Bottled March 16, 2022
MASH BILL – 100% malted barley
PROOF – 92
AGE – 10 years
DISTILLERY – J. & A. Mitchell & Co
PRICE – $88 (msrp now currently $100)
WORTH BUYING? – Yes!
It’s impossible to be into scotch whisky and not have heard of Springbank. They’re a legendary brand known for integrity, a kind of large scale “craft” operation that eschews the mainstream slickery of Maccallan or Lagavulin or Aberlour. In-house malting, wooden washbacks and worm tub cooling systems on direct-fire stills, no chill filtration or added color ever, simple labels on a squat, unimposing bottle—in all respects, the real and detailed deal from start to finish. Visually, Springbank is easily missed among the innumerable more eager brands yelling from the shelves. Nevertheless, the Springbank tipping point has fully tipped, and the international fandom is real!
It took me a long time to purchase, and then even longer to finally uncork, my first Springbank. No particular reason. Just a big wide world of whisky to journey through. When prices recently took a bump up, I thought I’d see (sip?) what the fuss was all about. When I uncorked this bottle late one chilly night and finished making my way through a glass, I thought, Is this whisky perfect…?
I’ve never actually believed in perfection. What could “perfect” possibly mean? That everyone likes it? That it checks off certain established boxes considered to mark quality? Boxes established by who, and to what intended end? And yet “perfect” is the first word that came to me at uncorking. I knew I needed to give it some time, to understand what I was responding to…
So here we are, nearing a month after uncorking and four pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – clear butter and straw yellows, reflecting the world around the glass
NOSE – a beautiful and gently ashy peat, fresh sliced pear, salty sea breeze, lemony custard, vanilla
TASTE – cream, light notes of mango and papaya, light ashy peat, vanilla, light tangy caramel
FINISH – a mild prickly heat, that soft ashy peat note, gently bitter grapefruit peel, oak tannin, a waft of the tropical fruit notes
OVERALL – an easygoing peated whisky for an easygoing sunny day
Perfect? Again, that word has no single definition. Today the bitter aspects of the grapefruit peel, oak tannins, and ash all lean in a bit more than they have on previous sips. These are pleasant notes. But the balance between all notes combined is not quite as centered as it has been on previous pours. So, today, I wouldn’t say this whisky is perfect.
Even so, Springbank 10 is quite easy to sip. It’s very approachable. The proof is strong enough to lift flavor, and cool enough not to get pushy. The flavors are welcoming, with just enough complexity and mystery to compel interest without outright demanding attention.
Anyone who’s not into peat won’t like it, that’s a given. I don’t see this particular peated whisky winning over the steadfastly skeptical. I’d reach for a Croftengea or Highland Park if my aim were to sway anyone over to the peat bog. Those brands tend to lean a little sweeter and into some gentle heather and lavender notes, which help ease the emphasis off the peat. The Springbank peat, on the other hand, is unapologetic. And yet it’s not brash. The whisky’s light ashy touch is several steps back from full on campfire ash, which can be divisive. For myself, I really wish I had some freshly grilled seafood like prawns or salmon right now. They’d pair perfectly with this whisky.
Provided I can find more Springbank outings at msrp and not pirate prices, I suspect I’ve just embarked on yet another leg of the journey.
Five O’Clock Somewhere
As the sun prepared to set one recent evening, I decided to try my hand at making a Blood & Sand. Named after the 1922 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino, the cocktail is among the few calling for peated scotch whisky. I was missing the traditional cherry liqueur, but forged ahead as follows:
1.5oz Springbank 10 Year
.75oz fresh Cara Cara orange juice
.5oz Cocchi Sweet Vermouth
.5oz maraschino cherry juice
Shake to chill
Fine strain into a chilled coupe
Garnish with an orange twist
The Cara Cara orange juice is less “bloody” in color than a blood orange would be. But the red cherry juice helps. The “sand” comes from the whisky’s peat notes. The Blood & Sand cocktail is a counterintuitive combination of sweet and gritty-savory that works quite nicely.
2 thoughts on “Springbank 10 Year – a perfect scotch?”
That cocktail sounds so intriguing. Someone just gave us a bottle
of that Cocchi Vermouth and have wondered what to do with it!
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Ah Cocchi Vermouth, excellent in many cocktails, and good on its own too!