Aaaand in this corner….
OK, so this really is not some kind of “scotch vs. scotch” duel to a single malty death, I merely decided to share observations from a side-by-side tasting I did with expressions from two of the three distilleries I visited last summer. In practice the two distilleries are quite different: Glengoyne prides itself on the “slowest” distillation process, and Springbank has an odd two-and-a-half times distillation method. Glengoyne fervently proclaims that their malt is never peated, and Springbank produces two lines (“Springbank” and “Longrow”) that are either lightly (the former) or heavily (the latter) peated. And maybe it is also not fair to compare a twelve-year-old to a ten-year-old single malt… the more time they spend in the cask, the more the flavor matures and absorbs a greater amount of the character of the wood. But again: this is less of a side-by-side comparison than it is a celebration of the unique traits of each malt. On to the notes!
A light yellow-amber color. The nose features a pleasant oak aroma, a good deal of pear and some light vanilla characteristics. There is a noticeable burn in the nose when the malt is first poured, this mellows a bit as the malt stays in the glass. The taste is fairly delicate, with more of the pear effect and some other notes of tropical fruit; the oak stays in the background, and the overall sensation is quite smooth. The finish is long despite a somewhat thin texture, and the lingering aftertaste is very clean.
A very similar light yellow-amber color, perhaps just a shade darker. Light peat smoke is immediately present in the nose, giving way to some dark stone fruit suggestions and a touch of toffee sweetness. Very little if any alcohol burn is present when the malt is poured. The immediate sensation in the mouth is of a somewhat viscous liquid in which the toffee character becomes predominant; plum notes and a slight peatiness feature in the second layer of taste. The finish is long, and the peat/smoke character lingers considerably more than any of the other taste elements.
Summary: two excellent drams which I will enjoy for quite some time. Which one will I have? It will depend upon my mood… the peatier (Pete-ier?) I feel, the more I will go in the direction of the Bunnahabhain Cruach Mhona – definitely the smokiest of the malts currently in my possession, with the Springbank 10-year-old being perhaps the least peaty. The Glengoyne 12-year-old is quite delicious, and with its smooth texture and lack of peatiness it makes for an excellent change of pace. Sláinte!