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.

Visit May 2017

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.

Visit May 2017
🍷  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.

Visit May 2017

🌲  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

Visit May 2017


Jan said...

Great review Jan!
About the ABV. A yearly angle's share of 1-2% is a loss in volume and not fully loss of alcohol. That changes the puzzle or not?

Mauricio Porto said...

Hello Jan! That's a shame. Springbank has some remarkable malts, I could almost bet this would be awesome. I once tried a 36 year grain whisky (a Port Dundas) and had the same impression. Wood completely took over the dram. But I thought that was due to the grain whisky.

About the angel's share: as far as I know, not only alcohol evaporates. Water also, even in wet and cold climates, such as Scotland. Alcohol, however, evaporates faster than water (but the total angel's share is composed of water + alcohol)

Also, the angel's share does not work as an arithimetical progression, but geometrical (did I spell that right?). That is: the "average" of 2% is 2% of the remaining whisky in the cask. So, its 2% of 100%, then 2% of 98% and so on. That's why Gordon & McPhail could bottle their Mortlach Generations. I've once heard that Mortlach's angel's share is almost 0,5%!

I don't know if that answers the question though. But it is believable :)



Anonymous said...

Wow, what an exceptional dram, dear Jan.

Congrats. Sounds very interesting and truly special, despite it seems a bit "over-oaked"...

As for the ABV, it might be that the spirit went into cask with more than 64%, but not too much more as it is not a tripple destillation. The roughly 2% Angel's share per annum are with regard to the total volume of liquid in the cask not just the alcohol...so this might have been a very dense cask not loosing much, or it was luck regarding the climate in the warehouse and hence less evapuration. In some cases (especially with US Bourbon stored in racked warehouses under the roof in hot climates and humidity is also a factor regarding the evapuration) the ABV in a cask might also get higher during maturation as it might be that more water than alcohol evapurates. Finally, the 2% per annum is just a rough approximate value. It is the percentage the scotch whisky association/ industry and HM Revenue & Customs have agreed upon.

For further informartion see also:



Best regards

Jan van den Ende said...

Hi Jan, Maurico and Bjorn! Thanks a lot for taking the time to post your comments. Your points are all very valid of course. Still, if you consider just only 0,75% of Alcohol loss per year you still end up with a little over 42% after 34 years, considering that the Spirit went in the cask at 70% which is, and I agree with Bjorn, quite high! So the puzzle is not quite solved also because I would assume that the cask was stored in your regular rather cold and wet Scottish conditions. Leaves us to conclude that, like Mauricio mentioned, the actual Angels' s Share is much lower than 2% per year when considering the geometrical progression and/or, as Bjorn mentiined, the Springbank matured in very dense casks. I do wonder though why the Customs would accept the 2% per year. Or is that geometrical as well? Any way, thanks a lot once again and Cheers!

Unknown said...

Jan, that's an excellent question. I'd believe that the customs also applies the percentage in geometrical progression. It would work like revenue's tax, but the basis (the base number) would increase in one case, and decrease in the other. I'm not sure though, I've never asked any distillery manager about that! :)


Jan van den Ende said...

Next time I'm in Scotland I will certainly ask around!

Anonymous said...

Dear Jan,

Well, I think this "mystery" about the ABV is also one reason why whiskies of such ages are extremely rare, as many casks have to be bottled earlier as they otherwise might drop below the minimum of 40% ABV.

All the best regarding your quest to solve this riddle.

Best regards

Jan van den Ende said...

Thanks Bjorn! I'm sure it will take a while before I taste a whisky of that age again!