Springbank Local Barley 11 (53.1%)

This expression is the second in a series of Local Barley expressions done by Springbank, following the excellent 16 year old (reviewed here). This expression is made from Bere barley, while last year’s was made from Prisma.

Knowing that bloggers will, invariably, bitch about prices and value for money, the company has released the following statement:

“There is a dramatically increased cost in producing whisky from barley grown in Kintyre compared to other parts of Scotland. This is mostly due to three factors: the cost of sourcing the barley itself is usually higher; we have to “work harder” with the barley during the malting process in order to be able to turn it into whisky; we get a lower yield from the local barley (approximately 10% fewer litres of alcohol from each tonne of barley).”  (Full statement here)

Z Marks the Spot, Aros Farm…

This Bere Barley grown on the Aros Farm on the Kintyre peninsula. Its location is marked by the purple Z, and is located about 3.5 kilometers from the distillery.

Bere barley is a fast growing, early ripening strain of barley that has six rows of grains, three on each side of the stalk. Most of the barley used in Scotland grows much more slowly and grows in two rows. Two row barley has some major advantages over Bere, which explains why it’s BEREly used for distilling (sorry…I had to 🙂 ) : Firstly, despite Bere having more kernels per stalk, they’re much smaller than the kernels on two row barley, so overall you get less barley per hectare, making it more expensive to use. Second, the fact that the kernels are small is a disadvantage in distillation, as they yields less alcohol per ton than with other varieties. Third, Bere has very long stalks, which will fall over and flatten in strong winds (officially called “lodging”). Needless to say, the cost of the Bere that lodged will have to be added to the cost of that which is actually usable, thus making it overall even more expensive.

Bruichladdich did some work with Bere barley, and got it on the market with a few consecutive vintages (2006 to 2009).  Our expression was distilled from barley grown in 2005, just like Bruichladdich’s first version, the 2006.

On to the tasting:

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Springbank Local Barley 11, Distilled February 2006 in 26 Bourbon Casks, Yield 9000 Bottles (53.1%)

Appearance: Gold with a very thin necklace, taking a very long time to release the legs.

Nose: Very clearly Springbank, albeit a rather outlier in the dirtiness. It has some wet cardboard, the malty smell you get when the mash tun is working in a distillery, and some wet peat. Diesel oil and dirty smoke with some bright honey with fresh leaves. With time in the glass, some of the dirtiness disappears and a cleaner maltiness takes over.

Palate: Rough at first, with motor oil, furniture polish, pomelo rind and some freshly broken peppercorns.

Linger: Very Campbeltown with peat and sweetness with a dryness and a sweetness that remains with the smokiness and a dryness. It remains for a while with a hint of spice.

Conclusion

This is no quick dram. You need to give it time, and it will evolve in the glass. This is also one to keep away from people new to the elixir of life, as it takes some depth of experience to appreciate. I will say that I liked this whisky less than last year’s Local Barley. It’s much harsher. Sadly, I can’t really consider it a true Bere vs. Prisma barley strain war, because I think those extra five years in the barrel were significant to the development of last year’s. I will say that while I did buy a bottle, I wouldn’t recommend doing so for anything over the original price, as that is, truely, the upper limit of the VFM for this expression.

With the holiday of Passover beginning tonight, Malt and Oak will be on vacation – we’ll be back on the 19th, coming up on the blog’s third anniversary 🙂

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