The last few Springbanks I’ve reviewed have been matured in a rum cask, double matured in bourbon and madeira casks, and double matured in bourbon and Calvados casks. Here now is one that has been matured in a single sherry hogshead. There’s a strong possibility of this being a sherry bomb—not only is it from a sherry cask but it’s from a cask about half the size of the usual sherry butt. The colour of the whisky, however, suggests that the sherry influence is muted. Let’s see if this turns out to be true on the nose and palate as well. I do expect it will be quite good though. This is not just because it was bottled by Malts of Scotland, who have a pretty good track record: in general, I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed by a Springbank from a sherry or bourbon cask—or indeed by any Springbank product that hadn’t seen the inside of a burgundy cask (see the sulphurous Longrow 14, Burgundy wood). Let’s get to it.
Springbank 1998-2015 (49.2%; sherry hogshead; Malts of Scotland cask 15038; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Not a whole lot of sherry influence to start; instead, there’s the regulation Springbank leather and brine and prickly peat. A little sweeter as it sits, with almond oil and wet concrete. Very mild notes of gunpowder and rock salt begin to emerge from below all of that but don’t really cause any trouble. Gets smokier as it sits (coal smoke). No interesting change with water.
Palate: Sweeter to begin and then all the early stuff from the nose is here followed by bright citrus (lime) and a turn to some sort of sweeter fruit as I swallow. The same on the second sip but I can’t quite pick that sweeter fruit (some orange in there and also some sort of berry?). Smoky from the get-go on the palate and no sign of the gunpowder/rock salt. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, however. As it sits it gets sweeter and the orange trumps whatever the other mystery fruit was. With a lot of time a faint soapy note shows up. With water the soapy note expands and it gets saltier and less citrussy.
Finish: Long. The sweet fruit is followed by salt and then the smoke expands and takes over. Nothing interesting here with water either.
Comments: I’ve read speculation that this is actually from a Longrow distillation—Springbank doesn’t allow the Longrow and Hazelburn names to be used by independents. I’m inclined to believe it. In fact, it reminded me of the OB Longrow 14 I reviewed when the blog was very young. Whatever its antecedents, this is very good and will not disappoint anyone who likes the distillery’s trademark blend of leather, brine and sooty smoke. It might, however, disappoint people looking for a lot of sherry influence: there is, in fact, very little obvious sherry influence.
Rating: 87 points.