Springbank 12yo “Cask Strength” (52.3%, OB, Batch 8, 14/12)

I got this, put it on my lectern, opened it and drank it. That is more or less what happened to it. Sometimes when I believe a Whisky I have open will be needed for future comparison, (to other batches in this case), I take a sample from it and put it in my archive. I had a few drops left in the bottle so I already opened its replacement the 17yo Sherry Wood. When writing the review of this 17yo, I wanted to compare that one to this Cask Strength Batch 8, so I tried to pull up the review of that one, just to find out it didn’t exist. I liked this one so much, I drank it all before ik could write the review! So, out comes this sample I just drew for future reference, not knowing “the future” would descend upon us so soon!

Springbank 12yo Batch 8Color: Light orange gold.

Nose: Meaty and somewhat closed. Waxy and slightly rough. Lots of American oak vanilla. Tar and coal dust. Bourbon vanilla and custard. It also has the fruitiness Springbank gets from using Sherry casks. So its easy to detect it is a blend of both kinds of casks. No secret in this, because probably all expressions of the 12yo Cask Strength are blends of both types of cask. Meaty Sherry notes with a tiny hint of sulphur (matches), but also a breath of something fresher, to all those heavy aromas whiffs by. Nice Springbank peat is also present. Quite sweet and fruity and some paper. Bigger on its aromas, but slightly less complex than older siblings.

Taste: Initially big sweet and waxy. Nice (bitter) wood and again the paper-like quality and a tiny hint of smoke. Sugared almonds and a little sting of peat, aided by the higher ABV, than the 46% of most other Springbanks. The smoke is gone and for the rest of the journey we are accompanied by peat. Not too much though, just enough. When the first sip travels down, more vegetal notes appear. As well as a slight burnt note. The taste seems more about Sherry casks, than it is about Bourbon casks. This doesn’t have to mean that more Sherry casks were used for Batch 8, but the Sherry aromas are dominating. It has a sort of anonymous fruity profile. Red fruits, yes maybe, sugared yellow fruits, yep, probably present as well. Which fruits? Hard to tell actually. Towards the end of the body, before the finish, a slight unbalance happens. Where older Springbanks hold it together, here it shows its relative youth. Still this is a wonderful malt. This finish has all of the body and underlines the wood a bit. It comes as no surprise the finish has pretty good length, wood first, peat next, and in no way as creamy as in the start.

This comes from a now finished bottle, and I have to say, it got better over time. This is one that really needed some time to breathe. I remember being a bit disappointed when I first opened this one. I had just finished the eighteen year old also bottled in 2014, and definitely liked that one better. I really love and adore this one now, but can’t help but feel, that Springbanks need to age a while longer. Comparing this to the 17yo Sherry Wood and the 2014 18yo, you can see the older ones have more matured aromas to them adding to their complexity. With a 12yo Springbank you get a fantastic Whisky which for the quality you get is quite affordable. Sure, you pay a bit more for the 17yo and the 18yo, but you also get more imho. More aroma and definitely more complexity. Having said that, the 12yo Cask Strength series is a wonderful series especially at the prices Springbank are selling it for.

Top tip: Let this breathe, let it breathe in the bottle, (try storing it for a week or so without the cork on it), and let it breathe in your glass. Don’t be hasty with it and if you do you will certainly be rewarded.

Points: 88

Springbank 17yo 1997/2015 “Sherry Wood” (52.3%, OB, Fresh and Refill Sherry Butts and Hogsheads, 9.120 bottles, 15/24)

When attending the Whisky Show in London last year I absolutely loved this one at the Springbank stand. Sure there were better Whiskies at the show, but also you’d almost have to take out another mortgage on your house to buy those. Nope, I mean, this was definitely one of the best Whiskies at a fair price. Still, over here in Europe this sells for well over a hundred euros. Despite this, it was really a no brainer to buy, and remember, why get only one, when you gen get two for twice the price. When I just recently finished another Springbank, (more about that next time), it was time to finally break out this one. Distilled in 1997 and fully matured in fresh and refill Sherry butts and hogsheads. Possibly, but not necessarily, a combination of european and american oak.

