Well, the last time I said my nose was back to normal I woke up the next day with it clogged again…but it has been two days in a row now that I have been able to taste and smell absolutely normally, and so here I am with a review of Springbank’s Calvados Wood release from a few years ago. As with many of Springbank’s Wood expressions (see also their Bourbon/Madeira cask, for example) this is genuinely double-matured and nothing like the finishes that bedevil so much of the rest of the industry. Indeed, this one spent 6 years in refill bourbon casks and then 6 years in fresh calvados casks.
I have a bottle of this myself but haven’t opened it yet—I’d wanted to get a better sense of calvados before doing so. Now I’m not suggesting that I have become a calvados expert in the interim but I have had more calvados in the last few months than I’d ever had before, and as luck would have it, Michael K. offered me a sample of the Springbank, allowing me to keep the bottle closed a little while longer as well. Well, let’s see what my minimal calvados experience brings to my experience of this whisky.
Springbank 12, 2000, Calvados Wood (52.7%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Malty, nutty, slightly briny with a bit of baked pastry and a hint of white pepper. No apples right off the bat. With time there’s some peat to go with the expanded pepper. With water there’s some vanilla and the peat gets a touch phenolic; some wet wool too now.
Palate: Very Springbank here with the brine and the leatheriness but softer than usual with some biscuity malt and cereals; some toasted oak as well. It’s also peatier than usual, though not overwhelmingly so. The peat expands as it sits: peppery and minerally and increasingly ashy but not particularly phenolic. The peat gets sweeter but also more peppery and certainly more intense with a drop of water, and it’s more coastal on the whole now.
Finish: Medium-long. The ashy peat and the sweeter, malty notes hang out for a bit transitioning into salt and pepper at the end, and is that finally a hint of something appley? Longer and as on the palate with water.
Comments: Well, I didn’t find this terribly calvados-influenced—in fact, if I didn’t know that it had spent half its life in calvados casks I probably wouldn’t have thought of it at all. It is very Springbank though, which is to say it is very good. Both peatier than the average Springbank and yet softer than the average Springbank—which is probably the doing of the calvados casks,
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample! (Here’s Michael’s review. He got a lot more apples than either Sku or I did.)
Are you sure your nose is up to snuff? I also got a lot of apples in the nose and palate when I tried this whisky (from my own bottle).
Yeah, I think my nose is back—I have been drinking small bits of other things I am very familiar with to check. For what it’s worth Sku barely notes any calvados influence in his review as well.
I do have a whole bottle too—will revisit this review when I finally open it.
I should also have added that I took my notes on this after drinking an ounce or so of K&L’s Hubert calvados. I didn’t find that to be hugely appley either—so it’s possible both that that’s a note I’m not good at distinguishing and that drinking the calvados first blunted my ability to pick up the calvados influence in the malt.
Interesting. I personally got a few more apple notes myself, but nothing terribly intense. Mostly though I found the palate to be oily with a lot of industrial grease notes with the briny coastal ones. Maybe that’s just how I read leathery. In the end though I agree that this is an excellent malt, in fact it is currently one of my top 5.
I’m currently sitting on one unopened bottle and only wish I could source another for anywhere near MSRP. Then again, perhaps I should be glad that I got two of them for MSRP considering the shenanigans I had to go through just to get a bottle of the new Local Barley at the already inflated american MSRP. If only Springbank could find a US distributer that didn’t think that doubling the price of any release above $100 was acceptable…
Looking at the notes on Whiskybase, there seem to be a few other people as well who didn’t remark much of an appley/calvados influence; though most note apples prominently. At the other end of the spectrum is someone who says it basically tastes like an aged calvados! Clearly a range of sensitivities to those notes!
Any plans to review the calvados you’ve been drinking recently?
If there’s interest I could, I suppose. I just know very little about calvados (or brandy/eau de vie in general) in terms of what an expected profile is or what are signs of flaws or marks of high quality. So other than recording relatively naive direct responses I don’t know that I’d be providing anything of much use.
Please don’t point out that this doesn’t keep me from reviewing anything else.
I would certainly be interested in calvados reviews, even if you are drawing on relatively little experience.