Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 19

19 12 2015

The last weekend of 2015 whisky writing is upon me.  I can smell the end of this December blogging marathon; it smells like scotch.  This is the fifth time in the past two years that I’ve opened a calendar door to see a black cardboard box wedged inside, which can mean only one thing:  a trip back to Campbeltown and its dominant Springbank distillery.  This time it’s the main label whisky as opposed to its sister labels, the triple-distilled Hazelburn (as seen in Day 13 this year and weirdly also in Day 13 last year) and the heavily peated Longrow (as seen in Day 20 last year, and with five more days to make an appearance this time around).  Last year the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar completed the triumvirate with the Springbank 10 Year on Day 18; this year we graduate to the Springbank 15 Year, the staple of the distillery’s core lineup, which runs for $112 at KWM.  Springbank distillery was established in 1828 on the site of an illicit still run by an Archibald Mitchell, and four generations later it remains run by Mitchell’s great great grandson, remaining in the family for close to 200 years.  100% of the whisky-making process for each label’s lineup occurs on site at Springbank, an extreme rarity in the scotch world.  The distillery’s website describes its 15 Year Single Malt in a way that requires remedial English lessons:  “Like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, our 15 year-old Springbank is dark and ominous, yet delicious.”  Um.  OK.  How is a gathering storm delicious??  Simile police APB – calling all units.  This sentence was a train wreck from about the third word in.


Grammatical terror aside, this is a beautiful dram that should please all comers, regardless of their flavour preferences and sensibilities.  It is a rich amber, almost orange in colour, and (especially without water added) smells strongly sherried at first, salt and seashells and yeast added on top of leather, raw pumpkin and Elastoplast aromas.  A few drops of water bring out softer, more welcoming baking spice notes like brown sugar, gingerbread and clove.  Like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, this Springbank is concentrated and fiery on the palate, yet delicious, with a viscous mouthfeel and a lingering set of flavours crossing multiple taste groupings.  There’s a sweet honeyed wheatiness to it, like breakfast cereal, a hint of peaty mossiness and smoke, a touch of sherry nuttiness and brine, and a dollop of caramel and fig maturity, all in roughly equal proportions.  This is the Goldilocks whisky, likely to come across as just right to a host of different palates.  Clearly a way better metaphor than the storm thing.  Into the 20s tomorrow!

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 20

20 12 2014

Well, whisky friends (and long-suffering wine readers who are just dying for Advent to be over – hang in there), we’ve reached Day 20 of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar.  Only 4 more whiskies left until Christmas, which means we’re on the home stretch, gaining momentum to go out with a bang…right?  Maybe not so fast.  When I opened tonight’s calendar window and saw a familiar black cardboard box staring back at me, my thoughts could entirely be summed up with:  “Again?”

Not the little black box again.  (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Not the little black box again. (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Yep, it’s scotch #3 from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, completing the collector’s set of whiskies from the producer’s 3 sub-labels:  first came the Hazelburn 12 on Day 13, then came the Springbank 10 two freaking days ago, and now we get the Longrow N.V. Peated Single Malt, a whisky with no age designation at all (meaning that at least a chunk of it was made from quite young malts).  If you’re wondering how many whiskies from one producer is too many in a 24-day calendar, the answer is 3.  The Longrow retails for $64 and is a solid value for that price, but I can’t see myself coming back to it. Read the rest of this entry »

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 18

18 12 2014

Deja vu all over again?  I did a bit of a double take as I pulled the black box surrounding this whisky out of the calendar tonight.  Day 18 of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar is located right beside Day 13, and Day 13 was home to an identical little black box, belonging to Springbank distillery’s Hazelburn 12 Year Single Malt.  Tonight’s neighbour box decided to forego the sister label and stick to the heart of the core brand, containing Springbank’s “benchmark whisky” (as KWM puts it), the 10 Year Single Malt.  As you already know if you tuned in 5 days ago, Springbank is interesting because it’s one of only three distilleries left in the scotch region of Campbeltown, and by far the best known of the three.  The Hazelburn label’s distinguishing features was that it was unpeated and triple-distilled; I don’t think either of those factors apply to the Springbank 10, which seemed to me to contain a bit of peat and which does not feature the hyper-literal three stills on its label like its sibling does.

Should sister labels look identical in the package?  My vote is "no".

Should sister labels look identical in the package? My vote is “no”.

My big issue with the Hazelburn was that I came out of it not really knowing how I was supposed to feel about it.  It’s a little bit easier to align myself with the Springbank, which seems to have more of a confident identity to it, although the two whiskies are quite alike in many ways in terms of smell and taste.  I wrote the tasting notes below for the Springbank 10 without going back and re-reading my Hazelburn writeup first — go back and cross-compare and the similarities will jump right out at you. Read the rest of this entry »

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