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Monday, September 2, 2013

Single Malt Report: Springbank 10 year 100 proof (US edition, beige label)

Twenty-one months ago, I had my introduction to the Springbank brands in the form of an official Diving for Pearls Taste Off -- the second one ever and still my favorite.  In that T.O., I tried the Springbank 10 year 100 proof (UK version), Longrow CV, and Hazelburn 8 year.

Now it's time for another Springbank Taste Off, this time whiskies are:

Springbank 10 year old 100 proof (US edition, beige label)
Springbank 15 year old
Springbank 18 year old (2nd Edition)

Though each sample came from a different source and started at a different quantity, they were treated equally.  28 fluid ounces tasted, first neat, then lowered to approximately 39% ABV with water.

Within a week of that first Springbank Taste Off (in December 2011), I ran out to Mission Liquor in Pasadena to buy a bottle of Springbank 10 year old 100 proof.  Here's a bottle pic from January 2012:

There were two important things about this bottle I did not realize at the time of purchase:

1.)  The 100 proof on the UK edition was 57% ABV since the British measure proof differently than the Americans.  (There's a description of this in that original report.)  Meanwhile, the American edition of the 100 proof bottling goes by US proof standards and is thus bottled at 50% ABV.  I actually knew this at the time, but the sheer excitement of the purchase experience momentarily turned me into a fool (this used to happen more often than I liked, which motivated me to change my whisky purchase approach soon thereafter).

2.)  Having not done enough research into Springbank, I did not realize which bottling I'd actually held in my hand.  At Mission Liquor there was a half case of a newer shiny black label version of the 100 proof.  There were two bottles of this older looking beige label.  My instinct was right to go with the older looking one.  But I should have bought the other bottle too.  The beige labelled 10 year olds represent the first batches of "new" Springbank after the distillery had reopened (after a 10 year closure) and the on-site maltings had restarted.  According to whiskybase, the beige labels were used from 2002 until 2005-2006.  (Keep in mind, these are different that the famous green thistle ones used in the '90s.)  According to Dominic Roskrow's 1001 Whiskies, the "new" version of the 10 year 100 proof began bottling in 2004.  The good news is that I did buy a bottle of it and then saved 2 ounces of it in a sample bottle for an occasion such as this.

Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 50% (100 US Proof)
Bottling Date: between 2004 and 2006
Chillfiltration? No
Colorant? No

Color - Amber
Nose - Very young compared to its brethren, and much more industrial. Glue, band-aids, iodine, and rubber cement are first to the party.  Then a big barley note.  Nectarines and apricots follow, then smoked vanilla beans, cow manure, and just-used pencil eraser.  It actually all works together in a crazy symphony.
Palate - In order of appearance: Wood embers, apple skins, molasses, tar, salt, sugar cookies, and a little buttery oak.  Again, the most spirity or rawest of the three, yet the alcohol burn is kept in check.
Finish - Gets a little sweeter here, but remains subtle. Gets maltier too and some lightly bitter piney peat sneaks in.  The industrial notes from the nose mix with the sugar cookies from the palate.

WITH WATER (approx. 39% ABV)
Nice and cloudy!
Nose - It actually gets stinkier with more industrial funk at first, but settles down after a couple minutes. The sealant notes remain, but some wood also shows up, along with eucalyptus.
Palate - More vanilla and sugar.
Finish - Stays strong. Lots of dark brown sugar.

Young Springbank brings me joy.  Often when first fill oak and/or wine casks are used for maturation, a lot of those gorgeous grimy notes are covered up.  Here in the 10-100 (US), the oak is present but doesn't intrude.  My nose and taste buds couldn't find the sherry -- which is a positive for me -- so perhaps Springbank used mostly refill casks?

This is hardy stuff but won't decimate one's palate like many high ABV cask strengthers or ultra-high peaters.  Gauging from my old notes, the 7 fewer alcohol percentage points does make this easier to drink than the UK edition but doesn't water down the Springbank spirit delivery.

Springbank did release a 100 proof in 2012.  I know they steer a small ship, but I do hope they keep something like this on the market in the future.

Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - if you can find it, it'll be over $70
Rating - 91