The Springbank distillery needs little introduction.  For much of the 1980s and ‘90s it was the only survivor in Campbeltown – that curious Kintyre town of only a few thousand inhabitants (some of them also a little peculiar, but that’s another story) that once boasted 34 distilleries and its own regional designation.  

Springbank has been owned by the same family since 1837 and is the most old-fashioned distillery in Scotland, with a rigid adherence to traditional methods that extends to the sourcing of local barley and the full control of all aspects of the production process on site and by hand – they even bottle it themselves.  

It’s probably not a coincidence that Springbank whisky is so good, and so appealing to a sad heretic like myself who holds fast to the self-evident truth that whisky in the old days was better than what most distilleries are producing now.  Springbank is the honourable exception to that rule, simply because they haven’t changed how they make their whisky.

Today’s Dusty Corner entry is from a series of several dozen cases of Springbank 10yo that appeared over the course of a few months last year at Whisky-Online Auctions – where the hell did they get so much from?! We’re unlikely ever to know…  

One of the great things about old bottles of Springbank is that they have the date they were bottled on the inside of the front label: this particular 10yo is from February 2005.  As luck would have it, I recently acquired a bottle of Springbank 15yo from June 2005 during a particularly expensive trip to Bologna in the company of my friend and enabler Enrico Gaddoni, so there’ll be another Springbank-themed Dusty Corner whenever I get round to opening that one.

Springbank 10yo Bot. 2005, 46%

Nose: Grass, wet sand, honey, seashells, a wisp of smoke… basically, an autumn beach barbeque.  With time and patience a tantalising hint of fruit salad emerges. This is a style I’ll never get tired of nosing – which is probably just as well, as I accidentally ended up with four cases from the auctions…

Palate: Smokier than expected… much smokier, a dry, ashy presence.  The coastal notes are prominent too, and a thread of honey mid-palate.  Faint exotic fruit comes in late as the smoke fades.

Finish:  If I had to nitpick I’d say that there’s a hint of paperiness in the finish, suggesting a tired cask or two in the assemblage. But certainly not enough to spoil a terrific dram.

Comment:  Really lovely stuff. It’s not 14/10 mind-boggling unicorn juice, but if I was a scorer I’d have this in the high 80s, which is pretty great really, considering the cost (around £40 before commission and postage).  What’s funny is that the early 2000s are considered by the cognoscenti to be a weak moment for Springbank, with a few middling or dull releases perhaps due to some indiscriminate cask selections or some not particularly awesome casks being filled in the dark days of the early to mid-90s… and yet it’s STILL way beyond anything you’d pay the same money for now.  

Food for thought… sod ‘innovation’, Springbank 10yo is proof that staying true to the old-fashioned way of doing things will get you well ahead of the crowd… 

Good luck, and happy dusty-hunting!

Tim