I don’t know who Saint Andrew was, I’ve never met the guy. He apparently was one of the 12 disciples, brother to Saint Peter, a fisherman, and could, in a pinch, play third base because he had a decent throwing arm. Like many saints of the day, Saint Andrew spent a lot of time travelling and doing fairly incredible things: he healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed stormy seas when on a cruise, and one time stopped an army in its tracks simply by crossing himself and saying a quick prayer. He also apparently had a hell of a work ethic, according to the apocryphal “Acts of Andrew”, after he was crucified, he continued to give sermons for three days. Three days…I’m telling you right now, if I’m ever crucified, I’m going to moan and groan a lot, probably ask for some water, but there’s no way I’m going to be feeling coherent enough to put together a moral lecture.
After his martyrdom, relics of Saint Andrew (c’mon…morbid and creepy) were spread about Christendom with a few choice bits making their way to Scotland and falling into the hands of the powerful Pict King Óengus mac Fergusa. Years later, in 832AD, a descendent of ol’ King Oengus, King Oengus II, was getting his troops all riled up one night for the next day’s battle against the vicious and impolite Angles and swore to the heavens that if he granted them victory, St. Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland. As the legend goes, sure enough the next morning as they headed off to battle, there was a cross in the blue sky formed by the clouds. Reminding them of the cross Saint Andrew was crucified on, the Picts took this as a good sign and though they were out-numbered, handily handed the Angles their asses. Afterwards, King Oengus II made it official, Saint Andrew was the patron saint of Scotland. While other origins have been discussed, this is a widely accepted legend of the adoption of the sky blue field and white saltire flag that flies over Scotland. Today, November 30, is Saint Andrew’s Day, Scotland’s National Day and since 2006, an official bank holiday, which I’m sure would please Andy no end.
So with St. Andrew’s day in mind, it’s only right to review a little Scotch Whisky, and a great one from one of Scotland’s finest distilleries at that. Springbank is one of the few remaining Campbeltown whisky makers and is a bit of an anomaly in the Scotch world being family owned and carrying out the entire process, from malting to bottling, in-house. Their 15 Year Old is matured only in Sherry casks.
This sample was reviewed as part of Master of Malt’s Drams for Review Program. Master of Malt is fantastic UK-based retailer that specializes in…malt, of course. More information about Master of Malt can be found here and here.
The Nose: A somewhat austere but elegant nose of ripe pears, stewed apricots, and fresh-made lemon bars mixed with briney, mild peat. Lesser notes of raw vanilla bean and raisins linger in the background as did the sense that I was nosing all of this in an oak paneled room tinged with old pipe smoke.
The Palate: I hate to use the word elegant again, but what the hell…this has a really elegant mouthfeel, not heavy, not really oily, just the right viscous-ness. Early notes of pears and juicy green grapes drift away as spicy, not-to0-tannic oakey tones grow larger. Hints of allspice and worn leather and a bit of peat ushers in a really nice whorl of smoke towards the end.
The Finish: Medium-long with peat and fruit giving way to wonderful, lingering tobacco smoke.
Thoughts: Beautiful. Great balance and structure with a complex nose and wonderfully developing palate. Very different from the 10 Year Old, the 15 Year Old is much less dependent on the peat, raw smoke and coastal Campbeltown funk, instead focusing on rich, but reserved fruit notes and a more luxurious…library…feel. Right, this really does feel like something you’d drink in a rich wood library, sun streaming though the dust motes, leather patches on your elbows. Elegant (again), reserved, sophisticated, and highly recommended.