Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes.
Springbank 18, 2021 Release (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Old coins, orange juice, carbon paper, damp earth, brine. Saltier with each sniff. More char with time and the orange juice begins to move in the direction of lemon. A few drops of water and the carbon paper/char gets pushed back and the citrus expands and is joined by some of the classic Springbank notes of coriander seed and burlap. Some apricot too now.
Palate: Comes in as predicted by the nose but it turns quite a lot sweeter (orange juice) as I swallow. Nice bite at 46% and very nice texture. On the second sip the carbon paper turns a little more tarry. More citrus with more time and it’s brighter/more acidic here too now. Less tar and more citrus here too with water and more salt as well.
Finish: Long. The peat and damp earth are the main story here with the citrus and the brine playing along the edges. As on the palate with water—the salt moving towards rock salt here.
Comments: As I said, I was not particularly enthused by this bottle when I first opened it but with time and air in the bottle it’s come on pretty strong. Quite an austere profile even as it demonstrates quite well the 50-50 bourbon-sherry cask influence. Worth the price I paid for the bottle? No, not even close. But a very good whisky, nonetheless.
Rating: 88 points.