Springbank 15 Rumwood | 51% ABV | Bottled 2019

Springbank is one of my favorite distilleries. The combination of authenticity yet not being afraid to innovate is not easy to achieve, yet Springbank always manages to do just that. When this rumwood was initially announced I must admit I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it. I’m not opposed to using new casktypes and finishes (even though this is full-term maturation), but I just can’t recall a rum-influenced whisky that I really enjoyed. Lets take a look.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Quite a busy nose, but if you take your time with it, it’s layered very nicely. The first thing to jump out is unripe banana’s over a soft peat fire. Then there’s cotton candy, white grapes, green apple, peach, lemon zest and a slight molasses note. It doesn’t omit that typical Springbank funk though. All in all, it comes across very fresh.

Palate: A nice and smooth arrival. The peat is there but quickly makes way for banana, pineapple and coconut. There’s some salty crackers, lemon and lime and sweet and sour sauce. A prime example of near perfect balance between sweet, bitter, salty and sour.

Finish: Quite a drying, medium long finish with hints of woodspice, coffee, unripe banana again and some lychee.

88/100

This one is bustling with complexity. It’s not the easiest dram, but very rewarding if you take your time with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I bumped this 1 or 2 points as I go through the bottle.

SMWS festival bottlings

On May 22, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society held a tasting at Campbeltown’s Ardshiel Hotel to taste some of their bottlings for the Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown festivals. 

Luckily for me, they also streamed the tasting live, and members of the SMWS were able to buy samples of each of the five whiskies to be tasted.

SMWS Sample bottles.

The livestream was in a seperate room from the in person tasting, which meant we were able to create our own atmosphere in the chatroom. Unfortunately, there were some technical hick-ups, but the presentation was quite engaging. Either way, what counts most is the quality of the drams.

Glen Grant 2007, SMWS 9.161 “Cream Tea at the Patisserie” | 60.9% ABV | Bottled 2019

We started things off with a young Glen Grant aged for 11 years in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. It’s labeled under the SMWS flavour profile “Sweet, Fruity & Mellow”.

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: The citrus is immediately apparent. Tons of lemon hits your nose. Digging in a little bit, it’s like being in a pastry shop (I guess their naming is on point). Lemon pie and cookie-dough, it needs a while to open up though. There’s a sweet sugar note too, think icing sugar. Orange marmelade. With water, the doughy notes come through a bit pore prominently, but the lemons are still at the forefront.

Palate: Quite a strong arrival. Sugary at first, but fades into tart lemons. Some orange zest and little Petit Beurre cookies. After some time, I get the appearance of a little whipped cream.

Finish: Short to medium lenght. Lemon, of course. A hint of salt and yeast. Some peppers, ginger and cinnamon show themselves here too.

84/100

This one really only opens up after adding some water and giving it some time. It’s a nice opener for the night, but a bit too heavy on the lemon for me.

Glenrothes 1997, SMWS 30.106 “Succulent, Scintillating, Substatial” | 57.2% ABV | Bottled 2019

On to the second Speysider of the night. This 21 year old Glenrothes has spent 19 years of it’s life in an ex-oloroso butt and was then finished for 2 years in a 2nd fill Pedro Ximénez butt. According to the SMWS, the flavour profile of this should be “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits”.

Color: Amber with a nice orange hue.

Nose: Oh this is inviting. Walnuts, prunes, dried figs, dried dates. Some sweet raisins and a very rum-like note. I like this nose, a lot. With water: some strawberries come into the mix.

Palate: Surprisingly soft and smooth arrival. This doesn’t mean the flavour isn’t there though. Lots of dark red fruits. Raisins, plums and prunes. Some tannins from the cask, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. With water, the tannins come out a bit more. A very very sweet one, this Glenrothes, as I would expect from a PX-cask. But still nicely balanced.

Finish: The sweetness lingers and a slight herbal and menthol note appears. A bit of a sticky mouthfeel, makes you want to go for another sip. Luckily, the finish is quite long.

90/100

I’m not the biggest fan of whisky that is very heavily influenced by sherry, but this is an excellent example of good cask management.

Laphroaig 1999 , SMWS 29.260 “A Visceral, Elemental Experience” | 56.9% ABV | Bottled 2019

Another “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits” flavour profile, but I’m quite sure this will be quite different to the Glenrothes. It has spent 16 years in an American oak oloroso butt and another 3 years in a Spanish oak oloroso butt.

Color: Mahogany, the color is surprising yet inviting.

Nose: Well, it’s Laphroaig so the presence of peat shouldn’t be stated. However, it’s quite subdued. Lot’s and lot’s of liquorice. Figs and prunes too, as well as a minty note. With water: Old leather, a dusty leather armchair in an antique store. Ever so slight hint of petrol too.

Palate: The peat gives a definite kick here, more than the nose lead me to assume. Quite a briny, iodine note too. Adding water, the leather note comes through much more. Fresh figs and orange zest. Poached pears and pecans.

Finish: A long finish with notes of peatsmoke, ash, tobacco leaves, leather and an ever so slight hint of blueberry.

