The Nector of the Daily Drams – Springbank 23 year 50.6%

At La Maison du Whisky in Singapore, we settled down to explore whiskies from The Nector of the Daily Drams.

My companion has more of a peat bent so began with a peaty Springbank.

Springbank 23 year (1994/2017) 50.6%

  • Nose – A bit salty, almost a brine peat and sweet, then some lemon custard, minerals or an earthy element
  • Palate – Nice and rounded on the palate with a solid old school campfire peat, light tobacco with some stewed fruits subtly in the background
  • Finish – Really rather good – long and strong with a delicious light chocolate and almost herbal quality at the end

If you enjoy the peatier Campbeltown style, this one is certainly for you! It has a deceptive complexity that grows on you the more you sip… and yet it is also eminently approachable.

While it is from the “Springbank” distillery, in terms of style, it is what we today know as “Longrow” or the peat line from the Campbeltown distillery.

You won’t find this at a liquor store near you… instead it was last seen on Whisky Auctioneer with the winning bidder parting with £425. Gulp!

We tried it as part of a special evening with Mario of The Nector of the Daily Drams along with:

Curious to try other peaty whiskies from this distillery?

And Springbank’s unpeated avatars:

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Campbeltown’s Springbank 37 year 43%

Once and a while, a rare dram will make an appearance in Mumbai. Such was the case one fine monsoon evening. Our hosts had a rather enviable array of whiskies in their bar and gave me a chance to pick something new to open that evening. As soon as I spotted this one, there was no doubt it was the one to try.

Even more generously, they gave me a chance to take home a sample to share with others, hence it topped off our Campbeltown mini’s evening – like the “show stopper” it was!

Springbank 37 year (May 1970 / January 2005) Cask No1343 Bottle No 630 43% (Chieftain’s)

  • Nose – Green apple, cinnamon, nutty, a bit musty, perfume, fresh fruity fragrant, herbal, bubblegum, rosemary soap, light lavender, lemon grass, cedar, raw white fruit, purple grape soda, citrus orange, dry balsa wood, sour cherry
  • Palate – A lovely spice, so smooth, delicate apple, welcoming, complex
  • Finish – Long strong and gorgeous

Bottom line – it was exceedingly enjoyable – in the category of a whisky you could while away an evening with most companionably. There was an inviting, comforting quality, nuanced, balanced and complex yet in an understated way. We counted ourselves fortunate to have an opportunity to be introduced to such a fine whisky. 

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

As we went back to revisit all our Campbeltown drams, we noted a common thread of sheer drinkability – each was most enjoyable, no off notes, no harshness, with a common theme of vanilla, baked goods with most also having a light citrus fruit.

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Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia Victoriana 51.5%

Our Campbeltown minis explorations returned from Springbank to Glen Scotia to crack open the Victoriana NAS cask strength single malt.

Glen Scotia Victoriana 51.5%

  • Nose – Lemon pie, tart, sweet, doughy, lots of vanilla, more citrus chased by fresh caramel toffee sweets. After the 1st sip, added to the mix a light leather, more of the toffee, dried bay leaf or thatched straw roof, banana, sweet powder and above all vanilla… overall quite aromatic
  • Palate – Toffee caramel, tart, tobacco leaf, balance sweet spice
  • Finish – Tobacco, bitter yet pleasant and long

We both quite enjoyed this whisky – found it perfect for settling down in a comfy cushion chair or sofa, curling up with a nice dram and good book. However to be approached with caution as there is nothing that would hint at its strength – entirely deceptive as has the silky smooth flavourful feel of a 46% not 51.5%.

Here is what the folks over at Glen Scotia have to say about this whisky:

Each cask is chosen for its rare character and exceptional maturity. Finished in deep charred oak, the result is an exceptionally smooth single malt whisky whose aroma and flavour work in harmony. Bottled in the traditional way straight from the cask and without filtration, its subtle wood and vanilla flavour is enhanced by a full bodied spicy fruit aroma and mildly smokey aftertaste.

  • Nose – Dark again. An elegant nose with hints of oak driving the bouquet. Interesting creme brulee notes leading to generous caramelised fruits and finally polished oak.
  • Palate – Sweet and concentrated start with some jammy blackcurrant fruitiness. A big mid palate. Typical tightening towards the back palate. Becomes more austere with water.
  • Finish – Clean and initially sweet.The green bean, with cocoa characteristic.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown’s Springbank 15 year 46%

Next in our Campbeltown minis evening, we moved from Glen Scotia to Springbank… comparing their 15 year age statement single malt.

