Springbank 37 Years (Chieftain's) Review

“Liquid Oak”

Whisky Review # 634

Country: Scotland
Region: Campbeltown
Brand: Springbank
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 37 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 46%
Maturation: Most likely Bourbon casks.
Chill Filtration: No  
Price Range: 950-1000 US Dollars for similar bottlings. (August 2017)
Buying Advice: 😐Neutral. Nice Malt. Very Expensive. Lots of Oak.

Colour: Dark Gold (Natural Colour)

Nose: I'm quite excited because this Springbank is the oldest Whisky I have tasted so far and probably also the most expensive. Be sure to give it sufficient air time in the glass. Okay, here we go! The first thing I notice is the Oak. I have no idea whatsoever in what type of casks this Springbank matured but based on the Colour and the Aromas I'm pretty sure they were Bourbon casks. The Oak is very present and one can argue that the Malt could - and perhaps should have been bottled a few years earlier. Together with the Oak arrive some Varnish, Tobacco and Old Leather aromas. Dusty Books overlooked for years in a slightly damp cellar. The second wave of Aromas can best be described as a Tropical Fruit salad served with Fresh Cream, Honey and a warm Vanilla sauce. I recognise Papaya, Melon, Apple, Pear, Banana, Mango, Peach and Kiwi. You can spend an hour on the Nose and that's exactly what I did. Every five minutes or so a new Aroma pops up. You must find your way around the ever present Oak though. I also find Buttered Toast, Toasted Grain, Caramel, Toffee, Coffee flavoured Dark Chocolate, Dirt Road, Wax, Orange Peel, Floral Soap, light Spices like Pepper, Ginger and Cinnamon and the faintest whiff of Smoke. It's a full and rich Nose and there's a lot to discover. I miss balance though as the Oak is too overwhelming.

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Palate: Bitter-Sweet, slightly Sour, Mineral and Spicy with Toasted Barley, Toast and Orange Marmalade, Honey, Vanilla, Lemon and Grapefruit Juice, Varnish, Charred Oak, Floral Soap, Herbal Tea, Wet Cardboard, Orange Peel, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Tobacco, Wax, faint Smoke, Dirt Road and Menthol. I miss the tropical Fruits from the Nose!  

Finish: Quite Long and Spicy! Sweet at first but with a little Bitterness towards  the very dry end. Charred Oak and Varnish flavours remain in your throat for quite some time actually. I also find Red Wine, Tannins, Orange Liqueur, Wax, Vanilla, Toffee, Honey, Dirt Road, Lemon/Grapefruit Juice, Ginger, Pepper, Cardamom, Nutmeg, Tobacco, Herbal Tea, Floral Soap and Menthol. The dryness makes you eager to have another sip!  

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and the Wood retreats somewhat and makes place for Fruit and Malt. The Finish becomes quite Short and lifeless though. I have read all recent articles that state that Water usually improves Whisky but I am one of those Rebels that doesn't necessarily agree with that. You might pick up a couple of extra aromas and flavours but you also change the character of the Spirit. If you really like Fruit liqueurs, by all means add Water to your Whisky. Personally I almost always prefer the original character of the Spirit unless we are talking about a Cask Strength Whisky with a very high ABV. And still...! It just proves that the way you prefer to drink your Whisky is very personal.   

Rating: 88

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 21.5 - Finish: 22 - Overall: 22

Similar Bottle!

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, The Bottler and Today's Whisky:

The Springbank distillery was founded in 1828 in Campbeltown and is owned by the Mitchell family since 1837. In the past, Campbeltown was home to over 30 distilleries but only Springbank and Glen Scotia have survived. The Springbank distillery produces three whiskies. The lightly peated Springbank that is distilled two and a half times, the heavily peated Longrow that is distilled twice and the unpeated Hazelburn that is distilled three times. Springbank is a very traditional  distillery and the whole Whisky making process is done at their premises. That includes malting 100% of the Barley. Because of this, Springbank became a sort of cult distillery with many loyal fans. Prices increased accordingly during the last 10 years. We visited the distillery in May this year and absolutely loved it! It's like going back in time. I can fully recommend a visit!

Ian Macleod and Co. Ltd, Broxburn, Scotland was founded in 1833 by Leonard J. Russell Senior and has remained in the Russell family ever since. The current managing director is Leonard Russell. During the years the company bought a number of Whisky, Rum and Gin brands and started a bottling operation in a joint-venture with J & G Grant. The name changed to Ian Macleod Distillers Ltd with the acquisition of the Glengoyne distillery in 2003. In 2011, the company also bought the Tamdhu distillery.

A number of Springbank 37 Years were released in the Ian Macleod's Chieftain's series in the period 2005-2008. They were bottled with ABV's ranging from 40% to Cask Strength. The miniature I'm tasting today was bottled at 46%. It does not carry any information but based on the above it must have been distilled in the late 1960's or early 1970's.

