Springbank / Hazelburn / Longrow

   

Springbank distillery is located in Campbeltown which was once the hub of the whisky industry. It was founded in 1828 on the site of Archibold Mitchell's illicit still, it remains an independent concern today as it's now in the hands of his great Great Great Grandson Hedley G. Wright, or at least his company; J&A Mitchell & Co. Ltd.

This single distillery produces three different malt whiskies; Springbank, Hazelburn & Longrow, although the company also owns the recently opened Glengyle distillery which makes Kilkerran single malt whisky.

 
     

Springbank distillery prides itself on being totally self-contained as it not only has its own floor maltings, but is one of the only two Scottish distilleries able to malt all the barley required for whisky production.

More great distillery info here, thanks to Malt Madness

 
  Springbank Stills & Campbeltown malt pictures with kind permission by Peter Currie, Springbank      

 

 

Springbank: General whisky characteristics: Smooth, nutty, oily

   
 

OB: Original distillery bottlings

   
   

Springbank, 10y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light gold

Nose: Malt, sea-air, a little brown shoe polish and just a hint of anti-septic cream all wrapped in damp leaves.

Palate: My first thought was
of a fine filet steak in a light orange sauce as it has a somewhat meaty flavour, along with delicate orange which grows into a slightly malty, nutty and herbal presence on the palate. I also find it quite unique how the presence on the palate changes along with the flavour as the initial meaty taste is concentrated directly down the centre of the tongue. As this 'grows' to include the nuts and herbs, the presence also widens across the palate.

Finish: Long

With 3 drops of water: The nose now includes salt to give this a more maritime feel, but the palate is a little sharper and weaker.

Overall Impression: A fine dram which I think I prefer without the water.

 

   
   

Springbank, Cask Strength, 12y, 54.6% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich gold

Nose: Initial alcohol burn, malt, light hints of rubber, hay and just a touch of paint stripper.

Palate: Very smooth for this strength and quite creamy mouth-feel too.  A hint of sweet rubber quickly turned into coconut and vanilla.

With 3 drops of water: A more floral nose with light wood translates well onto the palate with wood, hay, malt and vanilla ice cream.

3 more drops of water: the palate is now full of floral vanilla, light wood and slight pepper.

Finish: Long, floral, vanilla with a hint of coconut.

Overall Impression: OK, this sways it. After that initial "100 Proof" single cask I had some years ago at the Munich whisky festival which was just too much alcohol and no individual character, Springbank have now achieved an excellent high abv dram. I love it!

 

   
   

Springbank, 15y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Amber

Nose: My initial thoughts were of wood, but this soon turned quite fruity with pears, nuts, hints of rubber, Rosemary and an autumnal lawn. Pretty much appearing in that same order too.

Palate: Immediate vanilla ice cream quickly sparkling across the palate with raisins, marzipan, a little bread dough and just a hint of toasted orange.

With 3 drops of water: The nose is lighter and more herbal whilst the palate is more nutty and the finish shorter.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: Thoroughly enjoyable, a lovely dram, but preferable without the water.

   
 

Whisky & Chocolate: Il Blend by Domori (supplied by Franz) Hints of honey, caramel and tobacco combined with the richness of the Springbank 15  creates a truly wonderful combination.

 

 
   

Springbank, CV, Released Jan. 2009, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Aged oak, almost tobacco.

Nose: Slow to develop, initially weak then steadily expanding to include aged wood, hints of leather with just a faint touch of aromatic rubber.

Palate: My first thought is
of a very smooth whisky, creamy and aromatic with leather and wood. This lingers on and on, but doesn't change much.

With 3 drops of water: A little more wood on the nose and slightly more aggressive on the palate with an added suggestion of vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Very long and even longer, almost never-ending with water. Also quite fruity with rich, dark fruits and the absolute faintest suggestion of coconut.

Overall Impression: Most enjoyable. My notes may seem to make this non-descript, but that isn't the case. It is a very good dram.

 

   
   

Springbank, 12y, 175 Anniversary bottling, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Nose: A fruity swimming pool. This immediately stirred childhood memories of swimming lessons and that unmistakable smell of indoor swimming pools.
Fortunately, this soon faded and was replaced by something more floral and pleasant which contained herbs, faint spices and marzipan.

Palate: Warm, tingling and slightly bitter. The nuts and marzipan are faintly present and the 'tingle' sits unusually right at the front of the tongue, which seems to enhance the bitterness.

Overall Impression: This one is quite intriguing in such a way as to make me want to return to it soon.

 

   
   

Springbank, Port Wood, distilled 1989, bottled 2003, 54.8% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; to

 
 

Nose: Spirit, malt and leather-bound old books.

