Longrow 11, Red, Fresh Port Casks

Longrow Red, Port Cask

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

Springbank 11, 1999

Springbank 11, Recharred Sherry Butt
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

Springbank 1998-2015 (Malts of Scotland)

Springbank 1998-2015, Malts of Scotland
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

Springbank 12, 2000, Calvados Wood

Springbank 12, 2000, Calvados Wood
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

Springbank 16, 1997, Bourbon/Madeira

Springbank 16, 1997, Bourbon/Madeira
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

Springbank 1998-2014, Rum Cask (Malts of Scotland)

Springbank 16, 1997, Rum Cask, Malts of Scotland
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

Longrow 18, 2008 Release

Longrow 18, 2008 Release
I’ve previously reviewed a Longrow 18 released in 2011. This one, released in 2008, was the first of the Longrow 18s, and along with the Longrow CV, which was also first released in 2008, filled out the range of Springbank’s double-distilled, heavily-peated malt (the 10 yo and 14 yo had already been released in prior years). It was very well received on release; this is my first time drinking it and I’m very interested to see what its like.

Longrow 18, 2008 Release (46%; from a purchased sample)

Nose: Lemon and minerally, ashy peat. Other fruit as well below the lemon: kaffir lime peel, some kiwi, some grapefruit and also some tart-sweet apple. Quite a bit of salt too along with expanding iodine and olive brine. The classic Springbank leathery/wet sackcloth note is here too. Just lovely. Gets sweeter as it sits with some vanilla popping out as well to join the ever more fragrant citrus. With a lot more time there’s an almondy note as well. Let’s see if water bring out anything new. Well, if anything it seems to intensify that nutty note.   Continue reading

Springbank 14, 1998, Fino Cask 265

Springbank 14, 1998, Fino Cask
Here is the companion whisky to Monday’s bourbon barrel Springbank 14. This has been promised for a long time and occasional commenter, Ol’ Jas can now die happy as all his dreams have come true.

In 2008’ish Springbank released a series of 12 yo’s from different types of sherry casks. These were all distilled in 1996. If memory serves the cask types were fino, oloroso, cream sherry and an amontillado. I’ve reviewed that oloroso cask on the blog; I still haven’t opened my bottle of the fino from that series; I finished my bottle of the cream sherry before I started the blog but I think I have a reference sample stashed somewhere—I never did taste/corral the amontillado. A few years later they released this 14 yo series in the same vein, with a manzanilla cask taking the place of the cream sherry. Once upon a time I was supposed to split the other bottles in the series with some other whisky geeks but I guess that fell through. So this fino cask will probably be it for me from this series: the 16 yo casks that followed this lot cost almost twice as much as these did so please do not expect to see those reviewed here.  Continue reading

Springbank 14, 1998 (Whiskybroker)

Springbank 14, 1998, Whiskybroker
There’s not a whole lot of indie Springbank around and most of it tends to be expensive. And so when this release from Whiskybroker popped up a couple of years ago I jumped on it: Whiskybroker are known for their very fair, bordering on low prices. I opened it earlier this year at one of my local group’s tastings. This was somewhat different from our usual tastings as we drank two Springbanks of the same age but from different cask types, followed by two Laphroaigs of the same age but from different cask types. I’ve already reviewed the two Laphroaigs (here and here) and now I’m finally getting around to the Springbanks (Ol’ Jas, rejoice!). I was surprised at the tasting by the peaty character of this cask. I’m guessing this was distillate earmarked for release as Longrow—I think I’ve read in a couple of places that Springbank don’t allow indie releases under the Longrow and Hazelburn names (please correct or confirm if you know more). Anyway, let’s get to it.
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Longrow 14, Burgundy Wood

This is another of Springbank’s double matured wine cask releases, albeit for their Longrow line of peated malts.I’m usually a little wary of red wine finished whiskies but, as is usually the case at Springbank, this is closer to a double matured whisky: it was distilled in 1997 and spent eleven years in refill bourbon casks and then a further three years in fresh Burgundy casks. That and the fact that Springbank’s distillate is by its nature robust emboldened me to purchase it after release. I opened this bottle quite some time ago for one of my local group’s tastings and my notes say I liked aspects of it but found it a bit clouded by sulphurous notes. Since then it’s sort of got lost in a corner of my whisky lair and despite having planned to review it a long time ago (hence the picture taken in a different season) I’ve never actually gotten around to it. Well, here I am now and I hope those sulphurous notes have abated a bit, as sometimes happens.

