...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