Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Back to the Future: the Campbeltown 1992 edition

Whisky Odyssey celebrates a weekly Campbeltown Wednesday and this edition is even more special, since the good folks in Campbeltown, and numerous whisky enthusiasts from all over the world, are now there to celebrate the Malts Festival. Since my employer has only a limited amount of days off for me every year, I sadly cannot join there, even more so since the last two years it has become a tradition to go to the Kintyre Peninsula in January. In those moments we do crazy stuff with a group called the Springbank Stallions. So, while being patient until January, I wish everybody in Campbeltown a great time!

In the meantime we will enjoy ourselves with a nice head to head tasting of two 1992 vintages from the two main distilleries in the Old Toon. We happened to stumble on a privately bottled Springbank from that year, and also got our hands on a Glen Scotia of a considerable age.

With Springbank in 1992 we see a distillery slowly shaking off the rough 1980s, in which it was mostly closed (since 1979) or producing limited quantities (since 1987). Production fully restarts in 1989 and interestingly, the Malt Whisky Yearbook mentions 1992 as the year Springbank started malting its own barley again. A few years later we would see the first production of Hazelburn, which happened in 1997. With the exception of a short closure in 2008, Springbank has proven a force of nature in Campbeltown.

Glen Scotia in 1992 was a distillery in a rough intermittent rhythm. The distillery was closed between 1984 and 1989. There was some production again in the early nineties, but in 1994 the distillery was mothballed. Only under current ownership since 1999/2000 the distillery is in more stable conditions and actually going from strength to strength. Interesting to dive into a sample from those difficult early 1990s.

Springbank 1992 Private Bottling, 21 years old, bottled at 51,9 % abv

Makeup: Taken from bourbon hogshead #248 with only 150 bottles coming out. The bottling was done for someone named Dion Gunson, and it is worth taking a look at the crazy label done by someone named Chris Watson. This Springbank was distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2013.

General impressions: Very aromatic and talkative. Lots of mineralities, dry salty sand on an Atlantic Ocean beach, the breeze is warm and coming from the sea. Also some overripe fruit, like pears, yellow apples, some vanilla – the obvious fingerprint of the cask. It makes curious to take a sip, so we wait not longer and dive in. It is an incredibly fruity example, I actually do not think I ever had such a fruity Springbank, unless it said Hazelburn on the label. Was this an experimental run for that triple distilled malt that was designed a few years later? Very impressive.

Adding a few drops of water, we see the liquid get a very oily texture. Overall the whisky has a very cloudy appearance. Quite a contrast standing next to the crystal clear 1992 Glen Scotia that we will taste hereafter. The aroma does not really change from the water, but on the taste it brings out some bitter notes, revealing that this is a mature Springbank. It becomes more recognizably dirty, a true Campbeltown malt. I have got to say: this is one weird creature. I will say again, more Hazelburn than Springbank.

Conclusion: I don’t know who Dion Gunson is, but having a bottling of such a fruity Springbank to your name, and 150 of them, is certainly something to be jealous of.

Score: 90 points

Glen Scotia 1992, 22 years old, bottled at 55,5 % abv by Hart Brothers

Makeup: Taken from a refill hogshead. Distilled on the second of February 1992 and bottled in June 2014 by Hart Brothers for their Finest Collection – Cask Strength series.

General impressions: Ah, but this is a different beast. A much more classically “old” whisky, with whiffs of old books, dusty shelves, wet garage with oil leaking from a car, musty mold on concrete walls. There is a red fruitiness coming through, almost as if there was some sherry involved in the maturing. Was it a sherry hogshead? What is clear, is that this is a very unorthodox single malt whisky, as we have come to expect from Glen Scotia over the years.

The taste is all on wood smoke and cigars, with a burning wood infused finish. For a refill cask it gave off a lot of character still, making for a very complex whisky. I am rather charmed by this one. I even get some rum vibes. I love how it is very sweet on the tip of your tongue, and the more you let it slide down it becomes something like French mustard. Exceptional weirdness! With water, much of the charm is lost to bitter notes.

Conclusion: Whisky that can only be made in weird times in delightfully weird places, like a remarkable place called Campbeltown. This is a bottle worth hunting down, if you like something really out of the ordinary.

Score: 87 points
Disclaimer: both whisky’s from a sample share with the Dram Delivery Man Daantje.

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