It has been seven months since my last Springbank review. Well, less than two if you want to split hairs and count my last Longrow review. Either way, it’s been too long. My previous review of a Springbank proper was of a single 15 yo rum cask bottled for The Nectar in Belgium. This one is slightly younger at 14 years of age, involves far more casks—none of them ex-rum—and was available worldwide; indeed, at the time of my typing it’s still available in Minnesota. A whole bunch of fresh and refill bourbon barrels were vatted for a release of 9000 bottles. Springbank clearly loves that number: if I recall correctly, the excellent Madeira release in the US from some years prior also involved 9000 bottles or so. Barrels, being smaller than hogsheads, involve far greater wood contact—and given that some proportion of the barrels were fresh (though how long the previous occupants had spent in them is unknown), there’s a good chance of quite a bit of American oak character coming through in this malt. Let’s see if that’s actually the case.
Springbank 14, 2002, Bourbon Wood (55.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: The usual Springbank complex of sackcloth, salty sea air, mustard seed and mild, peppery peat. There’s some sweetness as well—vanilla, cream. The sweet note expands as it sits. A few drops of water push the vanilla back and pull out more of the mustard seed and brine and some wet slate.
Palate: Leads with the salty and spicy stuff and the peat pops up as I swallow. Not much sweetness here. Very drinkable at full strength. Gets saltier as it sits. More integrated with water but nothing new as such; maybe a bit of preserved lemon.
Finish: Long. Gets more and more peppery as it goes and then earthy at the end. A slight rubbery note too but it’s not unpleasant, oddly enough. More of the mustard here too with water. With time there’s a touch of aniseed at the very end.
Comments: I’m guessing that not everyone loves the vanilla notes on the nose. I’m not always a big fan of vanilla in my whisky but it works here with the other stuff. On the palate and finish it’s straight up peppery, briny, mustardy Springbank. I don’t know that I’d get a second bottle at the price but I’m glad I have a lot more left in this one.
Rating: 87 points.