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🍷  The Spirit 

Springbank operates 1 Wash still and a pair of Spirit stills. Their Lyne arms are slightly pointing downwards and produce a medium-bodied, Sweet, Spicy and Oily spirit. The water is sourced from the Crosshills Loch.

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🌲  The Wood:

The distillery uses lots of Ex-Sherry casks for their Springbank expression but in this case I believe that the Chieftain's 37 Years matured in a mix of first-fill and second-fill Bourbon casks.

Drinking Experience: Good


Was I expecting too much? Probably. It's of course not every day that you try a Single Malt that was distilled when you were around 18 years of age. Thirty-Seven years is a long time in a cask however, even for the strong and Oily Springbank Spirit. Too long in my opinion. The Wood simply overwhelms the other Aromas and Flavours of which there are enough to be found when Nosing and Tasting this Springbank. As a result, the Springbank 37 Y is a nice Single Malt but it misses balance. The nice Fruit on the Nose never gets a chance on the Palate and in the Finish. I am also a bit puzzled by the ABV of 46%. Let's assume the Spirit entered the cask with 70% although it's usually around 63%. The Angel's Share amounts to roughly 2% per year. Even if we only consider 1% per year, we would end up with an ABV of 33%. So either the Spirit entered the cask with a considerable higher ABV or the Angel's Share was quite a bit lower than 2% per year. Anybody that can shine a light on this matter is kindly requested to leave a comment. Considering all the above I was slightly disappointed by this 37 year old Springbank. I really like the Fruit on the Nose despite the Oak but on the Palate and in the Finish that same Oak is really overwhelming. I was fortunate to have bought this miniature in The Netherlands in 2014 as part of a small Ian Macleod introduction set. Because I would never spend a 1000 US Dollars or so on a bottle of whisky. Not even on a 37 Year old!

Jan van den Ende                                                                   August 21, 2017

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Scapa Skiren Review

“No Substitute for the 16 Years” 

Whisky Review # 633

Country: Scotland
Region: Highlands - Islands - Orkney
Brand: Scapa Skiren - Batch SK01
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 40%
Maturation: Bourbon Casks 
Chill Filtration: Yes  
Price Range: US$ 60-70 (August 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😒 Negative. Let's wait for the return of the 16 Years! 

Colour: Golden(Artificially Coloured) 

Nose: The first very clear impression is of Malt Biscuits. I found something quite similar in the Cardhu 12 Years. Barley Juice I called it on that occasion. There is also a quite clear note of New Oak that I regularly encounter in West-European mainland Malts. After a while I also get Buttered Toast, Wax, Heather-Honey, Toffee, Straw, Butterscotch, Green Apples, Apricot Marmalade, Toasted Salted Almonds, Citrus Peel, White Wine and Fresh Herbs. The Alcohol remains in the background. On the Nose, the Skiren is not bad but a bit dull and lifeless. 

Palate: The delivery is a little Thin due to the low ABV. It remains Malty and Waxy with Sweet Barley, Caramel, Toffee, Brown Sugar, Butterscotch, Vanilla, Almonds, Heather-Honey, Apple, Pear, Lemon-Peel, light Pepper, Cinnamon, Salt, Cloves, Dusty Road, Sour Grapes, Resin and hints of Milk Chocolate and Sweet Artificially Flavoured Banana Ice-Cream.       

Finish: Bitter-Sweet, Middle-Long, a little Edgy and with a light Metallic off-note right at the end. It stays Malty and Creamy with Puff Pastry filled with Apples, Butterscotch, Toffee and Malt Biscuits. I also find Caramel, Toasted Almonds, Vanilla, Citrus Peel, Heather-Honey, Wax, Cinnamon, light Pepper, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Salt and Cocoa Butter.  

Drinking Advice:
I added a few drops of Water and the Skiren turns into a Malt flavoured Floral Perfume. Better sip it neat.

Rating: 81.5           

Nose: 20.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The Distillery was founded in 1885 by John Townsend and his business partner MacFarlane in St. Ola, close to Kirkwall on Orkney. It was mothballed a couple of times over the years but since it was bought by Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) in 2005 things started to improve. A large part of the production disappears in Blends like Chivas Regal and Ballentine's. Scapa did appear on the Single Malt map though in 2008 when the 16 Years was launched. This Malt became quite popular but unfortunately it has been discontinued in 2015 and replaced by the Skiren I'm reviewing today. You can still buy a 16 Year old Scapa named Jutland at the distillery. Scapa derives from the old Norse word Scalp that means boat. It currently produces around 1 million liters per year. 

The Skiren (Norse for Glittering Bright Skies) was launched in 2015, the same year the distillery opened for visitors.