Springbank 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Initial waft of oaky wood, a bit of varnish, wet dough, clearly had substance, biscuits, honey, a pronounced vanilla, shifting into white peach, a bit of spicy apple juice, more baked goods with powdered icing sugar, vanilla custard… after even more time took on a sour fudge sweet quality with nuts like almonds or walnuts
  • Palate – Softer than we anticipated yet again with substance, cereals, silky, apple sauce, more of those yummy baked goods, a bit of spice in the nicest possible way… sugar and spice!
  • Finish – Dry, lightly bitter, a bit of black liquorice, medium length yet solid

We immediately concluded with the 1st sip that this was one dangerously drinkable dram, that just kept being reinforced sip by sip. This was a whisky we would be happy to have sitting on our shelf, bringing out for guests who appreciate a good dram.

Here is what the folks over at Springbank have to say about this whisky:

Like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, our 15-year-old Springbank is dark and ominous, yet delicious. Best enjoyed after dinner or with your favourite cigar, this is a true classic.

  • Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee, oak.
  • Palate: Creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla.
  • Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain and mingle with hints of leather.

PS You can find Springbank in India through The Vault Fine Spirits.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown’s Glen Scotia 15 year 46%

Our Campbeltown minis and more session began with Glen Scotia… According to the Glen Scotia folks, distilling in the Kintyre peninsula harkens back to 1609 with the distillery founded in 1832. It remained one of the two Campbeltown distilleries that survived the downturn in demand from the region and other factors that led to the closure of all but Glen Scotia and Springbank.

But what matters most is the malt… what did we think?

Glen Scotia 15 year 46%

  • Nose – Surprisingly ‘heavy’, with an initial chilli spice, the sweet white biscuits like shortbread, wet dough, loads of vanilla, wheat, light honey wine… becoming increasingly fruity with a citrus twist… after some time took on a cinnamon apple pie quality
  • Palate – Again that sense of substance, spices, hint of coffee, sweet fruits on the top of the palate, tobacco and a bit of salt at the back
  • Finish – Dry, light spice and a bit bitter

Truth be told we weren’t overly impressed initially… however as it rested, it took on increasingly a lovely honey citrus, a sweet sour spice combination that was well balanced and quite enjoyable.

Particularly after we tasted the full set and returned to it, we were delighted to find it silky smooth and really rather nice.

While we didn’t compare it directly with the Double Cask, I had a sense it may be more complex.

Here is what the folks over at Glen Scotia have to say about this whisky:

The whisky has been gently matured in our finest American oak barrels before bottling. The signature nose has hints of vanilla oak, interwoven with the subtle notes of sea spray and spicy aromatic fruits.

  • Nose – Richer colours. Broad and medium-weight with citrus peels, ginger snap biscuits. Sweet and with great depth. Apricot aromas develop then drift towards fruit salad. After a short time the wood come to the fore and water helps to release baked fruit.
  • Palate – A complicated palate where the initial nose would lead you to expect plump fruits, what you get is a surprisingly dry element. The palate fleshes out as the first impact of the nose fades. Adding water brings out the caramalised elements balanced with the wood elements expected of a 15 yr old.
  • Finish – Firm and slightly dry.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

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Campbeltown Quartet – Glen Scotia 15 + Victoriana, Springbank 15 + 37

It had been some time since we had a minis evening, and this time we focused on Campbeltown… augmented by a special whisky.

What all did we try in our Campbeltown meanderings:

What fun to explore a few drams  from the Campbeltown region… a once prodigious producer of whisky, now much reduced yet still bringing most enjoyable malts to the world.

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Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

From thriving to languishing to a recent resurgence, the Campbeltown whisky “region” that technically lost its status according to the Scotch Whisky Society. Today Campbeltown has only two producers – Springbank Distillery with its ‘extra’ plant Glengyle and Glen Scotia. Some of the distilleries that closed with prohibition and depression became brands under the Springbank family – Glengyle, Hazelburn and Longrow.

What do the Springbank/Glengyle folks have to say about their Kilkerran brand? A fair bit on the bottle label:

Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd. are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Sait Kieran had his religious cell and Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown Malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.

A not to subtle dig at Glen Scotia?

But I digress… on to the most important matter at hand… what did we think of the Kilkerran 8 year seated cask strength whisky? Note… we sampled completely blind so the tasting notes are based purely on our thoughts and speculation before the “great reveal.”

Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

  • Colour – I rather fancifully dubbed it “light sunshine”
  • Nose – Initially quite an oily peat, almost kerosene, sharp, a hospital dispensary, but then it began to mellow in the glass, revealing a fruity sweetness, some light seaweed and hint of brine, a bit of blue cheese or wet socks, shifting back to the peat with campfire embers, an earthy aroma, then more citrus sweet like a lemon tart and then betel nut
  • Palate – Fabulous! Peat perfectly balanced with sweet cinnamon and spice. Just a great balance between the three elements like a well cooked beautiful meal. Some chilli spices, more of that paan character too.
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon
  • Water – This was a whisky that welcomes water and enables so much more to come to the fore…. Absolutely fabulous with water with a delicious creme caramel, milk chocolate, very creamy quality, like a salty caramel cheese cake, a bit perfume too

There was no doubt we loved it however a few remarked how the peat in the nose was initially so intense it took over the show. However after time to oxidate and the addition of water, everything clicked into perfect harmony. Particularly the balance on the palate was simply outstanding.

Our speculation turned to discussion the quality of peat – what was clear was this was no Islay yet most hesitated to guess beyond that. Overall we found it well constructed and clearly cask strength.

The reveal of Campbeltown and for most of us, only our second Kilkerran, was a cementing of a growing opinion that these folks clearly know what they are doing.

What else do we know? That it was distilled at Glengyle in Campbeltown, is non-chill filtered with no added colouring. We understand it is a 50 PPM.

This was their 1st release which is now sold out, so if you were curious about how much would this set you back…. will need to check out a different version of this whisky – currently retailing at Master of Malt for approx £49.96 – complete value for quality!

Here is our pedigree trio:

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Pedigree Malts – Midleton, Sullivans Cove, Kilkerran

There is no doubt that the world of whisky has changed and will continue to change. What has emerged are a few players that are truly “pedigree” even if their origins are not your typical Scottish… Brands that are being recognized for their consistent calibre…

We were treated to such a trio on a fine monsoon swept evening in Mumbai… Each was sampled completely blind with the reveal done only after all three were given our full and careful consideration.

What did we try in our Pedigree Malts?

While none of these are the “traditional” pedigree vintage whiskies, each has a dedication to quality that shines through.

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Minis – Glen Scotia Double Cask 46%

I will admit, I didn’t really know what to expect with this one. My minis sampling cohort had picked up a set in London more than a year or so ago – sparked mostly by a “What the heck! Let’s try a set from Cambleton.” Then this extra bottle somehow made its way back to Mumbai too!

The double cask in this case is  PX Sherry and Bourbon. And it just so happened to kick off our minis evening exploring a few different finishes.

Glen Scotia Double Cask 46%

  • Nose – Pear and apple combine like the New Zealand hybrid papple! Or raw guava…. with a lovely honey vanilla, fresh, then caramel stroopwafel, shifting into a Christmas pudding or mince pie, sweet spices, orange… After tasting, delicious baklava dripping in honey, nuts, doughy, cinnamon. Then shifted to dusty vanilla rose. Kept moving back and forth between citrus and white fruits, hard core treacle and denser rich cake. Wonderful!
  • Palate – Strong character – spice, more of that Christmasy flavours – this time a Christmas orange with cloves, some wood, some real depth without being too “heavy” and sweet, a bit dry too
  • Finish – Bitter spice, long with black pepper

I will admit to having very modest expectations and was completely impressed. What a fabulous range of aromas, robust palate, citrus then morphing between pastries and citrus oranges and back to treacle.

Glen Scotia Double Cask is their “entry” level whisky before shifting into a range of age statements. Here is what they have to say about this whisky:

Our Double Cask is matured in the finest first fill bourbon barrels before being finished for up to twelve months in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks producing this outstanding single malt whisky that provides the perfect balance of rich spicy fruits, overlaid with the characteristic sea spray and vanilla oak finish for which the house of Glen Scotia is famous.

  • Nose – Amber. Very sweet. Initially it is all creme caramel, caramelised fruit sugars, wood sugar, toffee and fudge before some apple and peach come through. In time a charred note of bourbon with a pleasing dusty dryness. Has some power.
  • Palate – Sweet start and quite fat and though the alcohol gives a little tongue-tingling buzz the result is a good mid-palate weight. The dry distillery character is there still, but there is now depth to counter. Water slightly dismantles the different elements, but adds some dried mint.
  • Finish – Deep and dark.

What a terrific start to our minis sampling – set the bar high with substance. And now I cannot wait to try a small sample set of Glen Scotia minis waiting in the wings for another session…

Our Fabulous Finishes Minis eve included:

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Minis with fabulous finishes – Glen Scotia, Nomad, Shelter Point

Believe it or not, we had a problem of plenty… lots of different minis to potentially explore picked up our several trips.

A tasting companion neatly organized into different possible sets and the one we elected to try was whiskies with finishes… we initially planned to sample four but in the end we were content with just these three:

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