Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Battle of the Springbank Local Barleys: 2023 vs 2024

It is Campbeltown Wednesday and today we bring you a heavy-weight battle between the Springbank Local Barley released in 2023 and the one released this year. How do they compare? And is comparison even fair? And lastly, do we care about fair if we can drink two instead of one glass of good old Campbeltown single malt?

The Local Barley Springbank is the stuff of legend among whiskynerds. If you are lucky enough to have tasted the original instalments, you are acquainted with the high quality. With a group of whiskyfriends I travelled to the Springbank Distillery for the first time in 2009. The sales manager at the time, Peter Currie, showed us round. A joke that is being made till this day is when they show you the “computer of Springbank”. It is a large wooden panel (picture below) near the grain storage bins that keeps track on what each bin is filled with. In 2009 we gasped at that panel, it indicating that some were filled with “LB”. Local Barley. 

How exiting! The distilled results have been released in recent years. (Many thanks for Fulco Bakker to digging up the photo from his archives.)

With the world evermore becoming smaller and circular, the question is how long local barley will stay something exclusive. I hear whispers of Springbank considering going over to distilling exclusively from barley grown on the Kintyre peninsula. Let’s taste the last two releases and see if that would be a good idea. We start with the newest release.


Springbank 13 years old, Local Barley, bottled at 54,1 % abv

Makeup: Belgravia barley grown at Glencraigs Farm, distilled in June 2010 and bottled in December 2023. Number of bottles is 8.400. As always, the barley is malted manually at Springbank, and the whisky is bottled onsite too, making this the ultimate 100 percent Campbeltown malt. Vatted from 60 % bourbon casks and 40 % sherry casks. (Bottled pictured)

General impressions: Very classic Springbank on the nose, with red fruits intertwined with the typical mineral identity of the distillery. I am reminded of some of the better 12 years old cask strength releases of recent years. Last year’s expression I reviewed for Sjoerd on Maltfascination. Interestingly enough, that batch 24 has the exact same abv as this Local Barley. And also the exact same bourbon to sherry ratio. Certainly related whisky, only a slight age difference. And different barley used, obviously.

I spoke of “perfumed pebbles” for that batch 24, I don’t mind repeating that here. But when you take a sip, we certainly depart from that expression and move into unique Local Barley territory. It is my impression that this whisky stays very close to garden like scents and taste. There is an abundance of fruit on the tongue, and the overall mouthfeel is soft and gentle, almost silky. Dare I say, fragile? Or vulnerable. The rather vulgar fruitiness is a delight though, and makes me really fall in love with this year’s Local Barley. A distinct mango note emerges. Comparing it to Batch 24 (I poured a glass), these whisky’s are cousins. But the barley does make a difference between a very oily, industrial style, and a softer, more frivolous side. Adorable!

Conclusion: This year’s Local Barley is almost a repeat of the Springbank cask strength from last year. With an extra year, but also a much softer and elegant side. So, it loses a point on pure power, but makes up for it with a very juicy, fruity character. The score settles equal then.

Score: 90 points.
Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned bottle.

Springbank 11 years old, Local Barley, bottled at 55,1 % abv

Makeup: Belgravia barley grown at Glencraigs Farm, distilled in May 2011 and bottled in December 2022. Number of bottles is 15.000. As always, the barley is malted manually at Springbank, and the whisky is bottled onsite too, making this the ultimate 100 percent Campbeltown malt. Vatted from 55% sherry casks, 35 % bourbon casks and 10 % rum casks.

General impressions: More sherry, and a whiff of rum in this expression. Let’s see how that makes for comparison. There is definitely fruitiness coming from the glass, but a different kind of fruit, more related to the rum influence, however small that is. From my own blending session at Springbank I have learned that every component counts! The more dominant sherry reveals itself in scents of butter. There is also a weird metallic smell, that I can’t really pinpoint.
Ah, the mouthfeel is really different from this year’s Local Barley. It is more dry, even a little harsh. Yellow fruits dominate the palate. Feels to me like rum casks make a spirit come off more alcoholic. I made the same conclusion while tasting the rum cask edition of Ardnamurchan. This Local Barley shares some similarities. A nice splash of water brings out more fruitiness and makes the drinking experience very pleasant. The finish becomes tropical, and the harshness of the alcohol is reduced significantly.

Conclusion: I originally scored this one personally at 90 points as well, but today it struggles from comparison. Moreover, it really needs water to come to life. So, I take it done a notch, but all in all a damn fine whisky in the Local Barley series.

Score: 89 points.
Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned bottle.

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