Picture Credit: Tjederswhisky

🍷  The Spirit 

Scapa only operates one pair of stills. The Wash still is one of only two surviving Lomond stills. The Lyne arm of the Spirit still points slightly upwards at first and produces a rather light, Floral and Grassy spirit. The water is sourced from the Lingro Burn.

Picture Credit: Richard Thomas

🌲  The Wood:

The Skiren matures in First Fill American Oak Bourbon/Whiskey casks purchased in the US states of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Drinking Experience: Average and Disappointing. 


Apparently, the Skiren is one of those Single Malts born out of necessity rather than free will. Dwindling stocks and increased demand must have lead Scapa to discontinue the 16 Years and replace it with the Skiren. And while the price of the Skiren is almost identical to the old 16 Years, it can not compete with the latter in terms of Aromas, Flavours and overall quality. There is an artificial feel to the Skiren and the Metallic off-note in the Finish is slightly off-putting. I fully understand the necessity of distilleries to cope with decreasing stocks. I do not agree however when younger, rather immature Malts like the Skiren are released as a replacement at the approximate same price. Despite the fancy name and the nice presentation and packaging. I really can't recommend the Skiren at this price level and I anxiously await the return of the 16 Years!     

Jan van den Ende                                                                   August 17, 2017

Glentauchers 6 Years Review

“Sherry Oh Baby”

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Glentauchers (UD Bottler - Bottled for Whisky Partner)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 6 Years
ABV: 61 %
Date: 29/03/2014

Beach Hotel, Juquehy

I've not been posting for a couple of days as I was out of town as you can see above. I know it's hard to believe but actually I was there to work. But we had some fun as well as you can imagine! Well, Back to Life as Soul II Soul taught us in 1989.

Colour: Chestnut/Oloroso Sherry

Nose: This Glentauchers is naturally coloured and its dark Chestnut colour leads me to assume that it matured in an Ex-Oloroso Cask. The Nose confirms this. At first I find Sherry, Orange, Dried Fruits, Dark Chocolate, Cocoa Powder, Malt,   Tobacco, Vanilla, Toasted Cereals and Butter. After a while I also encounter some nice but rather quiet Fruity tones. Alternately I smell Pears, Peaches, Plums and Red Apples. Some Perfume as well and traces of Dried Herbs and Espresso. The Alcohol is strong of course but it's not too difficult to find your way around it. It's hard to believe this Single Malt only matured for 6 years. It seems to have been a well chosen Cask. The only reference to the Spirit's relative youth is this Yeasty Bread Dough tone that pops up every once in a while. I can't find any real surprises but on the Nose this Glentauchers is sufficiently solid. 

Taste: Lots of Sherry and Spices like Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Pepper. At this point the Alcohol gets quite strong. I also find Dried Fruits, Oak, Treacle, Dried Herbs, Malt, Dried Banana and Red Apple.

Finish: Middle-Long and Sweet with Fruit Cake, Raisins, Dried Banana Bars and Oloroso. Spices like Nutmeg, Pepper and Cinnamon balance the Sweetness. I also find light Oak and Dark Chocolate tones. The Finish is quite smooth and that's remarkable given the high ABV. 

I added a little Water and Floral, Malty and Perfume-like tones take over while the Sherry retreats. On the Palate and in the Finish the Spices are reinforced while some Licorice and Menthol pop up. I prefer to sip it neat despite the high ABV as the character of the Spirit is better preserved that way.

Rating: 85

Nose: 22 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 21

General Remarks: I can't tell you a lot about this limited expression I'm afraid. It was distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2012 exclusively for the Whisky Partner Cask Strength Collection. It's Naturally Coloured and Non-Chillfiltered. Some 360 bottles were commercialized apparently, roughly at 70 US Dollars a bottle.

The Glentauchers Distillery was founded in 1897 by James Buchanan and W.P. Lowrie. Today it is owned by Chivas (Pernod-Ricard). At this moment, almost all of the spirit is used in Blends like Chivas and, especially, Ballantine's. As far as I know, no Distillery Bottlings are available at the moment.

Drinking Experience Neat: Good

Conclusion: I find it difficult to determine the final note on this Glentauchers. I like the Nose and I find it sufficiently interesting for a 6 Year old. In a blind tasting I would have easily guessed it to be between 10 and 12 years. It's on the Palate where I get a bit confused. Why should a 6 Year Old Single Malt have an ABV of 61%? What's there to hide if anything? Because the Alcohol really starts to dominate the other Flavours. And when you add Water, the Spirit gets a bit off-balance. The Finish is remarkably smooth again despite the high ABV. This is my first Gentauchers so I don't have any references. But I believe this Single Malt would have benefited from a lower ABV of say around 46%. As it is I would not consider drinking this high ABV Glentauchers on a daily basis although I enjoyed the Tasting Experiment.

