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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Springbank 25 Year Duo

It was recently conveyed to me by J & A Mitchell's Co-Director of Sales & Marketing, David Allen that although the signs throughout their distillery claim to be able to produce 750,000 LPA of spirit, they actually produce closer to 300,000 for Springbank before shutting down to do about 50,000 over at Glengyle. Could they produce more? Definitely. But at what cost? And I'm not talking about actual capital. They could raise that in their sleep, if they wanted to. I mean the cost in quality. For a distillery steeped in core values surrounded by traditional production methods...how much would they have to give up in quality to produce a higher yield? Those kinds of questions are asked more by the fans than from anyone at the distillery. These days, they seem to be perfectly happy producing as much spirit as they can handle, and more focused on figuring out how they can spread their precious stock to as many people across the world as possible.


Since 2001, Springbank stopped selling casks to independent bottlers (for the most part). During that time, their inventory was so low, they weren't able to produce a consistent core lineup, and suffered through some severe batch variation. Some casks still come to market though, thanks to the brokers/blenders that either bought or traded before the "embargo," but if you want anything straight from the distillery, you're gonna have to pay a pretty penny. Naturally, no one values the Springbank distillery more than the Springbank distillery, and no bottle has proven that more, in recent memory, than my first pour.

 
Springbank (North Star Spirits) 1994/25 Year |Single Cask Series 11| Refill Hogshead - 48.5%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Springbank (North Star Spirits) 1994/25 Year |Single Cask Series 11| Refill Hogshead - 48.5%


The pandemic will go down as one of the craziest times for many reasons, but for the whisky market in particular, it was a time we saw spending get a little cuckoo. As we all stayed home and quarantined by the computer...or on our phones...there was a particular group of essential workers that brought some much needed joy to our doorsteps...the postal service.


In the midst of all our online comfort purchases came a time that it was announced that North Star Spirits was bottling a trio of Springbank bottles...at some unimaginable prices, which caused an obvious stir within the community. When Iain Croucher, the head of the company, explained that he was bottling these releases essentially at cost, it raised some legitimate eyebrows.


The bottles sat for a little while, on their respected retailer partners' websites until a few highly regarded reviewers/connoisseurs managed to share their thoughts and backed up any concerns for quality. But even with those affirmations...we were lead to start debating some tough questions. Like...is this what the true value of Springbank has become? Or was this hopefully just a one-off marketing tactic meant for the few big time collectors (like the one's we saw jacking up the auction prices during this time) who could care less about cost? And what does this mean for all the other smaller IB's, in the future, that have dreams of bottling a Springbank? I'll talk more about that in a bit...but first...


Appearance: Deep copper, Medium brown

First Whiff: Sipping lemonade out of an old, dunnage-aged cask that keeps complaining they’re “too old for this shit.”

Nose: Right up my alley. Mineral, salty with a slight earthy funk. Fresh green tomatoes and wet hay. Citrus lemon zest, lime flavored coconut patties. Toasted coconut. Some ripe, piney orchard fruits…red apples (Jonagolds), some lychee with a gentle whisper of cedar smoke. With water: Seemed to have angered the peat into waking up now…more vegetative than before…boggy. Some more orchard fruits appear as well…crisp apples, dried pineapples.

Palate: Creamy, warm, and oily. Tart and tingly at first but the citrus dials down a bit and reveals just…a stunning show of candied fruits. Some juicy fruit and Haribo bears. The chalky mineral side takes over in the mid-palate with some crushed chalk and papaya fruits. With water: Just a few drops, made a worlllld of difference here. Much smoother and more refined. Prickly pears to start with some chilled apple cider…caramel hard candy, chamomile and honey.

Finish: Long, with an almost orchestra-tive build. Goes from sharp to sweet oh so tenderly. Lasting taste of warm, oily lemonade and pencil shavings.


Summary: Citrus dominated, for sure, but every now and then a little tropical fruit emerges, ever so subtly to round things up a bit. Water surprisingly played well and helped curtail that bit of sharpness, which wasn’t even as harsh as it sounds. Just an obviously stunning, and pure Springer, which I’m glad someone had the balls (and means, of course) to bottle!

IDS SCORE: 93

 
Springbank (Nickolls & Perks)  1997/25 Year |Inaugural Casks|  Fresh Rum Barrel #242 – 49.1%

Springbank (Nickolls & Perks)

1997/25 Year |Inaugural Casks|

Fresh Rum Barrel 242 – 49.1%


It was announced back in September, just prior to the start of their annual Midlands Whisky Festival, that Nickolls & Perks would be taking the plunge into the independent bottling of spirits under their very own labels. A decision, less shocking than you may think when you consider they have over 200 years of experience of bottling other company's products.


Their first release made a predictable splash when it was revealed that one of the single casks chosen for the "Inaugural Series" was a 1997/25 year old Springbank. The cost, although mighty, feels relatively more in line with today's market, and seems to mirror the distillery's own, core values of quality above all. Not to mention it's a few hundred bucks cheaper than the North Star bottling.


Appearance: Deep gold.

First Whiff: First day in a pottery class.

Nose: Light at first, floral, refrained. Getting a wet plaster-y vibe that’s hard to shake. Slightly citronella and plasticine. Dried citrus, cleaning spray and bleach.

Palate: Creamy but a tad thin. Key lime, citrus zest at first with an awakening of subtle tropical fruits…lychees, dried apricots, guava and pineapples. With water: Much better…richer, with a fattier, waxy underbelly of citronella and warm cinnamon spice.

Finish: Punchy but fades quickly leaving a gentle sweetness towards the back reminiscent of sweet cinnamon Apple Jacks.


Summary: Not an easy one, for sure. Needs some time and water to open up. But once it gets there, it hits! An admirable introduction, of course. And the bottles aren't too shabby either!

IDS SCORE: 90

 

Springbank 25 Year Duo

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