On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out. Continue reading
After starting the month with a review of a Karuizawa and then going on a run of whiskies above the age of 25, it is time for me to return to reality. What better way to do that than with a bottle from one of the most down-to-earth distilleries in Scotland, still producing whisky that can hold its own with that made in more storied eras. Yes, Springbank remains the gold standard in the world of single malt whisky. And the Springbank 12 cask strength, released in batches, is one of the most consistently good Springbanks there is. Lots of sherry influence without being a sherry bomb and lots of earthy, briny notes that remind you which distillery it is from. I have previously reviewed Batch 7 and Batch 14 (spoiler alert: I liked them both a lot). Here now is
Batch 16 Batch 13 (see below), which is what seems to be currently available in Minnesota. By the way, the labels don’t say anything about batches. To find out which batch the bottle you are staring at is from you have to make note of the abv and then go to Whiskybase and see which batch that corresponds to. But unless you’re looking for a specific batch you should know that you are unlikely to be disappointed by any batch of the Springbank 12 CS. Continue reading
Please appreciate the fact that Michael K. wrote the label of the sample he sent me of this Springbank in green ink. The whisky is made entirely from organic barley, I believe. As to whether other aspects of the production were particularly environmentally friendly, I do not know. I do know that this was the second of Springbank’s “Green” releases. This was released in 2015; in the previous year there had been a 12 yo “Green”. That one was vatted from bourbon casks; this one is from sherry casks. As to whether the spirit had all been distilled at the same time, I do not know—no vintage is stated and these were large batches (9000 bottles each). Of the two I think only the 12 yo came to the US. I was not paying attention at the time and so have no idea how much it cost. The bottle of the 13 yo this sample came from was purchased by Michael in Scotland (you can read about the purchase alongside his review here). I’m a big fan of the sherry-based 12 yo CS Springbanks and so I’m particularly curious to see what this one is like. Continue reading
For some reason I thought I’d reviewed the Springbank 10 in the early days of the blog. The truth is I haven’t had it since then—more than five years now (though I did review the Springbank 15 a while ago). But I purchased a bottle recently and after opening it couldn’t figure out why I haven’t been drinking it regularly. It’s not because it’s overpriced in the US, like pretty much everything else in the Springbank portfolio. The price of the 10 yo is still in the low $50s in Minnesota, or pretty much where it was more than five years ago—this is in sharp contrast to the prices of their limited edition cask strength whiskies, which have gone from sub-$100 to more than $200 in some cases. But given the quality of the current version—and the fact that the 12 yo cask strength goes for about $90—I can promise you I’m going to be buying the 10 yo more regularly. Yes, I like this bottle very much indeed. For the particulars, please read the notes that follow. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This is the US edition of the Longrow 10, 100 Proof. That means it was bottled at 50% rather than the 57% of the 100 Proof editions sold in the UK and Europe. There were a number of those UK and Europe releases; I’m not sure, however, if there was more than one in the US. I got this from Binny’s in the summer of 2013, and I think it might have been released a year or so previous—if you know better, please write in below. Part of the reason it has taken me so long to open the bottle is that about two years ago Michael K. and Jordan D. published negative reviews of it. As our palates usually align more than they don’t, I figured I wouldn’t care for it either and kept pushing off opening it. And then last month I was putting together a tasting for my local group featuring different flavours of peat and there was finally a reason to open it. And wouldn’t you know it, I quite liked it, as did most members of the group (who all tasted it blind). Here now are my formal notes. If you’ve tried it as well, do write in below. Continue reading
Another 15 yo whisky, and another that may still be available: I’m in severe danger of losing my “untimely reviews” edge. This was bottled by the distillery for the Nectar, a store in Belgium. It’s a single cask release (though the cask number is not mentioned) of a total of 198 bottles. And that single cask was a fresh rum cask. Now, of course, this doesn’t tell us anything about how many years the rum that had previously been in there had spent in that cask or what kind of rum it was (which, of course, is the same with bourbon cask maturation as well). I assume it would have been an American oak cask. I’m not sure what the story is with the low abv (relatively speaking). As it happens, the last rum cask Springbank I reviewed (this 1998-2014 release from Malts of Scotland) also had an abv below 50% (just a coincidence, I’m sure). I wasn’t hugely taken with that one. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
After a geographically appropriate review on Wednesday (of a Caol Ila, posted while on Islay), I’m back to commemorating my first trip to Scotland by posting reviews of whiskies from distilleries that I’ve not actually visited or gone very close to. Well, in this case, we will be within 37 miles of Springbank a few hours after this review posts, but we’ll be turning in the other direction to drive back to Glasgow, where we’ll spend one night before returning to London on Saturday and then to Minnesota on Sunday. This has been a wonderful trip and I’ll have more posts about it than you can bear in the weeks to come. Though I did not tour many distilleries I did visit a bunch and have a lot of pictures. I will also have some reports on eating in the parts of Scotland we visited.