Palate: It's prickly, it tastes of strong alcohol and it has a slight hint of raspberry.
The tingle or prickle is long on the tongue, but the flavour is disappointingly short.

Overall Impression: I don't need to revisit this one in a hurry.
When I spoke about the raspberry, I feel
that on reflection this would make a rather good accompaniment to a raspberry dessert dish in a food & whisky event.

 

   
     

Springbank, Vintage 1996, distilled 7.6.1996, bottled 27.8.2008, cask No. 256, 56% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Nose: Wonderfully rich with figs, currants, oak, a touch of sherry and just a tiny hint of paint stripper (in a pleasant way!)

Palate: Initially sweet with oak and currants which linger long on the palate.

Finish: The after-taste is long and also sweet with a hint of slightly toasted almond.

Overall Impression: Another excellent Springbank, now why did I once say I'm not a Springbank fan?

 

   
   

Springbank, 18y, 2011 edition?, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 21ct yellow gold

Nose: Glowing bonfire embers with warming herbs (basil, thyme & rosemary). After some minutes I detect a hint of coconut.

Palate: Very creamy mouth-feel accompanied by a suggestion of baked apple with vanilla sauce. Also some slightly peppery peach and a hint of oil of orange leading into the finish. This palate is soothing and gently rich.

Finish: Long and really quite luxurious.

Overall Impression: What an excellent whisky, I'm very impressed.

 

   

 

 

 

Springbank, 1972 for Taiwan, 57% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; Unknown

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Pale yellow

Nose: Sweet grassy brasso? Wow, I really didn't expect this at all but yes it's sweet with an overriding grassiness and a suggestion of brasso. The grassy brasso fades quickly to be replaced by a developing floral woodiness and something quite citrus .... pineapple with a salty and lightly smoky background. What a delight.

Palate: Definite pineapple, in fact I'm reminded of those boiled pineapple sweets filled with sherbert (sherbert pineapple drops?) from my childhood. Is that a hint of ginger too? There's lots happening here and it's all good, in fact it's very alive. Is that now a faint hint of peatiness too?

Finish: Almost never-ending, thankfully!

Overall Impression: Magnifique. "Great"? Sure is.

 

     
 

 

Springbank, 13y for Pot Still Vienna, 4.4.1997, 57.1% ABV

Sherry Hogshead, Cask No.296, one of 216 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle; Unknown

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Dark oak

Nose: Raisins, currants and dry sherry then after 3-4 minutes a suggestion of salty aged oak develops to add a distinct maritime theme. This is again followed by a very faint hint of rubberiness. The whole experience is very outdoors and maritime whilst retaining an element of sherry.

Palate: Smooth with a creamy mouth-feel but quite dry and tingly too. Mmmm maritime sherry with some aged oakiness.

Finish: Long rich and dry with a suggestion of coconut right at end.

Overall Impression: Good but most unusual Springbank as it's rich and dry with lots of sherried oakiness.

 

   

 

 

IB: Independent Bottlers

   
     

Milroy, Springbank, distilled mid-1960's, 30y, 50% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Nose: I find some fruit here. A fruit cocktail perhaps containing apple, pear and peach. It even reminds me of a childhood sweet. Those little 'fruit salad' chews which used to cost a penny (that's a real, old penny, not one of those later decimal thingies) for 10 sweets. They had a kind of creamy peachy flavour, quite like this nose. I also sense a very slight hint of aniseed in there.

Palate: My initial response is that this is much creamier in texture than I expected. It is exceptionally smooth and not at all harsh. That creaminess on the nose translates into the taste - excellent.

Three drops of water: really open the nose and make for a more spicy floral experience. Perhaps including a dash of freshness too. But unfortunately, the flavour of this whisky is really weakened by the drops. The creaminess is still there in flavour, but not so much in texture. It has also gained a little more spiciness which causes a prolonged tongue tickle, on the front of the tongue long after the whisky is gone. Some may prefer it this way, but I don't.

Overall Impression: I once (mistakenly) said I wasn't a big Springbank fan, but this is most certainly the best Springbank I have so far tasted by a very large margin! But preferably, without the water for me.

 

   
     

Duncan Taylor 'NC2', Springbank, distilled 1997, bottled 2008, 11y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; 

 
 

Nose: Smoky bacon with a hint of fresh soap.

Palate: The smoky bacon translates very well into the palate and is joined by currants and toasted almonds.

Overall Impression: A very good dram, I do like this one!

 

   
     

Da Mhile 'Organic', (Single Malt, not blend) distilled 1992, bottled 1999, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle; Initially 

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Very pale

Nose: Initially light smoke and perfumed rubber, becoming more floral with time. Eventually hints of light leather, chestnuts and fresh paint.

