Another whisky I tried for the first time on Islay around two years ago, give or take.
A handful of sodden reprobates and I had just finished an unforgettable experience down in the No. 1 vaults beneath the distillery. We were wrapping up the ‘Craftsman’s Tour’ with a couple bonus drams up in the Bowmore lounge overlooking the shores of Loch Indaal. It was a sort of ‘pick your poison, boys’ kind of affair led by our wonderful guide Heather. Among many other malts sampled that afternoon, this was foremost among my choices. Not gonna lie…we were already more than a couple drams deep – a few of which were drunk directly from the cask – so I can’t promise that my senses were in any condition to properly assess the inherent quality of the malt at the time, but do I recall not being willing to drop the ~£100-150 (or whatever it was) to bring home a bottle. That tells me I didn’t think it was all that exceptional.
And to be honest with you…I still don’t. It is, however, an awful lot better than I recall from that intense dramming session. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but that would be selling the whisky short. This is actually very good stuff. When the opportunity presented itself to revisit this oddball limited edition Bowmore (via the generous offer of a couple of friends of mine*) I leapt at it. Sitting down with the glass once again was like being yanked back to that moment in time. A tired group of friends…our last day on Islay…our last distillery tour on the island…and an unforgettable piece of my ‘whisky life’.
Springtide was so named for the period when the earth, sun and moon are aligned. Apparently that is the window in which this whisky was distilled. I’m not sure what significance we’re supposed to believe that that concept has for this NAS Oloroso sherry cask-matured malt, but I guess we’ll concede points for originality (if not clarity and forthcomingness in marketing. Ahem…age statement, anyone?).
All gimmicky and shit, for sure, but still tasty. Worth trying if you can find it.
Nose: Sweet smoked dry fruit. Grapes. Sunflower seeds. Oily. A wee bit of tar, ash and rubber. A tangy meatiness. Stirfry sauce. Citrus. Tobacco and dried cherries. Eucalyptus. Some chocolate and salt taffee. Florals emerge late and almost ghost-like.
Palate: Spiced chocolate sauce and lapsang souchong tea. Rum-soaked fruitcake. Leaves quite a taste of smoke and grape skins in the mouth. Or maybe plum skins. Medicinal in a fruity cough syrup kinda way. This is heavy sherry and moderate smoke. Neat.
Thoughts: May not be to everyone’s liking, but it works a treat for me.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
I tasted Springtide with a client-friend in December 2013 at Bowmore’s distillery bar and we both instantly agreed that it was exception. We selected 2 half flights of 3 exprrssions from the tasting menu, with the 25 year old included in one set and Springtide in the other. We then sipped each expression without adding any water and naturally started with the youngest / least ABV. We tasted Springtide before the 25 year old and when my client, Martin from the Czech Republic, who I’ve been accompanying, smiled and said “Wow” I knew I would be in for a real treat.
Springtide is one of those very few expressions that lives with us and when we talk about exceptional whiskies, this is one of the few. Having undertaken 6 whisky tours of Speyside, Islay and Wales with Martin from 2008-2013, we had by now established a ritual routine and understanding for tasting whisky.
Having sipped each of the 6 expressions, we then discussed and compared them, lining them up in order of best to least best (there’s never any worst, unless you’re in Wales but that’s another story). We both automatically agreed that due to it’s knockout taste and long lingering finish that Springtide would not only come at the end but even though it was cask strength, no water would be added. The 25 wasn’t even 5th out of the 6!
Martin bought a bottle and I regretted not doing the same, just like when we tasted the Glendronach 20 year old Tawny Port at the whisky shop opposite William Shakespeare’s house in Strafford-upon-Avon in 2010. Whenever you taste a whisky that has such a long finish as Springtide and the aforementioned Glendronach, you will always be drawn back to that first moment; the time, the place, the people; the friends.