Springbank 17yo SherryColor: Gold.

Nose: Nice, waxy and fresh, powdered vitamin C or should we call it vitamin W from now on? Dusty and dry and definitely lots of Sherry mustiness. Hints of apples (Calvados). Slightly wet forest floor with mushrooms growing. Unripe cold banana, some sweet malts, vanilla and quite vegetal as well. Ashy and slightly smoky (more so than peat). Hints of tar and charred cask and even some new wood, although that isn’t used for this expression. Even though this is 100% Sherry, this smells like a typical Springbank, minus the big sweet creamy vanilla that is, the Bourbon part always brings. Remember, Springbank usually is a blend of Bourbon and Sherry casks. Luckily the Springbank distillate does well in every kind of cask. However, all types of casks used, bring their own flavor to the Springbank spectrum. So there is no better Whisky to try different expressions from. This one reminds me of old Springbank in a way. Coconut and quite fruity as well. Very well made and extremely balanced smell. They are definitely doing everything right. The Sherry smells unbelievably fresh and defined. It must have some casks (if not all) that contained Sherries matured under flor. Fino and Manzanilla that is. I doesn’t smell like typical Oloroso matured Whisky to me, (although very dry Oloroso could be possible). The Sherry notes also smell a bit different from the Sherry in the 12yo Cask Strength. Lovely expression, which would have been nice to compare to the 18yo I reviewed earlier. Alas, that one is already gone, so that is not possible anymore. Bugger.

Taste: Yup, Sherry (from under flor) and typical Springbank. If you love Springbank like I do, it feels like coming home again. Waxy, vanilla and lots and lots of coconut again. Sometimes a bit soapy even. Welcome back: coconut! Peat (more so than smoke) and quite vegetal and fruity. Coconut mixed with almond cookies. Cookie dough and a nice friendly sweetness to it. Toffee. It also has a bite as well. Burnt wood and some peat. On top, as with many modern Sherry casked Whiskies, a slightly acidic red fruitiness that stands out a bit, less integrated so to say. It’s this aroma that dominates the finish as well. Thus the finish is less about the cookies, coconut, toffee and dough. Nevertheless, this one has it all. Super stuff with utter balance. Springbank works very well in Bourbon casks, and although you know what some Bourbon casks would have done to this Whisky, this time I don’t miss them. Nice Sherry expression this is. Well done Springbank!

I’d like to mention, that this review is written just a few minutes after opening the bottle. Springbank is never at its best right after opening the bottle. It’s a big Whisky that needs time to breathe. If you are patient with it and it has time to breathe, wow!

Points: 90

Springbank 15yo (46%, OB, Circa 2003)

So the Springbank 10yo is always a nice dram and really affordable to boot. Springbank 15yo is usually quite a different dram, never simply only an older version of the 10yo. We already know there always is quite some batch variation with Springbank, and we love that. Not every consecutive 15yo is similar to the previous one, and now the 15yo is not a mere step up of the 10yo. Apart from the taste of it, probably the reason a lot of anoraks love Springbank. So without further ado lets finish off this rotten year 2015 (at least for me it was) and aim for a better year in 2016. So I’ll see you again next year, in good health. Slainthe!

Springbank 15yo (circa 2003)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, right from the bat, mixed with fresh air. Something completely different from the 10yo. More fruity with fruity acidity from all kinds of different fruits. Apply acidity as well as acidity from dark fruits. Dry and dusty. Lean and sharp, as opposed to the fatty vanilla from the 10yo. It’s not just an older version of the 10yo. Small hints of peat as well as (only) a small hint of the clay and wax from the 10yo at first, but these aroma’s, as well as the sweetness, develop a lot over time, so give it time to grow. Wonderful stuff.

Taste: Sweetish, red fruits, cloying syrup. A bit Port like. Toasted cask. Peatier than the 10yo, but the peat is well hidden behind the Sherry notes. Definitely a lot drier and fruitier from the 10yo. Alas, just like the 10yo, this has not the longest of finishes and the aftertaste is not particularly big as well. Lovely development towards more fatty peat and oil and sweet tar and a hint of licorice and sugared black tea. Extremely well made and balanced.

