Among our wee conspicuous circles here in Calgary this particular Springbank is held in very high esteem.
Long before the current (and seemingly never-ending) whisky boom, Campbeltown’s iconic Springbank distillery was producing brilliant single malt whisky that was seeing the inside of a bottle at all ages from 10 years through 50 years. The malts that constituted some of their more middle-aged drams were unquestionably composed of whiskies from multiple vintages and eras. However, instead of pacing themselves – putting out rarified old malts year upon year – Springbank pulled the ‘virgin special’, blew their load too early, and had to spend some time recovering and building up stores for a while. In other words…they ran the warehouses dry of older whiskies to bottle.
This particular 2005 version of Springbank 21 was the last of its kind until 2012, when the 21 year old made its (semi)triumphant return. Having tried both the 2012 and 2013 editions, I can unequivocally say that they’re not even close to recapturing the magic. Those are good whiskies in their own right, but this one…this ’05…is utterly mindboggling in its stunning array of sweet meets mild peat. Fingers crossed they can one day recreate this gem.
In late 2o12 I found a bottle of this release in the Cadenhead shop in Campbeltown, just steps from the distillery, but by that point – seven years after bottling – the retail price was hovering around the £400 mark. Admittedly, that’s a little beyond what I’m willing to pay for a whisky of this age. I must concede, however, I did debate it, and I’m still not sure I made the right decision in leaving it behind. I don’t own a bottle of the 21, but I must find a way to get one. In fact…I have offered a good friend of mine a certain part of my anatomy in exchange for one of his bottles. Steep price, yes…but the whisky in the jar-o…priceless.
Nose: First things first…there’s the most beautiful thread of smoke woven through this whisky, like the central spoke around which all else is adorned. Pineapple. Some other tropical notes bring a neat tang; mango and orange are loudest. Scones with cinnamon. Some tartness from an assumed sherry influence; almost Wine Gum-like. Raisin, grape and chocolate. Paint and paraffin. Maybe a touch of leather. I keep coming back to that smoked tropical character though. Magic.
Palate: That smoky mature note is right up front, instantly cementing this as a classic in my books. The tropical fruit notes meet some tart dried fruit, all in perfect balance. Toasted oak. An exciting rollercoaster of development. There is a great Brazilian steakhouse locally that serves grilled caramelized pineapple. This makes me think of that. Again on the tangy orange fruits.
Thoughts: Unquestionably bearing the hallmarks of a single malt built on a wide spectrum of mature casks. Without knowing anything as fact, I would bet heavily there are some whiskies much older than 21 in here. This is one of my all-time favorite drams.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt