...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Single Malt Report: Springbank 16 year old 1999 Local Barley

I bought this bottle to celebrate the completion of our massive move from California to Ohio. It was also the third-most expensive bottle I'd ever purchased. So when I opened it, I really hoped it was good.

There had been a lot of excitement around this release since the previous Local Barley releases, distilled 30 years earlier, are part of whisky history/lore. The European bottles from this new release were snapped up immediately at the start of 2016, but the US bottles were not. And many are still available. Is the price that holds people back? Or is it because this isn't some super sherried release? What, everyone isn't into craft whisky...?

...because this is actual craft whisky. The (prisma!) barley is from Low Machrimore Farm, a few miles from Springbank, and was floor-malted at the distillery. It was, of course, distilled at the distillery, and then bottled right there. But, the oak is not from Kintyre. Sad!

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 16 years (September 1999 - January 2016)
Barley: Prisma, from Low Machrimore Farm
Maturation: 80% ex-bourbon and 20% ex-sherry casks; probably refills, IMO
Limited bottling: 9,000 worldwide
Alcohol by Volume: 54.3%

Its color is light gold. The nose is full of cereal grain notes—especially barley (duh) and wheat—wrapped in roasted seaweed. There's also white meringue, lemon and orange peels, and a low rumble of fresh manure. The palate is darker, inkier and heavier than the nose. Lemons and dingy peat. Or is it peated grapefruit candy? Soil, limes and a Talisker-pepperiness merged with malty richness. A little bit of pineapple sweetness in the back. The finish strikes earthy and inky, as well. A grapefruit and Campari bite meets serrano pepper heat and a peachy sweetness.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
Barley, anise, apples and oranges on the nose. Then dockside air and honey. The palate has lots of citrus essence, minus the sweetness, especially limes and lemons. Malted barley and whisper of cayenne pepper. Baked apples with fruity Ceylon cinnamon. It finishes with salty peat and roasted grains and nuts. Lemon and a gentle brown sugar sweetness.

Yeah it's good. It's the epitome of clean crisp single malt bottled at the perfect time. The casks served their purpose of maturing the whisky without intruding upon it, which may have happened five or ten years later. The development in the nose is subtle but quite remarkable as the lemons gradually ease forward over ten minutes, to be followed by a bundle of oranges. The ink and honey notes are also lovely, in their own ways.

It's my favorite bottle I opened in 2016. That's why I saved it for the final review. Is it worth almost $200? I don't know. Because I bought it to celebrate this important moment in my family's life, it was worth it to me. Your experience and valuation will different from mine.

As 2016 draws to a close, may I just request that all of you take care of yourselves. Don't help this year claim any more good people. Please.

Availability - easier to find in the US than in Europe
Pricing - $170-$200 (US), $150-250 (Europe), original SRP was £95
Rating - 90


  1. Was never able to get hands on a bottle of this here in Tokyo. It can be gotten online for over 400 dollars U.S., but though I may be foolish, limited funds keep me from getting out of line with my whisky purchases these days. Glad to see you've rated it well, though.

    1. Yikes, $400 is CRAZY. I've seen a couple European retailers selling it for around $300. That's a lot of money.

  2. Did you find this to be a bit hot? You mentioned chile/pepper in your notes, but didn't make any mention of it being overly hot, so I assume not. I tried it at Jack Rose and found it to be very hot. A friend with a trusted palate concurred, so I chose not to take the $170 plunge. I normally find Springbank to be fairly drinkable at cask strength, at least in tasting-sized nips. I ended up just buying another Springbank 12 Green to satisfy my "naked" Springbank cravings.

    1. I'm pretty sensitive to ethyl heat in whiskies, but I didn't find any of that in this one. It does change considerably as it sits in the glass. It has also changed in the bottle. The first two pours were mind-blowing, and it now it's merely excellent. :)

    2. Cool, thanks for the reply. The only thing I can think of is that we both had the same beer prior to trying this one, so maybe that affected our palates. Haven't had that issue in the past, but there's a first time for everything. At times I've second guessed my decision not to purchase this, and your rotten glowing review is not helping. Though to be fair, I have so many special occasion bottles in my "cellar" (because the object of my obsession is classy it is not considered hoarding) at this point that I really need to stick more to bottles I can open without visions of burning dollar bills dancing through my mind. My state occasionally gets surprise shipments of Springbank releases 1-3 years after the rest of the country gets them though, so I might get another crack at this one.

      P.S. - Now that you are safely ensconced within Ohio's snowy borders, have you considered visiting Tom's Foolery Distillery? I buy about one bottle a year just to see how his whiskey is progressing, though now that he's switched stills I assume it will change pretty drastically in character in a few years.