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Springbank

Springbank 21 years old - 2014 Limited Edition (70cl 46%)

€239.11 $267.48 £210.00

Earth

Tobacco, leather, fungus, rubber, light peat

Single malt Scotch whisky has generated tasting notes varied enough to put the world of wine to shame. Entire books have been published that try to do nothing but describe the taste of whiskies. This huge variation of flavour means that, if you try and condense the entire project of tasting notes to just 10 possible flavours, you will inevitably have to make some compromises. As a result, the set of flavours we have encompassed under the term “Earth” include virtually anything that is savoury or unusual, although they may not have much in common with one another. It is therefore more open to interpretation than our other flavour guides.

By “Earth” we seek to include under one umbrella all the flavours produced by light - not excessive - peat smoke: the aroma of pipe tobacco or cigar smoke, the scent of freshly dug soil, the dry smoke of a hearth fired by wood or inland peat; it may also include the distinctively savoury notes of rubber, leather or fungus that inexplicably make their way into some of the more complex single malts.

For example, peat is present in some classic favourites like Dalwhinnie or Highland Park in such small quantities that it is not at first recognisable as the same flavour that marks the peat beasts of Islay. Many of the older Lowland malts contained a thin streak of peat smoke - it remains to a certain extent in Glenkinchie, while those who are familiar with Rosebank or Littlemill will recognise a rubbery or glue-like characteristic. A medium peating level, used in many Highland or Campbeltown malts, may result in a very distinctively earthy flavour when it is lacking the saltiness that marks those of Islay: Ardmore or Blair Athol, for example, are still a good way removed from Laphroaig or Ardbeg, despite their relatively high PPM, simply because their peat source is dry and inland.

The savoury characteristic of earthy flavours goes well with the leathery or grassy side of certain cigars: the dryness may go well with a Bolivar or a Punch, while those whiskies balanced with a little sweetness might pair well with Montecristo.

Wood

Sherry casks, cedar, mahogany, cigar box

Whisky, by definition, is a grain spirit aged in oak casks - and it is the influence of this wood that produces they greatest variation of flavour. Different species of oak result in different flavours, while the previous contents of the cask has a major impact on the style of the resulting Scotch. A whisky may spend anything from three years to thirty years in wood - in some extreme cases even longer than that. Yet there are only certain cases where the resulting spirit can be said to ‘taste of wood’.

The most obvious example is when the whisky has been aged for an exceptionally long time. Conventional whisky wisdom claims that any period of ageing beyond about 25 years is wasted or even detrimental, because the spirit begins to taste more like the wood it is stored in than anything else. As a result, subtleties of flavour built up over years of maturation will be lost as the wood takes over. A certain amount of woody flavours may be desirable, however, not least because it implies that a whisky has spent a considerable amount of time ageing and has likely reached the peak of its complexity. For this reason, single malts over 25 years of age are relatively scarce (not to mention expensive), but often in high demand.

The wood of the cask imparts tannins to the spirit inside: tannins are a compound that produce a dry or astringent flavour, as found in red wine, unripened fruit, black tea…and heavily oak-influenced whisky. This means the flavours in question may be found in whisky aged in wine-influenced casks, such as those which have previously held sherry, port or red wine, as opposed to bourbon; therefore it is not always necessary for a whisky to have been aged for a very long time in order for woody flavours to be apparent. Notes of mahogany, cigar box cedar-wood or varnish are relatively common among the more savoury styles of single malt, such as complex Speysides or some Islay whiskies.

Wood is also a common flavour in many cigars, which can be expected to pair well with a woody whisky: Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo are both excellent examples, while Fonseca and Diplomaticos are good choices among the lesser known brands.

Salt

Brine, seaweed, cured meats, oil, vinegar

Any distillery tour guide will tell you of the importance of the environment for maturing whisky. After all, it takes only a couple of days to distill the spirit, but it will be slumbering in a warehouse for a minimum of three years, and often more like ten or twenty. The local environment is often described as a key factor in the particular flavour profile of any given distillery’s produce. For many, this may have more to do with romanticism than fact: but for those distilleries situated by the coast, it has a very real effect. When the waves of the tide lap against the warehouse walls, as they do at many distilleries from Islay to Orkney, the spirit inside can hardly help but absorb some of that sea air.

This explains the distinctively salty flavour present in many coastal drams. For some, such as Tobermory or Old Pulteney, the salinity forms one of the most immediately recognisable characteristics. For many of the peaty Islay whiskies, it mixes with the smoke to produce a very distinctive seaweed flavour, or notes of smoked ham and cured meat. In each case, it is unmistakeable, and absolutely unique - there is no comparable flavour in the world of wine, beer, cognac, bourbon or any other drink.

Although salty flavours are mostly associated with island whiskies (including but not limited to Islay), they may be found in many mainland distilleries located on the coast. The aforementioned Old Pulteney is one, as is neighbour Clynelish and perhaps Glenglassaugh; the Campbeltown region is also marked by a strong salinity. Some island drams are as notably lacking in salty flavours (e.g. Highland Park) as others are marked by it (Tobermory, Talisker).

The unusual savoury quality of such flavours make them a good counterpart to some of the more spicy or peppery cigars - Por Larrañaga or El Rey del Mundo might be good examples, while Cohiba and Partagas complement the bolder Islay styles very well.

 

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Springbank 21 year old marks a celebration of true Victorian whisky production at Scotland's most traditional distillery.
Long established production...read more

Product Info

Springbank 21 year old marks a celebration of true Victorian whisky production at Scotland's most traditional distillery.
Long established production techniques, together with the knowledge and experience of the craftsmen, are used to malt barley on traditional malting floors and distil this most hand-crafted of spirits
It is then filled into high calibre oak casks and matured in warehouses in Campbeltown until it is judged to be ready
The whisky is then bottled at the distillery making Springbank the only distillery in Scotland which is genuinely able to say that 100% of the process is carried out on site

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Robert Graham uses reputable courier services and we ship worldwide. Within the UK we aim to deliver within 2 working days. International delivery times vary depending on destination. After your purchase has been processed, you will receive an email notification with your delivery tracking number.

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Note: Regrettably we cannot ship cigars or any other tobacco products to the USA and Canada.

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