I am relishing this weather. I am looking at the fallen leaves and thinking to myself that whisky tastings need to get outdoors. I have lead a few whisky tastings and they are invariably indoors, in a bar, a boardroom, somebody's living room and that is okay, but it would be a mistake to limit such tastings to such settings. Let's take it outside! I think whisky tastings should be held on rainy afternoons just like this one.
Imagine a group of us doing a 10k hike through a forest, work up a bit of a sweat, take in the cloudy sky, direction of the wind, color of the leaves, the trees, the rain and air. We get to our destination, reach for a flask of say Talisker 10 and then discuss how its attributes of brine, sea air, smoke compliments the weather, the mood and crystallizes this moment in our memories forever. Wouldn't that be nice?
Smoky, pungent beach wood fire, interesting peat notes mixed with fresh turned over loam, more black earth, cold orange pekoe tea.
Ashy, sooty but with nice complexity. A weave of lentils, lime and gingerbread. The body of this malt is light but has presence. Oily character and medium peat.
Did somebody collect thicket forming thorny bushes from Winnie-the-Pooh's 100 acre wood and build a huge bonfire and bottle it? 'cause that is what I am tasting. Hmmm. Long finish of that briar patch smoke, charred oak. All well done!
I'm in the backyard now. No neighbours directly behind my house (thank God!), just a stand of trees and farm land. Contemplating this whisky (and trying to ignore the fact that my lawn is in dire need of a mowing) is a pleasure in this September rain, with a lazy wind that blows through ya rather than around.
My cousin, HD, in the NYC vicinity, introduced me to this scotch whisky. He's an Islay fan, so I was initially surprised he was enamoured with this Campbelton malt.
When I think of Campbelton, a recognized scotch whisky producing region of Scotland, I think of Glen Scotia, a distillery that has had its up and downs. The bottles I have had from that distillery have varied from good to poor, but all tended to be light, with some grassy notes and caramel. Not overly smoky or peated. There are only three distilleries in operation in Campbelton today. Springbank is another and it is held in much higher regard by the critics and the whisky consuming public.
website for this distillery it provides a tasting note that is not at all congruent with my tasting experience. The distillery describes this whisky as tasting "creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla. Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain, mingling with hints of leather." I am not getting any of that. Fortunately, I am not alone in this observation. An anonymous reviewer at Whisky Connosr had the same disconnect with the distillery's tasting note. So, I guess I am not totally crazy, notwithstanding the opinions of my gossipy neighbours.
I guess the disconnect for me is the statement by the distillery on it's site that this whisky was 100% sherry cask. Huh? Sherry is hardly a feature of this malt in my opinion. If it is, it is well hidden underneath a fog of peat smoke and a pyre of beach driftwood. Just not getting the sherry influence here. Not a flaw. Just an observation. Bottom line: this is not what I would call a sherried malt regardless of the distillery's claim to be matured in 100% ex-sherry casks. The casks could not have been first-fill or at least not in very high proportion.
The 46% abv gives great intensity to the flavors of wood ash. I very much enjoyed this whisky without the addition of water. Well made for 46% abv. Not overpowering, but certainly asserts its personality very well.
P.S. What about Springbank 10 years? I strongly recommend it but I should point out it is more sherried with an interesting layering of flavors. There is something artisian about what this distillery is doing. It is a very unique style. To my surprise I think I am more enthusiastic over the 10 than the 15. Go out and get a bottle and enjoy the lower price too!
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Please note that the photograph of the bottle of Springbank 15 was taken by Flickr member ggmackem, who holds all copyright and no reproduction is permitted without her permission. My own photographs of Springbank were lost when my daughter dropped my blackberry in the swimming pool. Fortunately, I stumbled upon ggmackem's great photograph. All other photographs are taken by me, but I may permit reproduction if you ask nicely!