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.