 2007 at 58.1% which will become the first independently bottled Kilkerran in existence and guess who may get to fill those bottles? Yes, me! The plan is to fill the bottles next week which just so happens to be the week I’m working a Springbank so fingers crossed I get to fill these…and spill some…into my mouth. The last whisky was selected by Findlay who chose a 1994 Longrow refill bourbon cask at 54.2% – the oldest Longrow at the distillery.
What a lineup, but it wasn’t just the whiskies that made the tasting great. It was a wonderfully cordial presentation with three very experienced and knowledgeable hosts who had great chemistry and mutual respect – even if they did make many jokes at each others expense. It was serious whisky, but not overly serious.
You may have noticed I didn’t post any tasting notes and that’s because I didn’t take any. I wanted to enjoy these very special drams rather than try an analyse each drop. What I will say, however, is that my least favourite dram from this tasting was the 29 year old Macallan!
You know you are tasting great whisky, when a 29 year old Macallan is your least favourite of the bunch.
I was getting pretty hammered by this stage and had a few beers between whiskies, but like a true profession, I soldiered on into the last whisky tasting for the day, the Springbank New and Forthcoming releases. I have to admit that I didn’t take the clearest notes at this stage in the day so I will do my best to describe what was on offer. First up was the Hazelburn Festival bottling, the one I tasted before, you know, the breakfast one. Next was another Hazelburn, a 13 year old oloroso sherry cask (no idea what else I wrote about it). Third was a 21 year old Springbank aged 70% in first fill bourbon and 30% rum casks apparently. Next was something aged 70% oloroso and 30% bourbon at 57.5% but that’s all I can make out. The next one has a huge ‘AMAZING!’ written next to it, so it must have been good; a 16 year old Longrow bourbon cask with a chardonnay finish at 56.8%. The last whisky of the tasting and the end of me, was a 55.7% open day Longrow refill port cask. All of these products are, have been or will be for sale at some stage.
That pretty much wraps up my Springbank open day experience, I remember a few more beers, a party in the malt barn, a chicken curry of some description and that’s about it. Dad drove us home, since he stopped drinking after the Director’s Cut tasting, but I don’t remember anything else until I woke up the next morning.
Great day – let’s do it all again at Glengyle tomorrow.