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Springbank 21 yo (1996/2017, Valinch & Mallet, 52,6%)

We’ve had this sample at home for two years (as well as a jealously guarded bottle for rainy days), we’ve waited far too long to review it but you know how it is: when you find yourself in front of a 21-year-old Springbank aged in an ex-Fino sherry cask you want to give it the right attention… It is bottled by the award-winning duo Fabio Ermoli & Davide Romano, aka Valinch & Mallet, and this fact raises our expectations even higher: we hope the sample won’t get too much performance anxiety, but knowing the distillate, the chance should be remote.

N: aaah, what a pleasure, these perfumes are like coming home after a long and tiring journey. Let’s start with the dirtiest, most Campbeltownesque notes: olive oil, Scottish beach, sea air, parched seaweed, a non-smoked but mineral peat, with graphite, damp earth. Zucchetti spreads us saying “samphire”, but on the other hand he plays in another league. There is also a fruity side, let’s say ‘sweet’, with a mixture of peaches and macaroons, with candied fruit and a nice gooseberry. Very particular, as always in the Springbank area.

P: time and the barrel have smoothed the edges, but without denying the identity. And so salted liquorice, a light salt, a light minerality of damp earth. The sweet and fruity side is still quite consistent with the nose but difficult to bridle: peaches cooked with wine, rennet apples, a fruity and acidic cream, maybe lemon yoghurt? Apple pie crust. Then towards the end there is a return of bitterness, of vegetable…

P: …which returns strong at the end, after a mineral and sweet mat: a bit like smelling peaches in a mix of ginger, salt and ash.

Very variable, very fluctuating, it’s very good also because it lacks a real centre, it keeps changing and hitting you first with a mineral note, then with another sweet, then again with something more acidic… Very sharp, nervous, not at all crowd pleasing: after all, it shows a street fighter’s personality, a Scottish scumbag, skinny and tough, always ready for a brawl in the suburbs of Aberdeen. No way, we like the style of Campbeltown because it is so unique, so unobtainable elsewhere. The judgement translated in cold number can only be 90/100.

Recommended soundtrack: Oi Polloi – Let the boots do the talking.

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