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

Longrow 10yo 1993 (46%, OB, 2003)

Another peated whisky in the summer? Has Master Quill gone completely crazy? Yes, because who wants to be “normal”! If you feel like it, just do it… By the way, it’s raining like crazy outside, so it only seems fitting.

2001 saw the first release of a 10 year old, with a vintage. Remember the classic brown paper Longrow label on the tall bottle? The first two releases, both in 2001 and both distilled in 1991 were a “normal one” said to be only from Bourbon, but also, for one time only, a Sherrywood. The series was short-lived, and was discontinued in 2006 after the 1996 vintage, in favour of the 10yo without a vintage statement. Throughout the series I don’t believe all normal ones were from Bourbon casks only, if any. You know Springbank, they tend not to repeat themselves. Just compare the last two releases of the Longrow 18yo (with the white labels), since the 2016 release contains Rum casks. Never a dull moment with Springbank and all of their other brands. Today we’ll have a look at the 1993 vintage of the 10yo, that was released in 2003.

Longrow 10yo 1993Color: Light gold.

Nose: Nice fresh peat. Fatty and smoky. The peat is smelling three-dimensional. It’s not only just there, it goes deep, and seems without end in complexity. Peat mixed with hints of lemon, waxy apple skins and vanilla. Cookie dough. Whiffs of warm apple pie. Burning leaves, sugared yellow fruits and even hints of sweet-smelling sweat, crushed beetle and slightly burned herbs and even has a quaint nuttiness about it. Very balanced stuff, with only a mere hint of wood. All seems to fit in together nicely. This is the best peat I’ve smelled in quite some time. I must admit, it had plenty of air to work with. Love it.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry. Heavy on licorice and the peat is shoved into the background, by the sweetness. The sweetness dissipates and leaves more room for a sort of herbal fruitiness. Prickly licorice and the nuttiness from the nose. Alas the peat never really makes it to the top and the wonderful depth it has on the nose doesn’t really blossom tasting it. Long finish, built around the caramel sweetness and with a larger role for sour oak. Coffee and chocolate in the aftertaste. It still is a wonderful Malt. Just if the complexity of the nose would have shone through in the taste, it would have been a truly exceptional Whisky.

Well this might not be a Whisky from the seventies, but it does remind me of the quality of that decade. I’m actually amazed a bit that many of the vintages are still available, although somewhat more expensive than the new 10yo.

Points: 88

Longrow 13yo 1993/2006 (57.1%, OB, Private Bottling, for MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson, Cask #635)

This is a sample I have lying around for a very long time. I last tasted it last some ten years ago, and there was definitely something wrong with this. Just have a look at the review posted by Serge. yes, he’s a big fan of this one! Ten years ago I found it pretty odd as well, but come to think of it, Springbank make such good Whisky, what must have happened for it to be so “strange”, and for it to be bottled? Today I’m becoming more and more a fan of Springbank, feeling they can’t do anything wrong. In these days of NAS (some bad, some good), Springbank are able to churn out one good bottling after another. NAS or no NAS. So this less than half full sample got plenty of time to balance itself out with some air, so let’s see how this private cask of MacMhuirich, Currie & Wilkinson will do in 2016. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?

Longrow 1993 Private Bottling Cask #635Color: Light gold.

Nose: Light peat, but not much and some burning plastic. Herbal lemon. Deeper down a more buttery note. Fatty with hidden sweetness. Slightly burnt wood (toasted cask), fresh dried oak and an acidic off-note. Bread, butter, paper, cardboard (they all go together) and caramel. Toffee even. Next some crushed beetle. In my case an accident, because I’m not cruel to animals, but once I’ve gained the experience, I’ll never forget the smell. Well, it’s in this Whisky. (Tobacco) smoke and cold charcoal. Hints of menthol. It is a nose that wants to be dry and spicy, not fruity. It’s not floral, but may very well have been. Add to that a creamy, butter and toffee and you have this in a nutshell. Very well hidden is the aroma of new make spirit, a sweetish Vodka aroma. Sure, this is (still) lacking in balance a bit, but it’s not as bad as it was ten years ago. It did get better with “some” air. I actually like how it smells now.

