The latest release of the Springbank Local Barley has created a bit of a stir. It’s picked up some good reviews, some great reviews and some rave reviews. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t enjoy it. For the Malt Nuts this created an ideal situation to do a blind tasting with the new Springbank Local Barley hidden within its depths to see how it stacked up when you couldn’t see the label.
I was fortunate enough to have had a glass or two of it the weekend before and so I felt like I was in a good position to guess which one it was. Armed with my previous notes and a willing palate I headed over to our hosts house who treated us to a tasty Kosher meal and after settling into “tasting mode” by using a Pre-Whisky to cleanse and set the palate I was ready.
Like all Malt Nuts meetings this one was blind, but since we were doing them all in one round they were done double bind so that even Barry, the head Malt Nut who prepped the event, didn’t know which was which. Also, since there was only one round we didn’t have the whiskies broken into themes. So without further adieu, let’s get on to the Blind Springbank Local Barley tasting and see how it all shook out… after we check out the whisky we used to set our senses and start the evening with.
PRE: The Arran 10 years: 46%
- Nose: Orchard fruit, malt, spice, brown sugar, vanilla and a touch of dried fruit.
- Palate: Orchard fruit, dried cherries, malt, spice, brown sugar, malted milk balls and dried apricots.
- Finish: Long -> Malt, orchard fruit, vanilla, spice and ash.
- Overall: B (83-86) I guessed it was Glenburgie due to the hints of cocoa I was picking up, but WhiskyRedHead nailed it right out of the gate. He knows the whiskies he imports well. This fruit bomb of a whisky was a nice clean option for setting a base and a tone for the evening and I pegged it at the higher end of the B range.
1: Springbank Local Barley 16 years: 54.3%
- Nose: Orchard fruit, malt, cocoa, marzipan, nutmeg heavy spice, vanilla and a touch of oak.
- Palate: Orchard fruit, caramel, taffy, cocoa, malt, spice and a touch of smoke so light I thought I was imagining it, but after the reveal it made sense.
- Finish: Long -> Fruit, caramel, spice, malt and oak.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) By pure chance the Springbank Local Barley was the first official whisky of the night. The only one it was preceded by was the Pre so it was about as clean of a reading as you can get in a setting like this. It was also one of the three I revisited before the reveal and was my third favorite of the night.
2: Springbank Green 12 years: 46% – ex-Bourbon Cask
- Nose: Fruit, malt, toffee, brûlée, salt water taffy and a light root beer spice.
- Palate: Orchard fruit, malt, brown sugar, vanilla salt water taffy and spice.
- Finish: Medium -> Malt, caramel, orchard fruit and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Needed a bit of water to open it up. Once open it picked up a richer overall quality and a touch of mint on the palate and finish. It was a nice solid sippin’ whisky and hung on the lower end of the B+ scale.
3: Hazelburn 12 years: 46% – ex-Sherry Cask
- Nose: Butterscotch, sulfur, malt, brown sugar, malt, graham crackers and dried apricots.
- Palate: Butterscotch, sulfur, sherry, malt, brown sugar, dried dark fruit and graham cracker.
- Finish: Long -> Caramel, brown sugar, dried dark fruit and a touch of menthol.
- Overall: A- (90-92) Funky, sweet and malty. If I had a touch of peat in there I’d be a happy camper. This whisky was definitely my favorite of the night; a bit of water and some time to breathe opened it up nicely. Lovely stuff.
4: The Arran 12 years Cask Strength: 52.9%
- Nose: Caramel, fruit, spice, malt, fruit, Twizzlers, cider, honey and apricots.
- Palate: Apricot, malt, spice, cocoa, minerals, sherry, chalk and a light “speyside-like” quality.
- Finish: Long -> Apricots, malt, coca and wood.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This is a nice tasty malt. I’m a fan of what’s happening in this glass. A touch of water changes the overall character a bit and it begins to take on a bananas foster quality with a touch of roasted nuts.
5: Longrow 10 years 100 proof: 50%
- Nose: Crisp fruit, honey, Pixie Stix, smoke, waxy vanilla, apricot, waffle cones and spice.
- Palate: Crisp fruit, honey, Pixie Stix, smoke, waxy vanilla, apricot, waffle cones, cocoa and spice.
- Finish: Long -> Hay, smoke, graham crackers, vanilla and marzipan.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Low B+, bordering on a B until you add water and then it’s a B- bordering on a C+. Do not add water to this whisky. It falls apart like you wouldn’t believe. Treat it like a Mogwai.
6: Kilkerran Cask Strength: 54.1% – ex-Bourbon Cask
- Nose: Honey, pears, graham, caramel, malt, waffle cone, cocoa, spice and vanilla taffy.
- Palate: Cocoa honey, orchard fruit, tropical fruit, vanilla taffy, cider spice and menthol.
- Finish: Long -> Fruit, honey, malt, cocoa and spice.
- Overall: A- (90-92) After my first pass this was my favorite of the night. I added a bit of water to each of them and then went back through on a second pass and it moved down to second after everything opened up a bit. I added a bit more water and this started to show some piny new-make like vanilla nuances. The lesson here is this one is excellent with no water, good with a light bit of water and that more than a few drops / splash begin to ruin it. So go light.
And there you have it, the Springbank Local Barley came in as a good whisky, but not a mind-blowing whisky. This was an incredibly interesting experiment for me because I’d had the new Springbank Local Barley just a few days before and had enjoyed it quite a bit; I’d scored it as a low A- and here I scored it as a high B+.
To me this underlines the importance and subtle beauty of blind tastings. By removing the label you remove expectations and come a bit closer to your now personal version of the truth about what’s in the bottle.
Until next time, cheers.