Palate: Starts smooth before an explosion of dried nuts engulfs the palate and then fades to malted violets, but not strong violets, just very faint.

Finish: Long

Overall Impression: A quite different, but pleasant experience.

 

   
   

BBR, Springbank, 1992-2011, 46% ABV

Cask No.61

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: 9ct yellow gold

Nose: Ooh quite unusual, this needs a little time ... Mmm some suggestion of outdoor swimming pool, then a 'clean' mildly soapy freshnesss which expands to a leafiness and then further to being quite floral. This is really becoming nice now. Honeysuckle? Some light fruitiness too.

Palate: Vanilla sauce over coconut macaroon? It's creamy, it's buttery and fruity too with hints of apple and pear.

Finish: Very long.

Overall Impression: Most unusual, most drinkable. I really like this whisky.

 

   
   

A.D. Rattray, Springbank, 15y, 1.5.1995 - 22.11.2010, 49.9% ABV

Sherry Hogshead No.96, exclusive bottling for German importer - Alba.

Typical cost of this bottle; (only just, 79)

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very rich dark oak, maybe even mahogany.

Nose: A light rubberiness overlaid by (Atlantic) sea-air and a light smokiness. This all reminds me so far of a cool misty morning on an Atlantic beach. A suggestion of cherries and damson then provide a fruitiness alongside the smokiness. Finally, a hint of Alpine cheese develops.

Palate: Everything the nose promised, plus some extra light fruitiness. In fact there's even some lightly toasted fruitiness and then I detect what I can only describe as an Atlantic rubberiness.

Finish: Long and rich with a suggestion of toasted coconut.

Overall Impression: Yet another facet to Springbank, what a good one too.

 

   
   

Hart Bro's, Springbank, 15y, Nov. 1995 - July 2011, 46% ABV

"Finest Collection" series

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow gold.

Nose: Very aromatic and very fruity to the point where I'm thinking of an open-air fruit market in summer sunshine. I particularly detect apple and banana stem but there's also a citrus element (lime maybe?)

Palate: This has a very creamy mouth-feel with an initial burst of leafiness, but this is soon replaced by a fruitiness reminiscent of melon flavour ice cream and a suggestion of peach.

Finish: Medium, slightly dry and lightly fruity.

Overall Impression: A very nice light and fruity Springbank.

 

   

 

 

Hazelburn General whisky characteristics: Smooth, citrus, orange, richer when older

   
   

Hazelburn, Edition 2, 8y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Nose: Very fresh, almost citrus elements with a distant hint of basil and liquorice.

Palate: The citrus element hits the palate almost immediately and is mostly one of orange, perhaps blood-orange, but it fades into a kind of fresh hay before returning to the palate and offering a long finish of faint tangerine.

Overall Impression: A good Summer-time whisky which is fresh, quite light, quite different and quite enjoyable.

 

   
   

Hazelburn, Cask Strength, 8y, 54% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich oak - light amber

Nose: Rich, solid and imposing with orange, chocolate, damp wood, a hint of cloves and ginger.

Palate: Chocolate, orange and coffee beans are initially prominent before slightly floral elements creep into the background to really enhance the experience.

4 Drops of water: The orange of the nose is replaced with lots more wood and a suggestion of smoke. The palate gains some rather creamy coconut.

With 4 more drops of water: The wood is further enhanced but is now joined by plums and figs, whereas even more coconut is present on the palate.

Finish: long, extremely long with the water added.

Overall Impression: The original 8y was a light and fresh whisky, but this CS version is much more like the 12y (first edition) with strong solid flavours including rich orange, chocolate and wood. The coconut which appears when a few drops of water are added is a great bonus. I love this whisky, especially with the water!

 

   
   

Hazelburn, CV, Released Jan. 2009, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: 24ct gold

Nose: Fresh, almost clinical with hints of slightly antiseptic shoreline and jetty.

Palate: Smooth and luxurious. Slight orange element, especially in the aftertaste. Also hints of vanilla and gently roasted hazelnut.

With 4 drops of water in about 2cl: Slightly fresher but less antiseptic nose, more wood and nuts on the palate.

Finish: Long, smooth, mildly sweet and a cross between faint orange and nuts with just a suggestion of raisins.

Overall Impression: In flavour profile this lies between the 8y and 12y expression which I have already tried. Not quite as rich, luxurious or stunning as the magnificent 12y, but a massive improvement on the 8y. I like it, don't let my 'clinical' nose put you off. It is good.