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Springbank 13, 2000 (SMWSA)

Springbank 13, 2000
I’m not a member of the Single Malt Whisky Society. I can never quite convince myself that the membership price and cost of annual renewal is worth it—especially in the U.S where the society does not have tasting rooms where members can sample the whiskies before purchasing them. And while they put out a very broad range of whiskies it’s not as though the prices are reasonable either. Even rather young whiskies cost >$100 at the SMWS—though the prices do get more reasonable as the whiskies get older. You might say that this is true in general for independent bottlers but the floor at the SMWS is higher. And given how few reviews ever seem to emerge of these whiskies it’s not clear if the quality justifies the high prices. And, of course, you’ll find people in the UK lamenting a decline of quality control at the SMWS there, and others who’ll say that the US does not get the pick of the casks (which is not unlikely given our less mature market (compared to the UK and Europe).  Continue reading

Springbank 1999-2013, Port Cask 246

Springbank 1999-2012, Fresh Port Cask
My (possibly anomalous) experience with the Benromach Origins 2, Port Cask didn’t go so well. Let’s see if this Springbank can reverse my port cask trajectory.

As I’ve noted before, Springbank actually do a lot of wine and other exotic cask maturations (they even put out a calvados cask recently) but don’t really catch the same guff for this as distilleries such as Glenmorangie or Bruichladdich do (or did in the past). Some of this is doubtless due to the fact that Springbank doesn’t make a huge to-do out of everything they do and they don’t come up with silly Gaelic names for their whiskies or snazzy branding for each new release (in place usually of an age statement); instead they put them out in the same relaxed manner they put out all their whiskies—as a result, probably, even when people are disappointed they don’t feel like they’ve been sold a dubious bill of goods. But it’s also probably because, unlike most distilleries playing around with wine casks etc., Springbank don’t really do finishes per se: most of their wine cask malts are either full-term matured or matured for a secondary term of at least three years or so. As a result the “distillery character” is almost always front and center. Continue reading

Springbank 12, Claret Wood

Springbank 12, Claret Wood
Here is the review of the Springbank 12, Claret Wood that was promised to Ol’ Jas long ago. I hope he’s happy.

This is from a long deceased bottle (the 4 ounce sample was saved when the bottle was above the halfway mark). This is from a series of “wood expressions” Springbank released in the late 2000s. Others in the series included whiskies from Madeira, Gaja Barolo and Marsala casks as well as a series of 12 year olds from various types of sherry casks. Some of these were full-term matured in the relevant casks; others were matured for an initial, longer period in bourbon casks and then transferred to the cask on the label for a few more years. This Claret Wood was of the latter type, spending nine years first in bourbon and the last three in the wine casks.

This approach, which Springbank has continued with its more recent “exotic” cask releases (such as the calvados wood), seems closer to me to double maturation than to what usually gets described as “finished” whisky. Certainly, all of Springbank’s releases in this vein that I’ve tried have seemed to me to be very well integrated and far from “winesky”. That is my memory of this one as well but it’s been a while since I last tasted it. Continue reading

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 7

Springbank 12 CS, Batch 7

Let us stick with the cask strength whisky but move south from the Speyside, all the way to Campbeltown: yes, it’s the Springbank 12 CS, the seventh release to be exact. This is a mix of first-fill and refill sherry casks (I’m not sure of the proportion). I’ve had some of the earlier batches, with the first batch (at 54.6%) my favourite. Again, that bottle was finished long before the blog and so I have no notes on it.

Despite the fact that they bottle  a lot of sherried whisky Springbank doesn’t always come up when people ask for recommendations of sherried whiskies. This is partly because their more intensely sherried whiskies are quite expensive (see the 18 yo and the absurdly priced 21 yo) and partly because the more affordable ones emphasize the quintessential distillery character (brine, leather) over sherry for sherry’s sake. That has been my experience at any rate. Let’s see if this one supports that claim.

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