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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Single Malt Report: Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength, Batch 6 (53.1%abv)

Here's something else to be thankful for: Springbank bottled at high strength.  The official bottlers have cranked out at least nine batches of the 12 year CS over the past four years.  From what I've gathered, all the batches have been made up of 60% first-fill sherry casks and 40% refill sherry casks.  But compared to the CS sherry bombs by Aberlour, Glenfarclas, and Macallan which often clock in at 60+%abv, the Springbank CSes (other than batch #2) are at noticeably lower ABVs; with batch 7 down to 50.3%.  Yes, the Springers are a couple of years older but their angels appear to be taking expedited bigger bites.  Either that has to do with a difference in climate between the Campbeltown & Speyside warehouses or Springbank has been applying more water to the mix before bottling.  I guess a third (less likely) possibility is that the spirit is going into the barrel at a different ABV to start off with.  A fourth, even less likely, possibility is that they add underproof older stuff, though I think the days when they did that have long passed.

Anyway, higher ABVs do not mean higher quality.  I'd leap for a Springbank before any of those others without a second thought.  For me, even an average Springbank can be more interesting that many distilleries' best stuff.  Yes, I am a fan.

[PLEASE NOTE: There seems to be some confusion between retailers about some of these Springbank CS batches.  Even though my sample from Master of Malt says "Batch 5", it is in fact Batch 6.  Batch 5 had a 52.2%ABV.  David Allen of Springbank provided Ben's Whisky Blog with the official Cask Strength batch ABV data in July.  I'll go with that official info.  I've also reached out to Springbank for further clarification.]

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Age: 12 years
Maturation: a 60/40 mix of first-fill and refill sherry casks
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 53.1%
Batch: 6

Its color is apple juice.  The nose starts off as fuzzy mossy golden raisin Springbank ice cream.  Pepper, spent matchsticks, and peat swirl together into a single object.  A single rose blossom in black engine grease.  Leather shoes in wet sand.  In the palate there's a surprising grapey GlenDronach-style sherry burst.  Grape jelly too.  Meanwhile the moss doesn't entirely give into the sherry.  There are some fresh strawberries there, as well as sea salt.  Hints of mango, vanilla, and sulphur.  Grape jelly again in the finish. Sweet PX-ish sherry.  Strawberries, lemons, and salt.

WITH WATER (approx. 46%abv)
The peat moss has receded in the nose.  There's more straightforward oloroso sherry.  A mild dried fruit note.  Wet sand, boat exhaust, and (maybe) a little bit of dirty hay.  The palate is still grapey, though things get saltier and tarter.  The peat strengthens and some wormwood bitterness builds, merging with milk chocolate and caramel.  The sherry knocks the peat out of the finish.  Salt, mint, and milk chocolate.

This really works, both with and without water.  The dirty and the pretty work well together.  I like the big sherry when the whisky is neat, but I also like how the palate gets more rugged with hydration.  While I do like the defunct 100% bourbon "10 year old 100 proof" bottlings a little bit more, I was plenty impressed by this batch of sherried Springbank......so much so, I've decided to do another Springbank 12yo CS review on Thursday.

Availability - this batch was Europe only (I think)
Pricing - was in the $70-$80 range
Rating - 88