I remember when this was released, it wasn’t a very popular bottling. Sure it deviated quite a bit from the usual Campbeltown profile. Even today the 15yo isn’t the most popular Springbank. People seem to dish out more for the old 10yo than for this old 15yo. I’m just happy it is here and it is different from the 10yo. I love both, but for me the Sherry brings something new to the Springbank table, and therefore will score this slightly higher (and because I like it more).

Points: 86

Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, Circa 2003)

So I guess you managed to survive Christmas, congratulations! Christmas is over, but the year is not. There are still a few days left before this year is over, so I dug up two Springbank Whiskies from some twelve years ago. It’s not long ago since I reviewed a more recent 10yo from 2010, so its nice to see how this older version “behaves”. Yes, I said two Springbanks, so the last review on these pages for this year 2015 will be its brother (or sister), the 15yo, from the same time as this 10yo.

Springbank 10yo (circa 2003)Color: Gold

Nose: Oily and fatty. Typical Springbank. Warm barley.  Creamy sweetness. Vegetal. Lots of vanilla, vanilla sugar, vanilla pudding. Nice soft wood. Warm sugar-water. Amazing how sweet this actually smells. Dusty and powdery, but again think creamy and vanilla. Sure it shows its typical Campbeltown profile, but believe me, this is nowhere near the complexity of the current 10yo. Almonds and slightly acidic crushed beetle (with a hint of banana and paper), combined with more and more dusty and dry oak. Tiny hint of smoke and maybe some freshly cut muddy peat, but in fact it is hardly peaty at all. Seems a bit simpler compared to more recent offerings of the same age.

Taste: Sweet it is. Oily, nutty and slightly industrial. Lots of clay. Sweet toffee. Chewy. Very big aroma. Typical Campbeltown. Sugared fruits and again quite a lot of wax (and clay). Warming with noticeable peat this time. After a while a citrussy and fresh note appears. Lemon curd, not sharp lemon by itself. Lemon captured in sugar. After the big and sweet body, I didn’t see the rather weak finish coming. The nose still oozes aroma of wax, clay and wood, then you sip it, and it is big and sweet, and then it starts to leave the building rather quickly. The aftertaste is slightly off with oaky acidity.

It different from the 2010 10yo, but both are great. If you can get this one for not too much money, I would say pick it up. It’s good and very educational compared to more recent bottlings. Where every other distillery try to manage some kind of consistency, Springbank is not that anal about it. The Campbeltown profile is pretty specific, so I don’t think its customers are seeking consistency, but rather welcome the evolution over the years as well as the batch variation that is clearly the with all of Springbank’s products. One of the Whisky nerds favorite distillery, and you are probably one of them, and just like me, proud of it.

Points: 85

Springbank 18yo (46%, OB, 14/301)

Reviewing the utterly wonderful Glenfarclas 29yo I came across some notes and hints of coconut. Coconut is something I always found a lot of in old Springbanks, so Springbank stuck a bit in the back of mind, when I was tasting the Glenfarclas. Very conveniently, I have an open bottle of Springbank 18yo on my lectern, so lets see if this Sprinbank still has a hint of the old coconut up its sleeve. If I’m not mistaken, this Springbank is made from 80% Sherry casks and just 20% Bourbon. Lets hope the Springbank coconut is not (only) from the Bourbon casks.

Springbank 18yo (2014)Color: Gold.

Nose: Ferns and leafy. Garden bonfire (smoldering grass). Lots of forest floor aroma’s. Partly creamy. Sowing machine oil and slightly smoky. Sweet cold black tea. Give it some time and this actually is a beautiful nose. Red fruit juice and sweet red apples, but also some Golden Delicious, combined with hot metal. The smell of dead, old steam equipment. When given some more time to breathe some nice yellow fruits come through. Dried apricots combined with mint. Very fruity Sherry, almost a sweet white Sherry. It also reminds me a bit of Sauternes and sweet Moscato. Fabulous balance. Wonderful batch of Springbank 18yo. However, no coconut in the nose.

