I’m not a big fan of young Springbank, but the fact that Springbank 10 Years old picked up an award at the recent World Whisky Awards 2010 made me want to review it in depth. I’ll do a direct comparison between the 2008 batch and the restyled 2009 batch.
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB 2009, batch 09/434)
Nose: a classic Springbank profile with a wide range of aromas. Starts on tangerine, with added notes of lemon peel, green apples and pears. Dry oak. Maritime notes with a bit of ‘wet dog’. Hints of sharp, earthy peat as well. After a while, the fruitiness becomes bigger and rounder. Mouth: very oily and extremely coating. Very peaty as well, much more peat than I expected. Rather spicy, with mostly pepper and nutmeg coming out. Roasted nuts in the background. A faint hint of sour notes (vinegar?) in the aftertaste. Becomes a bit perfumed with water, so I recommend it straight. Finish: long, peaty and briney.
This is a surprisingly complex dram. A very consistent opener of the range! Around € 35.
Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB 2008, batch 08/82, 35cl)
Nose: this version clearly shares the same basic elements, but the end result is less appealing. Still some tangerine, but it misses the sparkling freshness. Lots of strawberries with cream, quite spectacular. A bit more wine influence I would say, with dried fruits and even a few dirty traces. Hints of sesame oil (I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this in a whisky before but it’s clearly there). Mouth: maybe a tad less fat and a tad less peaty. More spices though. Less different than on the nose, but still it misses the balance of the 2009 version. Hints of heather honey that I didn’t find in the newer version. Finish: medium length, less briney and more malty. Very dry.
This Springbank 10yo is less complex and a bit rougher. Let’s be glad the current version is definitely the better choice.
Afterwards, I found out it won in the category “Best Campbeltown under 12 years” which probably limits the number of contenders to.. two? three maybe? Never take whisky competitions too seriously!
The new Daily Dram bottlings are now called The Nectar of the Daily Drams which is a nifty word play with the old name and the name of the bottler (The Nectar). I’m not sure why they did this, maybe because they are now bottled exclusively for Belgium and the previous range was a co-production with the Dutch importers Bresser & Timmer?
The label design has changed as well, for the better I think. The new labels use modern colour combos, interesting pictures and a clean typography.
I know a lot of people are looking out for this 27 years old Port Ellen 1982 so let’s try this one first.
Port Ellen 27 yo 1982 (53%, Daily Dram 2010)
Nose: peaty and coastal. Seems to hold the middle between a briney, mineral profile and a more warm profile. There’s praline, marzipan, pears and vanilla but also sharper grassy notes, boat ropes and hints of citrus. Smoked bacon. After a while, there’s lovely cider apple. The complexity is quite excellent, and on the nose this is more elegant than most other 1980’s Port Ellens I’ve tried. Water amplifies the sour notes and adds a few candied, fruity notes. Mouth: rather creamy, with enough lemon marmalade to counterbalance the peat. Sugared lemon. A bit of ginger and oak. Again hints of marzipan. Water brings out cardamom, leather and lemon desserts. Mouth: long, smokey and rounded.
I’m sure this Port Ellen will be difficult to find in a couple of days. Around € 200. Totally worth it.
Later today, I should be able to taste them and post my first findings. Which one should I open first…?
Update: The Port Ellen review has been published. On the nose, the Glenburgie seems to be slightly disappointing, but the Glen Elgin is very interesting. The Clynelish shows a lot of violet candy and the Longmorn is a bit bubblegummy. But these are just quick impressions, an in-depth review will follow!
Nearly two years ago, I’ve got the Scotch Whisky Aroma Nosing Kit as a gift for my birthday. It contains a booklet, a tasting record sheet and 24 samples of pure aroma chemicals, selected and developed by a Scottish perfumer and a whisky expert. The nosing kit is presented in a nice wooden box.
After two years, I think I can evaluate.
The aroma samples
The aromas are well chosen and well made. There is vanilla, hay, caramel, citrus, fruity, flowery, malty, nutty, peaty, smoky, sherry, woody… and even ‘decay’ (the dirty kind of sulphur). Although more than 300 aromas are found in whisky, they provide a basic map for the possible directions.
Some of them are vague though: “fruity” is just one sample but in the real world there are lots of different fruits that are quite easy to discern. The same goes for “spicy”. Other aromas are left out. I suppose you’ll have a hard time defining a typical Brora or Springbank using only these 24 ‘obvious’ aromas.
Since they are basically alcohol solvents, the makers suggest to use a tasting strip and let the alcohol evaporate before nosing. I think it’s better to nose the bottles, because your whisky will also include alcohol that will not evaporate. The biggest challenge in learning how to nose, is to filter out the alcohol smell from a whisky and detect only the subtle flavours underneath. Nosing straight from the bottles would be a lot easier if they had a bigger opening.
It’s worth noting that some of my samples are half empty after less than two years, even though I’ve used the tasting strips only once. The alcohol will slowly evaporate just by opening the bottles every now and then. It’s safe to say some samples will be useless after three or four years, even when you don’t use the kit intensively.
