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springbank 23 yo (1997/2020, The Whisky baron, 54,6%)

The Whisky Baron is an independent bottler that for some time now has entered the independent bottling arena, which, you will note, is a rare example of consistency. To put it bluntly, if an independent bottler had entered the arena of mechanical engineering he might have had more difficulty, but well, that’s not the case. Thanks to a sprawling network of contacts, we managed to get our hands on a sample of a 23-year-old Springbank (not without a fair amount of money, but whatever, that’s our business), distilled in 1997 and bottled in the year that will long be remembered for a reason that, at first glance, we really can’t bring back to mind. Since it’s not often that you get to taste independent Springbanks and, let’s face it, it’s going to happen less and less, we couldn’t resist tasting it. From Fresh Sherry Butt #289 to our glass: a truly sad parable, we admit, but there it is.

N: is open but at the same time very compact. It has an old Oloroso profile, deep and dense, sticky but taut. The fruit part is reminiscent of cherries, an orange liqueur and some very juicy black fruit. Apple chips, too. At one point it almost turns to herbal liqueur, heavily infused tea leaves, old furniture and sweet tobacco. Springbank’s signature evokes motor oil and a few small puffs of coast. Soy sauce, to exaggerate. A very complex nose, very old-school.

P: the palate starts off strong on notes of orange and apple chips, with an unexpected acidity that makes it vibrant. The sherry is still decidedly predominant, and expresses itself through dry notes of tobacco, more tea and medicinal herbs (if we had been to a foraging course we would have been able to tell you which ones, but we were busy drinking that day). Nocino and egg yolk, but also soy sauce, for a very Campbeltownesque funky mood, very umami. All seasoned with hints of garage (who hasn’t swallowed at least some in this sad life?).

F: very long, with lots of blood orange (also peel). Still distinctly umami, with tabasco, soot, coastal notes returning, distant.

Springbank and sherry don’t always go together, it’s not necessarily a good match and a happy marriage: this old acquaintance of ours is there to remind us of that. Well, here the quality is high, and the profile is incredibly old-school, with an intense, enveloping Oloroso Sherry, and a typically Springbank umami that frankly really drives us crazy. It’s certainly a very autumnal whisky, if that makes any sense, and so we can say we award this 91/100 in good conscience. A worse closure wasn’t easy to find, huh?

Recommended soundtrack: IDLES – The Beachland Ballroom.

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