Review: Springbank Local Barley

I decided I wanted to kick of the weekend with something spectacular, and thanks to a sample I got from Herbert Roenhorst I managed to do just that. Somehow, he got his hands on a bottle of the latest Springbank Local Barley, the 11-year-old 2023 release. And I, happy to be given the chance, jumped on the opportunity to purchase a sample from him. Chances like that don’t come by that often after all.

With their cask strength Local Barley offerings, Springbank gives you quite a bit of insight into what went into the bottle. Like the fact that it was made from Belgravia Barley, grown at the Glencraigs Farm. But they also tell you the type of casks that were used, and when I look at the recipe my mouth already starts to water. This whisky was made from 55% ex-sherry casks, 35% ex-bourbon casks, and 10% ex-rum casks. I personally love a dram with a nice balance between sherry and bourbon casks and I’m more than curious to see what the effect of those rum casks has been. Let’s find out!

Tasting Notes: Springbank Local Barley – 2023 Release
Stats:

ABV: 55,1% (110,2 proof)

Age: 11 years old

Distillery: Springbank

Owned by: J. & A. Mitchell & Co. Ltd.

Category: Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes

Setting:

I just got home from walking the dogs and as I happened to drop by my old neighborhood, I decided to take the dogs for a walk in the park there. My youngest has never been there before, as he grew up at my current place. But to see the recognition in the eyes of the oldest (who is eleven years now and hadn’t been at park for 8 years) brought me a lot of joy. And it seemed to do the same for her. She was running around as if she was a pup once more. This, paired with the nice sunny afternoon, left me in an excellent mood and eager to try a truly special whisky. To enjoy the little things in life. So, I pulled out and poured the Springbank Local Barley and tasted it neat in a Glencairn Copita.

Nose:

Even though it was only 10%, the rum barrels seem to immediately make their influence known. I’m finding one of my all-time favourite flavours in this whisky from the get-go: rum raisins. So, it’s safe to say we’re off to a good start. I’m picking up on some orange peel as well, and herbal hints of fennel and star anise play in the background. There’s a little bit of funk present as well, though it seems less than what I’m used to from Springbank. The note I’d describe it as here would be lemon oil, the kind you might use to oil the fretboard of your guitar. Water seems to bring out the icing on the cake… literally. Sadly, it mutes some of the flavours I preferred over that last one.

Palate:

Despite the fact that this is a cask strength offering, it doesn’t strike me as very alcohol forward at all. But perhaps that is still due to my Elijah Craig Barrel Proof review from earlier this week, that came in at a whopping 68,3%. Compared to that this Springbank Local Barley is a mild dram indeed. What I am finding here is a very pleasant dram, that perhaps plays it a bit safe for a Springbank. Just like on the nose, that Campbeltown funk presents itself very delicately. But that might just be because the other flavours pack a bigger punch. I’m finding raw cookie dough, salted caramel, and frosting. But there’s some sourdough bread in here as well, which gives a nice complexity to the dram. I’m finding just a hint of passion fruit, yet sadly no rum raisins this time around.

The mouthfeel of this dram is rather oily and there’s a bit of spiciness as well, albeit very mild. Water brings forth a healthy dose of fresh sugar cane, with just a little hint of moss. Moving some of the vegetal notes in this dram towards centre stage.

Finish:

The finish of this dram is relatively long, and I was more than pleased to see the rum raisins make a reappearance here. A crushed black peppercorn note also lingers, although the part it plays seems somewhat muted. There’s a dryness to the finish that reminds me of the mouthfeel you sometimes get after sipping a dry white wine, which gives it a certain freshness that makes me feel like this dram would be well suited for a summer evening.

And if you want to make the most of that experience: find yourself a glowing field of Barley, put down a comfy picnic blanket and sip your Springbank Local Barley as you watch the sun set. If you want to enjoy that moment a while longer, or a bit more intense… than add some water. That seemed to do the trick for me and it added some tobacco leaves as well!

Verdict:

I feel so lucky that I got to experience this dram, especially considering the prices it now goes for on the secondary market. Sadly enough, Local Barley’s are sold out as soon as they hit the shelves, and while I think the dram is worth its original retail price tag, I couldn’t possibly justify the prices I see it go for on the secondary market. Just enjoying the whisky for what it is though, I have to conclude that this is an excellent dram and it’s a joy to explore. To which I will also add that you do have to give this one some time.

I’m very glad that Herbert gave me the advice to let it sit for a while in my glass, as that seemed to open up the dram indeed. It eventually becomes more complex as you go. But this is not a dram that will instantly take the reins and take you for a ride. It requires you to put some time and effort into it as well. But when you do, you’ll be richly rewarded!

Rating:

89/100

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