The aroma guide and box
The wooden box is a nice touch but the execution is a bit poor (notice the big air bubbles under the sticker on the lid? some of the wooden dividers were broken as well). The 40 page booklet contains an introduction to the kit, the nosing process, the vocabulary of nosing, etc.
Most of the information can be easily found in books or online. The most interesting part of the guide are 10 pages with explanations of the actual aromas. A bit of background information is given about the molecular composition or similarities between aromas, but often I’m missing the link to whisky itself. Which distilleries or regions are likely to show a certain aroma? Why does a certain aroma show up in whisky? What about wood types and their associated aromas? I feel the guide is a bit too generic and only really useful when you have a certain level of experience already.
The kit is sold for € 130 (EU customers) or $ 214 (non-EU), shipping included. Most people I’ve spoken to seem to think this is too much, but maybe you can share the cost with a couple of friends and pass the box around.
Compared to wine aroma kits such as “Le nez du vin”, it seems a correct pricing, although I must admit these wine kits look much more attractive with a professional layout and full colour booklets.
The Scotch Whisky Aroma Nosing Kit is quite an interesting tool for whisky enthusiasts who want to sharpen up their detection skills. The samples are generally good which is the most important element. The price may be relatively high but there simply isn’t an alternative.
For beginners, I fear this won’t actually learn you how to nose a whisky. The guide is too limited to achieve this, and you’ll need interaction with more experienced people who can learn you how to apply the knowledge about the basic aromas to a variety of real-world whiskies. I think a few miniatures of different types of whisky (selected as a typical example of a specific aroma) could be an interesting improvement for beginners, or at least a certain written guidance to the profiles of different distilleries.
Apart from their own Lowlands spirit, Bladnoch distillery has a packed warehouse with casks from all over Scotland. They are bottled regularly and sold through the Bladnoch online shop, with a discount for Bladnoch forum members. Most of their bottlings have an unbeatable quality / price ratio!
Invergordon is a grain distillery located in the Northern Highlands (it shares its grounds with Ben Wyvis) and is part of the White & MacKay group. This Invergordon is 36 years old, distilled on the 14th of November 1972.
Invergordon 36 yo 1972 (41,4%, Bladnoch forum 2009, cask 95390, 184 btl.)
Nose: creamy vanilla with big hints of coconut (as expected). Reminds me of certain rums in that respect. Very sweet with notes of Demerara sugar. White chocolate. Some exotic fruits (pineapple, guava). A bit of sourish oak polish. Less complex than an old malt whisky, but very good as a grain. Mouth: completely in line. Coconut cream, vanilla. Kind of a malibu drink without the stickiness. Rather gentle. Finish: short and light with a very faint hint of perfume.
A typical old Invergordon, very enjoyable albeit a bit too mellow and mono-dimensional. Sold out. Around € 60 at the time.
Black Bull 30 Years old was a terrific blend. Now it has been surpassed by an older brother, Black Bull 40yo. It is made up of 90% malt whisky and 10% grain (a lot more malt than other blends). It contains whiskies from nine distilleries: Glenfarclas, Bunnahabhain, Glenlivet, Highland Park and Springbank among others.
Black Bull 40 yo (40,2%,
Duncan Taylor 2010, batch #1)
Nose: starts fresh on vanilla and grapefruit. A complete fruit basket unfolds: zesty orange, pineapple, apple. Quite a lot of beeswax and honey. Lovely hints of peppermint / eucalyptus which really lift this dram. Nice integration of oak. Incredibly refined. Mouth: a creamy texture with loads of vanilla again. More hints of dried fruits now (raisins, dry apricots). More spicy oak as well, but perfectly acceptable. Hints of liquorice. Feeling very mild, even slightly weak maybe, it doesn’t seem to linger long. Finish: medium length. There’s a faint grassiness mixed with vanilla and coconut. Returns to grapefruit. Very clean.
This is a delicious piece of blending art at an amazingly low price compared to 40 year-old single malts or other premium blends such as White & Mackay 40yo. Still I had the feeling it’s a bit on the tame side. I prefer the 30 year old version for having more punch and more sherry influence. Around € 170.
The Caol Ila distillery underwent a major renovation and upgrade between 1972 and 1974 and reopened with an increased number of stills (six instead of two). Pre-1974 Caol Ila is a must-try if you ever have the chance.
I had the chance to compare this with the Caol Ila 1969/1984 (G&M for Intertrade) (WF96) and although I agree that one is better, I don’t think the difference is very big.
Caol Ila 1969 (54,6%, Gordon & MacPhail for Meregalli 1986, Celtic label)
Nose: a sharp kickoff with quite a lot of alcohol. It takes some time before it’s tamed. Rather mineral. High on wet carton and wet dogs. Distant smoke. Lemon juice. Oysters. Very medicinal as well, with iodine and disinfectant. With a few drops of water it becomes slightly flowery and when warmed up it even shows hints of white chocolate and thyme. Impressive complexity. Mouth: first there’s a wave of lemon juice. A second wave brings loads of smoke and ashes. A third wave is much sweeter with marzipan and marmalades. Some coffee. Really excellent and superbly balanced. Finish: sweet with salty notes, smoked tea and cloves, Very long.
I won’t say much more about this bottle. It’s simply a great old Caol Ila.