Okay, to the whisky! This is the 14th (current?) release of Springbank’s cask strength 12 yo. I’ve previously reviewed the 7th—the review was written in London, where I purchased the bottle and then drank it down at a very rapid clip. Though I don’t note this below it paired really well with all kinds of cheese. Continue reading
Longrow, as you probably know, is the name of Springbank’s heavily peated malt (it’s also more conventionally double distilled, unlike Springbank which goes through a complicated “two and a half” distillation and Hazelburn which is triple-distilled). Just as there have been a number of wine cask Springbank releases in the last decade, a number of wine cask Longrows have also been appearing from time to time. Of these I’ve previously reviewed a 14 yo Burgundy cask, which I found to be too heavily sulphured to my taste. As a result I’ve stayed away from the Longrow Red series, which has featured a number of red wine finishes/double maturations—a new kind each year. The first (I believe) was double matured in cabernet sauvignon casks (7 years in bourbon + 4 in the wine casks) and the second in shiraz casks (6+5). The current release is closer to a finish, having spent only one year in New Zealand pinot noir casks after 11 in bourbon. This 2014 release, however, appears to have been matured full-term in fresh port casks (if I am wrong about this, please write in below). In general I have had better experiences with port cask-matured or finished whiskies than with those from other types of wine casks, especially peated whiskies (like this Ballechin, for example) and so I’m hopeful about this one. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
I started the week with a review of a 20 yo Craigellachie which I pronounced to be very Springbank. Here now is a Springbank that is also likely to be very Springbank.
This is an 11 yo from a recharred sherry butt; it was bottle for the Springbank society—I am not a member; I got part of a bottle split from someone who probably purchased it in Europe. This was distilled from local prisma barley. I believe this was from the same set of casks that were aged a few years more for this year’s release of the Springbank 16, Local Barley. I have a bottle of that one that I haven’t yet opened but it has received very strong reviews. Odds are good then that this one will also be excellent. Truth be told the standard issue Springbank 12 CS is usually very good too, as were the old 12 year old sherry wood variations (see here for the oloroso cask from 1996)—I’ll be interested to see if the local barley introduces any discernibly different qualities. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This is the Springbank whose existence Ol’ Jas denied over Easter weekend. Springbank has released a few madeira casks in the past. I’ve previously reviewed a 14 yo single cask that was a K&L exclusive. I liked it but not as much as the old 11 yo (which I have not reviewed yet on account of a reluctance to open my last bottle). Both of those and this one are from 1997 but obviously not from the same set of casks: those were full-term matured in madeira casks whereas this one was matured for the first 10 years in refill bourbon casks and then for the last six years in fresh madeira casks. So, obviously it’s not a finish either; more like true double maturation. Springbank seem to be the only distillery that does this kind of double maturation as a matter of course (they’re also probably the only distillery that doesn’t make a lot of silly noise about these kinds of releases). And probably because they do double maturation and not quick finishes their wine cask releases tend to be really well integrated with the usual distillery profile. Continue reading
After Monday’s rum cask finished bourbon (a Heaven Hill 14, 2001), which was more than a little reminiscent of a single malt, it was hard not to reach immediately for the one rum cask single malt I had easily at hand. Springbank has released a few official rum casks before but I haven’t seen too many around of late. This one is also from the German indie, Malts of Scotland but, unlike their Heaven Hill, appears to be matured full-term in a rum cask. Or at least, so I think. Let’s get right to it.
Springbank 1998-2014, Rum Cask (49.8%; Malts of Scotland cask 14037; from a purchased sample)
Nose: A slightly sweeter version of the regulation ex-bourbon Springbank profile. Which is to say that the usual machine oil, sackcloth, leather and salt/brine are all there but there’s an extra layer of simple syrup over it all. Gets pretty salty pretty fast; some preserved lemon as well. With water it’s less sweet and also less salty. Continue reading