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Friday, September 14, 2018

Springbank 12 year old 2003 Single Cask, port pipe

Single cask Springbank releases are more frequent in Europe than they are in the US, and often considerably cheaper. The retailers than ship internationally aren't much help because their supply vaporizes amongst their expanded customer base. An American is left with two choices, either one can stare wistfully at each release announcement, or one can start a blog just so one can mooch off of one's better connected friends.

My friend Matt, who seems to have every single release, shared a sample of this single port pipe, a release I'd never heard of.

Judging by the bottle count, this was a proper port pipe. And though Springbank may practice similar "single cask" hijinks as GlenDronach, they have less motivation to do so. Glendronach finds itself under pressure to keep putting out rich sherry cask whisky every several months, while Springbank can announce the release a three year-old Hazelburn matured in a used colostomy bag and it would still sell out in a minute.

Okay, maybe not Hazelburn.

Now I will rinse my brain with cask strength single malt. Won't you join me?

^^^ Whisky Data!
The whisky has an apricot gold color to it. A tawny port pipe, maybe? It's that fortified wine that's parked in the nose's foreground. Mixed berry compote, grape drink, agave nectar and candied citrus peels. Not much peat or smoke, if there's any at all. A metallic note appears after a bit. The port retreats in the palate, replaced by sooty smoke, chili oil and a wee farmy edge. There a subtle berry note to it, but the whisky's sweetness feels more honeyed than fruity. The 58.3%abv feels manageable. With time in the glass, the whisky gets farmier, and suddenly there are notes of black licorice and unaged rye. The finish has that chili oil and soot, and a little of the rye. The sweetness stays mild and there are small notes of blueberry jam and tart lemons.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.5tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The metallic note gets much louder in the nose, and is joined by little bit of charcoal barbecue smoke. There's still plenty of pretty stuff, like maraschino cherries, strawberry bubble gum, flowers and orange oil. The palate is farmy and grassy. Sweeter than before. Agave nectar, leather and cinnamon-y unaged rage. The finish is sweet and sooty and long. A little bit of cinnamon and seaweed-y peat.

With its strength, cask, and (what used to be considered) youth, the whisky was expected to be expressive, and in that it does not disappoint. The ABV isn't too intrusive. Water doesn't open the whisky, so much as it calms it down. If you're wine cask-phobic, then the nose will put you off, but be brave and give it a sip because the spirit gets top billing in the palate. So, yes, this Springbank goes off in different directions, but all are decent and none are too extreme.

One thing I did notice this week, was that all three of these Springbanks read young. Which means they were neither overbaked nor entirely done baking. The sparring partners — Springbank Green 13 year old and this 10yo indie port cask — felt more mature and well-rounded. Yes, those two were not bottled at cask strength, but heat and tightness weren't the issues with the CSes. There's no conspiracy at hand, though. Each of this week's whiskies were distilled in different years and bottled at different times utilizing different casks. And with that, let's move on to a different distillery next week.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85