 

   
   

Whisky-Emporium Winner "Best release 2009"

Hazelburn, 12y, (released & bought 2009), 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark amber / well aged oak

Nose: Old oak, currants, dates & figs

Palate: Wonderfully smooth and building gradually to encompass the palate with those dark fruits, wood, a little molasses (but not overly sweet) and a faint hint of orange.

Finish: never-ending.

With 3 drops of water: The currants expand on the nose bringing out a touch of orange too. A little marzipan is added to the palate and it becomes slightly more spicy with a pleasant tingle on the tongue.

Overall Impression: What a difference the last four years have made. This has evolved from a light orange-citrus dram into a full-blown, smooth, rich after-dinner delight with wood, dark fruits and a massively long finish. What can I say other than delightful. I could drink this all night, pour me another!

Whisky & Chocolate: Excellent with a dark, bitter chcoclate containing orange essence (in this case Hachez Cocoa D'Arriba 'Orange')

 

   
   

Hazelburn, 12y, (released & bought 2010), 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Oak, almost amber

Nose: Aged oak with hints of dark fruits. This is very aromatic even if it does exhibit slight hints of light rubber. There's also a light aromatic earthiness to this whisky.

Palate: Smooth and creamy mouth-feel with wood, a hint of marzipan, light hazelnuts and a background of gentle lavendar.

Finish: Long with a development of coffee beans and a suggestion of chocolate orange.

Overall Impression: A very good whisky with lots happening, especially as the palate leads into the finish, but if I'm honest, this is not quite as good as the 2009 edition which was my favourite new release of last year.

 

   

 
 

Longrow General whisky characteristics: Smooth, fruity, smoky

   
   

Longrow, CV, Released Jan. 2009, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Golden yellow

Nose: A fruit skewer comprising apple, mandarin, dates and peach gently warming on an open peat barbecue.

Palate: Fresh and fruity with hints of smoke and peat growing in the aftertaste.

With 3 drops of water: Much smoother and totally reminiscent of walking along a coastal cliff pathway with a little smoke and coconut for companions.

Finish: Very long and smooth with fruity hints of smoke.

Overall Impression: This is my first Longrow so I can't really compare it to others yet, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable and noteworthy dram. Try it!

 

   
   

Longrow, 1996, 10y, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

 
 

Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Rich gold, almost amber

Nose: Sweet and damp Autumnal leaves giving way to a hint of rubber and then further expanding to include an open bonfire with burning juniper.

Palate: Rich and creamy nuts marinated in orange sauce and then wrapped in smoky black forest ham for serving.

With 3 drops of water: Much more smoky and lively, with a slightly tangy orange finish.

Finish: Long, even longer with water and more tangy too.

Overall Impression: Another very good whisky from the Springbank stable, but I think I preferred the rich creaminess without the 3 drops of water.

 

   
   

Longrow, 14y, 2011 edition?, 46% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011

 
 

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Golden yellow.

Nose: An immediate sugegstion of freshly polished brass and light almond. It's fairly musty too. After a minute or two there's something slightly vegetal, but not unpleasantly so. After 2-3 more minutes a light smokiness begins to develop and then expands.

Palate: Creamy but slightly peppery vanilla greets the palate. The pepperiness offers a degree of liveliness whilst the whisky remains creamy and yes, very drinkable! Then comes a hint of fruity peatiness which, like the nose, just expands even more.

Finish: Medium to long.

Overall Impression: Not exactly a peat monster, more subtle than that, but very enjoyable.

 

   

 

 

 

 
 

    Curriculum Vitae

head to head

 
 

 

We're only just into 2010 and Springbank distillers have already released their 'CV' set of three bottlings; Longrow, Hazelburn and Springbank. I managed to get hold of the CV set comprising a 20cl bottle of each and yes, I am very pleased that I did.

The first one I tried in this H2H2H was the Longrow and you may be surprised to learn that this was my first ever introduction to Longrow. Oh dear, why did I wait so long? This is a magnificent dram which comprises a complex mixture of fruit, sea-air, smoke and peat. Maybe I spoiled myself in trying this first as it is by far the best of the bunch and like an old romantic, I just found myself falling in love all over again.

Next up was the Hazelburn and I really wasn't sure what to expect. I have tried two very different Hazelburns before; the 2nd edition 8y which I describe as a good summer dram, very citrus, fresh and sharp, maybe a little too much so for my personal palate. Then there was the magnificent 12y which won my award for the best release of 2009. This CV variant is also an excellent dram, not quite as good as the 12y, but far superior to the 8y.

By comparison I could say the Springbank was a little subdued. It took a little time to really open and offer its delights, but delights they were. This is a very good dram which requires just a little patience, but then again whisky should never be rushed!

For those considering buying this CV range, I say please do so, you will not be disappointed with these three rather different expressions produced from the same stills!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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