Taste: Sweet, oily and nutty. Fruity as well. Strange enough when the fruity part comes the sweetness hops into the back seat, so even though the fruity bit is highly aromatic, it isn’t sweet. So not a lot of fructose nor thick fruit, but a thin kind of yellow fruit. Slightly perfumy as well. Well balanced and everything stays in its place. Not a lot of development over time. Nice smoky note too and the sowing machine oil is present as well, but alas no coconut.

This is great stuff, but I still think this is not a Whisky for everybody. It’s not a lovely, fruity and soft Whisky. This is more a Whisky with muscles. A masculine dram with oil and smoke. Although almost three times distilled, it is miles apart from the typical triple distilled grassy and citrussy Lowlanders. Artisan Whisky from a lovely distillery.

Points: 88

Springbank 10yo (46%, OB, 10/342)

Why not try another Springbank. This one does have an age statement. It’s 10 years old. Just like the “CV” I reviewed earlier, this one was bottled (late) in 2010.

Springbank 10yo (46%, OB)Color: Pale orange gold.

Nose: Clay and spicy. Fruity, creamy and nutty, almonds. Toasted wood. Smallest hint of coal and old dried orange peel. Compared with the CV this definitely has seen some ex-Sherry casks. Nice nose with lots more balance than the CV. Here we also have a papery note. Not only fruity, but also floral, more of everything and a lot extra. Floral part smells a bit like soap, and after that the fruitiness shines through. Lovely.

Taste: Clay, balanced and pretty sweet, with a small woody bite. Nutty again and definitely some peat. Good stuff this is, maybe a bit too heavy on the sugared fruits. Definitely sweeter than I expected. Toffee and cream, and where the nose and the CV have some rough edges, this 10yo if far more polished. Velvety. Good stuff, but I would have liked this even better if the taste matched the nose a bit more. Hints of petrol, we’re moving in the right direction again. Sweet and sweat. Lovely.

Unique stuff and there is nothing like Springbank. Yes this may not be for everybody, so if you are the regular hotel bar drinker or are only into Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie and Balvenie, this may not be for you. You might not like this, but if you aren’t, this is something special. You must try Springbank. Maybe not the best expression, but for this price and with this heritage you can’t go wrong. Probably one of the best 10yo around (with the Benromach 10yo).

Points: 85

Springbank “CV” (46%, OB, 10/12)

What does 10/12 mean, you might ask? Well, usually there are codes printed on the back of the front label, which you can read it through the glass. I was told the digits before the “/” depict the year of bottling, and the digits after the “/” is an operation number for that year, which in this case is a bottling run. Here 10/12 stands for the 12th operation of 2010, probably in January. In this case a bottling run. But also a marriage of casks or re-racking of casks get an operation number, so it’s not only bottling runs that get an operation number. There was at least one other bottling done of the Springbank CV in 2010 and it’s code is 10/123, probably somewhere from march through may of 2010.

Springbank CV (46%, OB)Color: Pale gold

Nose: Funky, raw and oily with added citrus notes. Reminds me of Kilkerran. Clay and yellow fruits. When concentrated, peppermint. Nice fresh oak, tree sap. Lemon curd and overall very intense and young aroma’s. Hint of unripe pineapple with vanilla and distant smoke. The wood also gives a nice spiciness to it, given some time to breathe. Good nose.

Taste: Less oily and seems peaty. Young, not completely balanced yet. peppery, paprika attack. Again this reminds me of Kilkerran. Oily and hidden sweetness. Traces of cardboard and oaky bitterness. It’s youth comes through in the simpleness of the dram, meaning that it’s not very complex and I was quite surprised by the weakish finish.

The initial mouthfeel is nice, so is the body. The nose shows a nice potential. Good Whisky just too young. Whisky like this needs some age to make it to the finish. I like Springbank and even here a lot is working for me, just the finish, thin, paper and watery, and that from a Whisky that was bottled at 46% ABV. Quality stuff, just bottled to early.

Points: 84