Whisky Review: Springbank 15-Year-Old

, | July 29, 2017

Springbank malts, kilns, mills, and mashes its own barley, which is rare these days. The end product of this “everything in one house operation” tends to be quite “old skool.” I just love that. Too much of anything is bad, but too much Springbank is rarely enough. Reminds me of the way Scotch used to taste when I was young and thumbing my way through Scotland on a shoe string budget in the mid 1980’s.

As for the Springbank 15 Year Old currently under review, it’s something of an unsung hero. Aye, this middle aged single malt is glossed over by critics, and often rated lower than it ought to be.

In fact, that’s precisely the reason why I decided to type up a review: to set the record straight, while having an excuse to drink some damned good Scotch at eleven o’clock in the morning.

My fifteen year-old was bottled on the sixty-third run of 2013. How do I know that, you ask? Good question. In order to figure out how old this bottle is, I needed to read the backside of the front label where the numbers are stamped. Sound confusing? Ah well, it’s not as bad as holding up a mirror to your backside in order to see into the future.

Wait a second . . . I think what I meant to say was, “looking at the backside of a mirror in order to see into your future.” At any rate, finding a date stamp on the backside of a Springbank front label does require a bit of effort, but the end result can be clandestinely informative.

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The uncorked bottle on my desk certainly is releasing more oceanic character than other batches I’ve experienced, along with a touch more peat, as well. For me, all of these factors add up to a win-win scenario. All right, enough shop talk: let’s dive into the spirit, and see what happens.

Springbank 15 Year Old

image via Whisky Kirk/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Springbank 15-Year-Old

Vital Stats: Springbank 15-Year-Old official bottling; single malt Scotch whisky; 46% ABV / 92 Proof; Campbeltown region; 70cl; price ranges from $90-$130 in the U.S., and is generally lower in the U.K.

Appearance: Yes, it’s basically the color of pish, but I’m going to call it “spun gold.” How’s that? As for this whisky’s consistency my glass, the beads it leaves are small after being rolled around, and the legs are thin. That’s actually a good thing. They run slowly down my glass, revealing fifteen long years of maturity, and perhaps a few more in some of the casks.

I’m going to dub these “Annie Lennox” legs (in the singer’s prime, back when I first visited her hometown of Aberdeen, which happens to be Scotland’s third most populous city).

Nose: Typical wet wool Springbank character, which I adore, comes out to greet me like a rain-soaked tramp with the face of an angel. Never do I tire of such a sight! Also, there’s soggy graham crackers (in a very good way), along with a touch of marine air, and then the sweet nothings kick in, thanks to a generous sherry influence. I’m getting stone fruits like mango, peach, and nectarine, along with toffee. But wait, some industrial notes emerge, revealing wet limestone, antique car seat leather, aspirin, and paraffin.

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Palate: Leather arrives first, evolving into the stone fruits, along with marzipan and toffee. As the spirit breathes a bit more, lovely hints of beeswax and vanilla cake icing emerge. On the back end of the palate, I detect a heavier marine influence than usual for a Springer Fifteen, along with a strong minerality that invites the caress of wet steel, the tang of steel wool, and a bit of tannic oakiness to nip at one’s taste buds in a good way (walnut meats). A sense of old skool mustiness and fustiness in the bottle remind me of good ole dunnage warehouses, which tend to feel (and smell) a bit like man-made caves (not to be confused with man caves). The final death throes hang on stubbornly, not unlike Charlton Heston‘s fingers curled around his favorite rifle.

The finish in my glass is not nearly as dry as that of a 2015 Fifteen-Year-Old that I tasted recently at a friend’s house. In fact, the creamery note in my Glencairn today seems to come out of nowhere, resting on my tongue like a spoonful of porridge and milk. I rather like this unapologetic 1980’s-style vanishing act. Reminds me nostalgically of the way Scotland used to be (as perceived through the eyes, and the palate, of a visitor with Scottish heritage).

The Takeaway

In more recently bottled 15 Year-Olds, I’ve tasted more of a citrus presence, but not here. The industrial notes in this 2013 bottling remind me a little of the Local Barley 16 Year Old. Batch 13/63 most likely made use of quite a few refill casks, along with the sherry.

Indeed, the famous distillery character comes through loud and clear, along with just the right amount of sherry. At any rate, Springbank’s 15 Year Old bottle with a green “S” on the label has earned my green light.

If you can find a bottle for under $100, then buy it. Unfortunately, my home state of Oregon imposes the second highest tax on alcohol. Believe it or not, the Fifteen goes for a whopping $130.95 here, which is nothing less than highway robbery: “Stand and Deliver, Your Money or Your Life!”

As for my final impression of this horribly good single malt…well, just try to add a drop of water to my glass. Hey, man, take one step closer with that teaspoon in your hand, and you’ll draw back a stump. Say no more. This baby’s ideal just the way she comes (at forty-six percent ABV, straight out of said bottle).

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Whisky Kirk

Kirk discovered the brilliance of Scottish whisky in 1987 while vacationing in Edinburgh. Over the course of three and a half decades that followed, he's built upon a knowledge of distilleries and the industry, as well as world whisky. Kirk prides himself on speaking honestly while avoiding the usual flattery...