Welcome to another edition of Tim’s Dusty Corner! This month we’re looking at one of my recommended auction buys from last year: Campbeltown Loch 21 year old!
The Campbeltown Loch blend has existed for decades – the label originally appeared under the aegis of Eaglesome Ltd, a Campbeltown delicatessen purchased in the 1960s by J.&A. Mitchell, proprietors of Springbank distillery. Eaglesome was eventually to become the Campbeltown branch of the company’s Cadenhead’s whisky shop. Some early bottlings of Campbeltown Loch were done for the Italian market and five year old and NAS expressions were the norm until at least the 1980s.
Absurd as it may sound nowadays, in the ‘90s and noughties Springbank had too much maturing stock on hand, so they upped the average age of the whisky in their standard bottlings. This resulted in a number of legendary Springbanks from the era, most notably the ‘dark sherry’ Springbank 21yo, rumoured to have whisky aged up to 35 years old in the marriage.
Meanwhile, older versions of Campbeltown Loch also appeared: a 21 year old and 25 year old debuted in the early 2000s (even a 30 year old in 2008). The 25 year old is a spectacular dram rumoured to contain, among other things, 1969 Ardbeg and 1970 Springbank, while the less exalted 21 year old has always flown under the radar and therefore prices have stayed low.
This particular bottle of Springbank 21 year old dates from the early 2000s, and there’s certainly no doubting the provenance – the blend comes in the famous Springbank bottle with a large embossed ‘Springbank Distillery’ on the neck.
The great thing about these bottlings of Campbeltown Loch is that the proportion of single malt is said to be very high, likely at least 40% but with some rumours going as high as 60%. Of course, we don’t know what that malt may be, but it’s inconceivable that there wouldn’t be any Springbank malts included. The grain component is supposed to be from Girvan distillery, but of course none of this ‘information’ can be corroborated. As always, the best option is to let our palates be the judge!
Campbeltown Loch 21 Year Old (Early 2000s), 40%
Nose: Heather, tweed and light woodsmoke, faint homemade brown bread, a suggestion of icing sugar, glazed pastry and raisins… perhaps a Belgian bun? Evolves with sweetpea, woodglue – that’ll be the grain – and a more suggestive sootiness.
Palate: Medium-bodied. Gentle and sweet initially, then more bready with flapjacks and honey. A strong nuttiness – hazel and Brazil, since you ask – emerges mid-palate, becoming more noisettey as a hint of milk chocolate surfaces. The raisins are still there in the background and there’s a pleasing, subtle thread of smoke underpinning the palate and countering the sweetness, so it’s never cloying.
Finish: Medium-length, sweet, woody, nutty. Fading bonfire flavours.
Comment: This was too cheap even when it first got released (around £30-£35). A lovely dram, admittedly less earth-moving than the 25yo but certainly great value for the price (I paid £75 but it has been as low as £50). At 40% rather than Springbank’s normal 46%, it feels like a missed opportunity, but very enjoyable nonetheless.