90/100

This is great stuff. Very nice marriage between the spirit and the cask. The age is noticeable, but it’s still more than lively enough.

Bunnahabhain 2005, SMWS 10.168 “Cuquillo Black Olives” | 61.8% ABV | Bottled 2019

Time for another Islay bottling, but this time without the peat. A 13 year old Bunnahabhain from a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, bottled at a very healthy 61.8% ABV. The SMWS flavour profile here is “Oily & Coastal”.

Color: Light gold

Nose: Immediate banana, luckily I don’t have any minions in the house. Hints of tequila too. Some salt, but not the brine I’m used to in Bunnahabhain. Salted popcorn, that’s more like it. With water, some oysters and ever so slight elderflower notes. Banana-vanilla pudding, those yellow Petit Gervais yoghurts if you’ve ever had those.

Palate: Sweet and salty. Fruit de mer, crabcakes. White fruit too, mostly peach. Some brine here, and seaweed. A tonic note too. With water: more honey and vanilla notes. The seasalt comes through more clearly. Oh, and dried pineapple!

Finish: On the shorter side, although we’ve been spoiled with the previous two. Peaches, salt and aha, we have found the olives!

If you’d give this to me blind, I wouldn’t guess it’s an Islay malt. Still quite nice nonetheless. 

86/100


Glen Scotia 2008, SMWS 93.108 “Earthy and Masculine” | 58% ABV | Bottled 2019

Our final dram of the evening is a Campbeltown whisky. Our hosts tell us it’s not Springbank nor Glengyle. Of course, we could just Google the distillery number, right? It spent 10 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. This should be lightly peated.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Exotic fruits, lead by pineapples and lychee. A slight green vegetable note, peas perhaps? In the back there’s some freshly baked croissants and white chocolate.

Palate: I love it when a whisky can deliver what it promises on the nose. Pineapples aplenty, some papaya and lychee too. There’s a grassy and earthiness to this, which I get quite often with this not Springbank nor Glengyle distillery. Also, the peat is a bit louder than on the nose here, adding a nice counternote to the sweet fruits.

Finish: A minty eucalyptus note, toothpaste. Fresh green herbs and peaches to make sure the sweetness sustains. Nice and long finish.

I really like this one. Then again, I tend to like Glen Scotia so it isn’t a huge surprise.

89/100

Longrow Red 11y Shiraz | 53.7% ABV | Bottled 2013

Being a part of Springbank, I always have high expectations of Longrow. The Red series in particular has garnered up quite a bit of interest over the years. This one matured in refill Bourbon casks for 6 years, and a further 5 years in Shiraz casks. It was bottled in 2013 at 53.7% ABV.

Color: Dark amber

Nose: Oh this is an interesting one. Both the Shiraz and Bourbon influence are fighting for your attention. A very sweet nose, both the red fruits from Shiraz and some honey/vanilla from the Bourbon. The peat comes through as well, leaving traces of fresh paint. Some pistachio and peppermint. While there’s a lot going on, it’s still quite delicate, ethereal.

Palate: It arrives with a think and oily mouthfeel. Sweet grapes, then lots of nuts, mainly walnuts and almonds. Raisins and bonfire smoke.

Finish: The nuts and raisins linger, leaving a mainly bitter finish. A touch of strawberry helps out and the peatsmoke is the most noticeable here.

This doesn’t disappoint. The marriage with the red wine casks seems to blend very well with Longrow spirit.

88/100

Hazelburn 2002 Sauternes Wood | 55.9% ABV | Bottled 2011

Another one from the Springbank distillery tonight! Hazelburn is it’s unpeated brother, which is distilled 3 times. This one matured in ex-Bourbon casks and finished in Sauternes wood. It’s been in casks for only 8 years.

Color: Mahogany, quite dark, looks promising!

Nose: Oh my, there’s a lot in here: strawberries and red fruit, blue grapes, some hazelnut. Going a bit deeper there’s plums, orange and chocolate with a cherry liqueur. Very interesting for it’s age!

Palate: Dark chocolate, raisins, tannins, some matchsticks in the distance.

Finish: The wine comes through very clearly here, a rounded sweetness that lasts for quite a while

Another loverly whisky by Springbank, the nose on this one is simply fantastic.

88/100

Glen Scotia 1992 Thosop | 48.2% ABV | Bottled 2012

A nice dark single cask from the Glen Scotia distillery. Bottled after 20 years in a sherry cask by Thosop import at 48.2% ABV.

Color: Dark amber

Nose: A whole lot coming at once: raisins, christmas cake, brown sugar, leather, old musky notes. Some eucalyptus and menthol to keep it fresh. Sigars as well. With time some berries pop up

Palate: This busy bee continues, nutmeg, clove and ginger amongst other spices. The raisins and leather are here as well, and I love some leather notes in my whisky. Chewing tobacco as well, with strawberry’s to balance the sweetness out.

Finish: A medium long finish with nutmeg, leather, menthol, white pepper and raspberries.

This was a very active cask, a heavy style of whisky but it strikes a perfect balance in it’s accessibility and complexity.

88/100