Taste: Sweet, but with a lot of bread and paper notes. Floral plastics and vegetal. The initial sweetness works well with the relatively high ABV. Sweet sugared yellow fruits. Sugared apricots. the body itself is not so sweet. Interesting. Damn, this is really about vegetal paper. Paper, cardboard, wet paper, pulp. It’s hard to impossible to get past this. The paper notes overwhelm the entry and the better part of the body. When this dissipates, an acidic note shows itself which just is wrong. Towards the end of the body, the Whisky also becomes slightly soapy. Yeah, lets add to the plastic pleasure. Hey, now I get some smoked eel skin as well as the aroma of an ash-tray and sweet jasmine powder. What a Whisky. This has quite a few flaws, so maybe it’s good the finish is not very long (and hardly an aftertaste).

If after Serge’s review (and mine) you still want to buy it, be advised that you should let this breathe extensively. And I do mean extensively this time. It will help the nose along, the taste however is beyond repair. I wonder what went wrong here. It probably wasn’t the spirit going into the cask, but was the cask somehow contaminated? Rotting bung cloth? A fungus maybe? In the end not a complete dud, so I won’t be scoring this 55 Points like Serge, but for a Longrow this is not a good score either…

Points: 80

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

Campbeltown Loch 30yo (40%, Springbank Distillery, 09/507)

I get this all the time. “You always write about Single Malt Whisky, as if there is no other Whisky”. Yes, those people might have a point, but I do prefer Single Malt over today’s Blends, but forgetting about blends altogether, would be a mistake. Just have a go with a blend from the olden days to convince yourself. Mind you, most of them still are very inexpensive at auctions, so it doesn’t cost a lot to be adventurous.

Here we have a Blend that was brought to you by the good people of Springbank. Hence the use of the standard Springbank bottle. For now, let’s give this 30yo blend a go, and more about the ingredients of this Blend later…

Campbeltown Loch 30yoColor: Gold.

Nose: Grainy, dull at first, with some paper notes. Cola freshness. The whole is very malty and light, so there probably is a lot of Grain in this Blend. Not a lot of old Whisky aroma is oozing out of my glass. Hints of old Sherried Malt, yeast and cardboard. Next some old wood emerges with dusty and, slightly smoky, notes of very dried out apricots. So slightly fruity and waxy, typical for old Bourbon casked Malt. Oak spice and some woody mint, but not as much as you would expect after 30 years.

Taste: Grainy, Malty and sweet. Very light. Light mocha and milk chocolate notes. Nice cookie dough and waxy depth and although quite thin, it has a bit of chewiness to it. Still, the body remains very light and fragile, grainy and lightly fruity. Towards the end a vegetal and a soury note from the oak leads into the weakish and quite short finish. It comes across as watered down, and hardly seems 40% ABV at all. You know what my next remark would be…

Before we continue, here is what Springbank had to say about this Blend: “Around 45% of the Campbeltown Loch 30yo is made up of the old 25yo, which was allowed to mature on. That 25yo blend was almost 100% malt and contained some 1964 Springbank along with other single malts including 1977 Ardmore, 1977 North Port, 1978 Tomatin, 1977 Imperial, 1976 Glengarioch, 1976 Ardbeg and 1976 Glen Grant. 30yo grain from Girvan was added to that, to complete the new 30yo Campbeltown Loch.“ Well I couldn’t have said that any better myself.

The old 25yo they mention was made from almost 100% Malt Whisky, so it almost was a Blended Malt, or Vatted Malt we used to call it back then. This 30yo however, contains only 40% Malt Whisky, so a lot of that Girvan was added to the old 25yo.

Yes it’s nice, but also very light. This Blend has a lot of fans and why not, just read the list of its contents again. Check out the age again. Personally, I don’t really get a lot of the old malts in this blend and I don’t think the Girvan was matured in very active casks, that mask the old Malts even more. Nevertheless, nice stuff and I won’t have a problem finishing this, but I can’t help but feel this could have been even better by adding less Girvan and bottling fewer bottles, since there weren’t any more old Malts available. I do hope I get to try the old 25yo Blend someday…

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