Another official Springbank bottled for K&L in California. This one is from a single refill madeira butt. I bought this because I am a fan of Springbank in general but more particularly because the old Springbank 11, 1997 Madeira Cask (a non-single cask general release) was a favourite before it disappeared. Looking at the colour of the whisky, however, I would guess that the 11 yo had a lot more first-fill madeira casks in the vatting. Either that or this single cask just happens to be from a refill butt that did not impart as much colour: in short, this is not as dark as its younger sibling bottled three years previous. But that’s not terribly interesting information in and of itself. Let’s see what this is like on the nose and palate.
Springbank 14, 1997 (56.8%, Refill Madeira Butt for K&L; from my own bottle)
Nose: Very coastal, by which I mean briny. Lots of spicy wood as well, and then some sweetness develops (sweet peat). I have to say that this smells like it came out of a bourbon cask. Quite a lot of alcohol burn on the nose, even though the abv isn’t that high. A little water takes the edge off the alcohol, but doesn’t do very much else. But with a little more time the brine recedes a little and balances nicely with the peaty sweetness.
Palate: Not as hot on the palate as on the nose but certainly as briny on arrival. Then, as on the nose, a wave of sweetness passes over, bringing nutty notes (almonds, maybe cashews); some smoke too, but nothing very loud–in fact, it’s almost more musty leathery than smoky. Very nice mouthfeel. Not a whole lot of development though. Water doesn’t harm it but doesn’t do anything new for it.
Finish: Long’ish. Mostly salty and then smoky at the end. Gets a little sweeter with time. Less salty with water and a slightly bitter, rooty note at the very end.
Comments: Quite reminiscent actually of some recent Longrow 14 and 18 in its minerally, rather than smoky peatiness. Not, however, very reminiscent of the 11 yo madeira cask of yesteryear, which I remember as being richer and fruitier. This is not at all what I expected it to be, which is both educational and a little bit disappointing. In general, I would say that this is very pleasant and highly drinkable (water is optional) but not very much more–and there’s not a thing wrong with that. I might penalize some other whiskies for the lack of development but as I like this austere profile I’m fine with it here. Having said that, I actually liked it more tonight than I did 8 months ago when I opened it for a small group tasting with friends and also when I last tried it 3 months ago. The time has done something good for either my palate or the bottle or both. Or maybe the soul-withering fart one of my dogs let out right as I was first getting set to nose it rewired my brain in some way. So, two nice selections of Springbank in a row by the K&L Davids, Driscoll and Othenin-Girard. I guess I should scour their blog to see if there is any mention of more on the horizon.
Rating: 86 points (I had recorded 84 in my spreadsheet at my last tasting).