Mar 182016
 

Springbank’s craft needs no further mention on this blog. Still making whisky the way it was made 100 years ago, and remaining a major employer in Campbeltown, many whisky connoisseurs would name Springbank as their favorite distillery. In fact, in an informal poll taken in a whisky fanatics Facebook group I belong to, it came out the clear winner in the member’s favorite list.

Photo Credit: panoramio.com

Photo Credit: panoramio.com

Machrimore Farm

Machrimore Farm

One of the strongest trends today is a movement toward localization. Obviously, Bruichladdich have been working the terroir angle for a while, and it’s but natural for Springbank to get as local as possible. This is nothing new, as local barley was used in the past, but the last release of a locally grown expression was in 2001, so it’s time to get back to it.

This expression was distilled 16 years ago from barley grown on Low Machrimore Farm, in Southend, on the southern sure of the peninsula.

This is the first of a series of five annual releases of local barley. There are no details as yet of the expected releases, and I don’t really expect any until next year.

 

Photo Credit: masterofmalt.com

Photo Credit: masterofmalt.com

Springbank Local Barley 16 Year Old, Low Machrimore Farm, Prisma Barley, 9000 Bottles (54.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Straw, sturdy ring letting off slow legs.

Nose: You’d never mistake this dram for anything but Springbank. The dirty freshness hits you right away, with a tamed honey sweetness, with an oily vanilla, sort of like a vanilla air freshener in a garage. Peat is present without overpowering it. The oily character stays on the nose. After sone time in the glass, peat and honey come through very strongly.

Palate: Thick and viscous, peaty and spicy, this is a serious dram to sip on. It’s pretty sweet, with the bourbon casks doing a good job here. Nutmeg and white pepper appear with that oily quality.

Linger: Peppery spice, honey and peat playing for a long time. Down the gullet there’s spice. That oily dirtyness stays with you.

Conclusion

You can tell that a lot of work was done with this expression both in the care taken in the craft and in the casks. This is an unmistakably classic Springbank. My only concern in the rather low VFM it offers at £95. While I found it to be really good, I’d expect nothing less from Springbank, but not so extraordinary as to justify the price tag.

I will further express my concern with a price increase I found on the recent batch of the 12 year old Cask Strength is 60% more expensive than it was but a year ago (€85 versus €54). I can stomach price increases, and realize, obviously, that this is the market we’re in, but raising prices by 60% in a year is well beyond excessive.

UPDATE:
* * * After publishing this post, Mr. David Allen from Springbank has officially responded to my post saying that wholesale prices on the core range have not been raised by Springbank in the past two years, and that the pricing problem is, therefore, limited to the stores I visited.  * * *

  10 Responses to “Springbank Local Barley 16 Year Old (54.3%)”

  1. Hey Michael,

    There were three bottlings of Local Barley whisky done for the Springbank Society since 2011 (for the Springbank Society and one as a Christmas dram).

    Just pointing this out 😉

    Also interesting: Current shop prices are over 300 euros already. It’s insane.

    • Yes, Sjoerd.
      I’m familiar with them, but as they were not made available to the public, they’re not really a ‘release’…
      As I said to a commenter in Hebrew on Facebook today, VFM was too low at MSRP, so anything higher is utter madness.

  2. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the feedback. However Springbank’s core range wholesale prices have not changed in the last 2 years so the 60% increase must be a local issue.

    RRP for the Local Barley is circa £95.00 but it has sadly already found its way onto auction sites were it has sold for £210-£225 a bottle.

    • Thank you David for your clarification.
      To me, £95 for the Local Barley is steep, but as it’s fully sold out, I’m obviously wrong (at least in market terms). I still think that around £80 would have been more appropriate, but that’s my own subjective opinion. Of course, the whole blog is but my own subjective opinion 🙂
      As to the price hikes on the 12 CS, I checked prices at two stores I buy from in The Netherlands. One was at €84.95 when I checked on Wednesday, and are now at €74.95 (here), the other at €89.95 (here).
      Since I now learn that the price hikes have not originated with Springbank, we must conclude, then, that something is rotten [with your importer] in the Kingdom of Netherlands….

      • Hi there,

        the pricing level for whisky is a general problem already. Prices for 10 or 12yo offerings have reached levels that price fans out of the market.

        Not for nothing do the numbers for Scotch whisky sales show rising values and declinig volumes at the same time in the last three years.

        The blogosphere takes to this topic more and more but the industry finds the state of things too tempting to react accordingly.

        Greetings
        kallaskander

  3. […] line up prices in the last two years (a fact they publicly protested following Michael’s review on the local barley), but that means that when it comes to special editions, the gloves are off and […]

  4. […] for qualms about pricing on Springbank, David Allen, a spokesperson for Springbank Distillery, went on record a few months ago as stating that the core ranges have not been increased in two […]

  5. […] 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 […]

  6. […] Local Barley franchise, in its modern incarnation. In 2016, the series was launched with a 16 year old that was absolutely wonderful. It was followed in 2017 with an 11 year old, and last year with a 10 […]

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