P.S: "Cherry Oh Baby" was a big Hit single for UB 40 in 1984!

Jan van den Ende                                                                March 2014

Glenfarclas 2002 (Whiskyherbst) Review

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”

Whisky Review # 632

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Glenfarclas 2002
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: 9 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 56.1%
Maturation: Sherry Casks 
Chill Filtration: No 
Price Range: An average US$ 175 (August 2017)
Sample received from Jan Bronkhorst, the Netherlands. Many Thanks! 
Buying Advice: 😐 Good Single Malt. Quite Expensive. Christmas Gift! 

Colour: Mahogany/Dark Brown (Natural Colour)

Nose: The colour suggests active casks and this is confirmed by the Nose. Very rich, lightly Sweet and oily Oloroso Sherry is the main driver here with an array of Dried Fruits, Nuts and Spices. I find Figs, Dates, Raisins, Sultanas, Almonds, Chestnuts, light Clove, Cinnamon and Ginger. Other Aromas include Sweet Barley, Straw, Grass, Buttered Toast, Blackberries, Port Wine, Heather-Honey, Salted Caramel, Brown Sugar, Mint, Peach, Orange Peel, Balsamic Vinegar, Oak and hints of Dusty Road, Chocolate and Rum. Perhaps some very faint Sulphur and Varnish notes but they are very nicely integrated. The Alcohol is noticeable but does not spoil the party. The 2002 feels certainly older than its 9 years. Good Cask Management.

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Palate: The delivery is Powerful thanks to the high ABV. Full, Rich and Mature despite its young age. I find Toasted Barley, Golden Syrup, Brown Sugar, Dried Fruit like Figs, Plums, Raisins and Apricots, Roasted Nuts, Caramel, Marzipan, Treacle, Heather-Honey, Oak, Orange-Peel, Pepper, Clove, Salt, Nutmeg, Ginger, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Aniseed, Mint, Tobacco and Dried Herbs.   

Finish: Middle-Long, Bitter-Sweet, Spicy and Oaky. Again,you would guess this to be much older than 9 years. Quite Dry and with some clear Peppermint and Menthol notes towards the end. I also find Toasted Barley, Dried Fruit like Figs and Apricots, Nuts, Marzipan, Milk Chocolate, Orange Marmalade, Dry Earth, Salted Caramel, Heather-Honey, Tobacco, Port Wine, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom and Aniseed. The Alcohol is quite strong and I also find some traces of Sulphur. Nothing serious though.

Drinking Advice:
Due to the fact that I only had a small sample at my disposal I merely tasted this Glenfarclas neat. 

Rating: 88          

Nose: 22.5 - Taste: 22 - Finish: 21.5 - Overall: 22

Bottle # 250 out of 672

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in 1836 by Robert Hay in Ballindalloch (Banffshire). It was bought by the Grant family in 1865 and it remains in their possession until today. The core range consists of the 8, 10, 12 , 15, 21 and 25 years, the 105 CS and the NAS Heritage. The Glenfarclas Malt is also used in Blends like the Isle of Skye. Glenfarclas produces around 2 million liters per year. The distillery only uses Ex-Sherry casks to mature the Spirit. 

The Glenfarclas 9 Years I'm reviewing today was bottled at cask strength in 2011 exclusively for the German whisky fair "Copenicker Whiskyherbst" that has been organised in Berlin since the year 2000. Since 2013 the venue is an old Malt factory. The fair attracts around 3500 visitors every year.

🍷  The Spirit 

Glenfarclas operates 3 pair of directly fired stills. They are the largest stills on Speyside. The Lyne arms mostly point downwards. The stills produce a full, nutty, lightly peated and sherried Spirit. The water is drawn from the Green Burns.

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🌲  The Wood:

The Glenfarclas 2002 Whiskyherbst matured in First-Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks. A total of 672 bottles were filled. Despite a few light Sulphur notes, the cask(s) have wonderfully interacted with the Glenfarclas Spirit. It proves that you can produce good and relatively young whisky when using quality casks. 

Drinking Experience: Good

Conclusion: You're already thinking about Christmas and you don't know what to ask Santa? In that case, a bottle of the Glenfarclas 2002 Whiskyherbst might be an interesting proposition. There are still some bottles for sale on the Internet. It's a very nice Whisky to enjoy after a nice Christmas dinner. And, who knows, with a good Cigar for company. It's not a perfect whisky as the Alcohol is a little Edgy at times and there are a few light Sulphur/Varnish notes  around. But on the whole this Glenfarclas 2002 shows what can be done in a relatively short time with a good quality Spirit and some good casks. Well done Glenfarclas and well done Whiskyherbst. I'm ready for Christmas. When drinking this Malt I can almost hear the Jingle Bells!    

Jan van den Ende                                                                   August 14, 2017

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