It was an absolute joy to welcome Springbank Distillers and W.M. Cadenhead when they recently presented a tasting for us. They are Scotland’s oldest independent family owned distillery and oldest independent bottlers respectively and both are under the ownership of the Mitchells, whose approach to whisky is a whisky lover’s dream as they produce good quality bottlings that are priced in relation to the cost of production rather than at the highest possible price that the market will take.
Situated in Campbeltown, Springbank is a very traditional and wonderfully eccentric distillery (just ask Ken sometime about his memorable week at their popular whisky school…). Most unusually, all of the whisky making process is carried out on site, from malting the barley to bottling the whisky, and they don’t like change at Springbank – for a very sound reason I hasten to add, as basically they know that people like Springbank for what it is and therefore why change for the sake of change? The whisky produced is either two and a half times distilled (Springbank), peated (Longrow) or three times distilled (Hazelburn) and Grant Macpherson did explain briefly on the night just how distilling whisky 2.5 times works but let’s just say it’s a little complicated! With such a broad portfolio then there is something for every palate from this one distillery.
The Springbank 10 year old is, as Grant put it, a staple for any whisky drinkers cupboard. With a low peating level of just 12-15ppm and a mix of sherry and bourbon cask maturation it’s packed with flavour, with fruit, earthy but light smokiness, and some sweetness. It’s older brother, the 12 year old cask strength, is a limited release that only comes out twice a year and was just delightful. There’s a greater proportion of sherry cask maturation and it is incredibly smooth for a 56.3%abv whisky. There’s just enough bite along with the typical dried fruit and spice that comes from sherry cask maturation, all blending seamlessly with a coal type peatiness.
We also tasted a Kilkerran 12 year old, which is produced at Glenglyle distillery in Campbletown. Founded in 1872 but silent from 1925 until it was brought back to life in 2004 by Mitchells, the whisky has to be bottled under the name of Kilkerran as the Glengyle name was bought by someone else. Another very tasty whisky it is fruity with a hint of smoke and vanilla and a lovely mouthfeel.
We had the additional treat of tasting whisky from W.M. Cadenhead, the independent bottler that J. & A. Mitchell own. Known for their un-chillfiltered, no added colour, small batch and single cask whiskies the 20 year old Aultmore and 20 year old Glenrothes we sampled demonstrated just why there is such a cult following for these whiskies – with the sparkling fresh, eucalyptus and citrus Aultmore just edging it for me.
Rounding off with the peated Longrow at the end of the night I think it’s no wonder everyone found it hard to pick a favourite – they were all so good! Many thanks to Grant Macpherson and Mitch Graham for an outstanding evening of whisky tasting.