Springbank 12, Claret Wood

Springbank 12, Claret Wood
Here is the review of the Springbank 12, Claret Wood that was promised to Ol’ Jas long ago. I hope he’s happy.

This is from a long deceased bottle (the 4 ounce sample was saved when the bottle was above the halfway mark). This is from a series of “wood expressions” Springbank released in the late 2000s. Others in the series included whiskies from Madeira, Gaja Barolo and Marsala casks as well as a series of 12 year olds from various types of sherry casks. Some of these were full-term matured in the relevant casks; others were matured for an initial, longer period in bourbon casks and then transferred to the cask on the label for a few more years. This Claret Wood was of the latter type, spending nine years first in bourbon and the last three in the wine casks.

This approach, which Springbank has continued with its more recent “exotic” cask releases (such as the calvados wood), seems closer to me to double maturation than to what usually gets described as “finished” whisky. Certainly, all of Springbank’s releases in this vein that I’ve tried have seemed to me to be very well integrated and far from “winesky”. That is my memory of this one as well but it’s been a while since I last tasted it.

Springbank 12, Claret Wood (54.4%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)

Nose: Nutty and mildly raisiny with some dusty oak and bit of dried orange peel. Would have guessed this was a sherry cask if drinking blind. With more time there’s some plum jam and just a hint of struck match. Gets saltier as it sits. Sweeter and fruitier with water

Palate: A savoury, gunpowdery thing to begin and then a truck-load of brine. Nice soft mouthfeel. On the second and third sip the fruit begins to emerge—dried orange peel, a bit of apricot. Gets spicier as it goes (clove, cinnamon) and the oak becomes more prominent as well (nothing astringent about it though). As on the nose with water with the apricot coming to the fore.

Finish: Long. Spicy and salty and at the end quite peppery. Sweeter on the finish too with water with the apricot and orange peel hanging out longer and a touch of pipe tobacco too at the end.

Comments: You’re never going to mistake this for something like Glenmorangie’s Artein—it has far more in common with sherry matured malts than with most red wine cask finished/matured malts I’ve tasted. The most obvious sign of the wine is in the soft mouthfeel and the lack of drying grip that sherry cask whiskies can have. If you like Springbank a lot this is a good buy at about the $80 I paid for it but it doesn’t have the most distinctive character. Then again, nor do I.

Rating: 86 points.

10 thoughts on “Springbank 12, Claret Wood

  1. Nice. I’ve been saving the remnant of my bottle until I had a solid review in front of me to read along with as I give it a serious whirl. I’ll now have to find time to do that one of these nights. I don’t ever do the read-along-while-I-drink thing, but the Claret Wood seems a little more worthy of serious attention than my usual stuff. Who knows—this might even be the first time I taste dried orange peel, apricot, or any of the other things that reviewers mention but that never stand out to me.

    Thanks!

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      • So I’m trying the read-along, drink-along thing tonight. I think I can see some of the specific things you’re referring to. I don’t get so precise, but I call it sharp, fresh, sweet, rich, and sharp (sic). And drying at the end, which I like. And awesome. And, really, unique among all whiskies I’ve had in my career so far (~six years of regular single malt drinking). Granted, I’ve had just a handfull of sherried malts (a’bunadh, Macallan, Benrinnes, Mortlach) and very few other wine-finished malts (Bruichladdich Rocks, some of those Glenorangie things)–but this Springbank Claret is the only one I’ve had from that world that combines the rich sweetness with a pointy sharpness that keeps it from being heavy and dull. I love this. It’s not an everyday bottle for me, but when I need a break from the cheapies and the peaters, nothing’s better.

        About the character: I don’t know that is really has SPRINGBANK character, but it has a distinctive character of its own.

        Springbank continues its streak of producing the only non-peated whiskies that I really get excited about. I really wish I’d been cool enough to grab those other wood finishes from the same era, especially the Madeira. On the other hand, this gives me huge hopes for the bottle of Longrow Red in my stash.

        This was a stellar buy at $80. I’d call it at 89.

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        • The one time I tried a bit of Longrow Red Shiraz, it really clicked for me. Admittedly I was at Cadenheads in Campbeltown, so the environment might have had something to do with it, but still.

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  2. I spent a chunk of time in Scotland scouring whisky shops for a bottle of this but to no avail. I grabbed myself a bottle of the SB Gaja Barolo as a consolation (and I’m pleased I did – excellent drop) and can agree that this one, too, is more like a heavily sherried whisky rather than a wine finish (not that I’ve had a great deal of wine finishes outside of Tassie drops).
    Keep on waffling,
    Nick

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  3. If you were to call most of what you were interested in—and especially the ones at prices that you found very exciting—will not be available and they will tell you that yes, they really should update their online listing. I hope I don’t sound bitter.

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