...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Single Malt Report: Springbank 13 year old 1999 Whiskykanzler (Fresh Port Cask)

Another borrowed bottle photo. Tomorrow we'll return to my photos.

Here's Florin's label if that's of any comfort.

Last week I reviewed a Whiskykanzler single cask Arran.  This week I'm reviewing two more Whiskykanzler single casks.  But this time, the whisky is from the Springbank distillery.  These two come from different cask types and result in two very different whiskies.  All three of these bottlings have an illustration by Ben Gash, who, if I'm reading correctly, also did the voice dubbing for Fox Mulder for the X-Files in Germany.  The different label illustrations can be lined up to make a little diorama panorama of a town.  It's a nice touch, and never gets cutesy or ironic like That Boutique-y Whisky Company's illustrations.

Today's review is of the Springbank aged in a "Fresh Port Cask".  The bottle count tells me that this wasn't a whole actual port pipe (which are enormous), so either they split one with another bottler or used a hogshead that was seasoned with port.  I'll guess the latter.  If you know more, please let me know in the comment section.

Like the single cask Arran reviewed last week, this bottle was split between Florin (a prince) and My Annoying Opinions.  Mr. MAO, who posted his review two months ago, liked it quite a bit.  But would I???

Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Whiskykanzler
Type: Single Malt
Age: 13 years
Distilled: October 1, 1999
Bottled: May 22, 2013
Maturation: Fresh Port Cask
Cask #: 246
Bottle count: 312
Alcohol by Volume: 56.3%

Its golden color has rosy and maroon highlights.  There's also some sediment floating around in it, and I'm a sucker for schmutz in my whisky.  The port is very well integrated on the nose.  The chocolate and dried grass notes arrive simultaneously.  Leather jacket then hot cereal.  Grape and raspberry jam meet yeast and barley.  Some Heath Bar, too.  It's not hot at all, unlike the Arran.  After thirty minutes there's a gorgeous floral blast, followed by peels of lemon, citron, and apple.  The palate is hotter than the nose, but still nicely textured.  Some stewed or baked raisins.  An herbal fruit punch.  Flourless chocolate cake, dark cherries, and just a touch of smoke.  A hint of welcome sulphur.  There's some sweetness from the wine but the whisky remains very grassy.  Sweet and heat for much of the long finish, then bitter almond, bitter chocolate, and sour cherries.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose gets grape-ier.  Plums, cherry juice, a hint of manure, a rubber band.  Still some barley in there.  Maybe some smoke.  Definitely a cow (in boots) stomping on the grapes.  The palate calms down.  The elements merge to the point that they're tougher to separate.  There's a farm/hay note and silky fruit syrups.  Aromatic bitters.  Starts to get very sweet after a while.  The finish remains very sizable but gets sweeter and simpler.  Some more port starts to show.

I liked this a lot.  It was a good thing that I put aside two ounces to review because the rest of it vanished quickly.  I've started to warm up to port + whisky in general, but I think the full maturation (rather than a finish) in a port cask did the trick here as the parts are integrated into a solid whole.  Adding water doesn't improve things nor totally ruin them, though it does bring out more sweetness than my palate cares for.  The nose is the whisky's best part, but the palate is very good as well.

This single cask is sold out, but if you find one at an auction or in your own cabinet then drink it and don't flip it!  And when you drink it, I recommend it served neatly.  It may please both port fans and Springbank fans alike.  Well done, Whiskykanzler.

Availability - Sold out at the retailer
Pricing - €69
Rating - 89 (when neat)


  1. This was the bottle that got my attention in the Wein & Whisky shop, and thankfully I have another one in reserve (present from my wife, you know). It was also a high in my pursuit of port-anything whisky, in a great year that included Laphroaig Cairdeas, Ballechin #3, and Midwinter Nights' Dram. (People try Quinta Ruban and then conclude that port-enhanced whisky is bad. Or just don't have a palate for tannins in whisky. Serge and the rest of you go ahead, leave them all for me!) As with good Springbanks there's a deep malted oats aroma & flavor, like you're chewing on the grains. Very good stuff!

    Incidentally, I also agree with your take on the Arran from Whiskykanzler. I enjoyed it as a session whisky, but it was not the event in itself. The hotness was indeed an obstacle.

    When in Berlin make sure to visit Wein & Whisky, it's an institution. Both shop & owner are old-school and understated. Bring cash.

    1. You can keep MOST of the wineskys. I appear to like wine cask matured whisky more Serge, but not as much as other people do. Wine finishes (sherry included) don't work for me 90% of the time.

      I've also noticed that the winey whiskies from the malt managers who can't stop doing interviews and dog&pony shows (Lumsden, Paterson, McEwan) never work for me. Their winey products always strike me as anywhere from uninspiring to poor. The wineskys that I've enjoyed have been from malt managers who do not feel the need to announce or explain their art.

    2. Good point on wineskys from the self-promoters. The good stuff sells itself (word of mouth being more powerful than slick sales presentations).

      Those guys tend to do finishes in "fresh" (read containing plenty of the wine in the) casks for weeks or months, whereas Springbank and others tend to do the second period of maturation for years.


    3. I said port, not sherry. (Pepsi & Coke are nice, but I'll just have water, thanks.)
      The jury is out on the other wines.
      By the way, the first whisky that completely blew me away when I rediscovered the drink some 6 years ago was this Springbank finished in Chateau d'Yquem, that McEwan put out. When I open the bottle squirreled away you'll get to taste it, if only to reconsider your take on winesky and McEwan. Although I know where you're coming from (80's Bowmore, 00's Bruichladdich, ...)

    4. @Portwood - Yeah, I think the primary and secondary maturations are the ones that actually work. Sadly, I think the self-promotion does get one bottle sold per easily persuaded customer. But actual quality will be what brings people back for a second bottle. For instance, the last three Glenmorangie limited edition whiskies are all still sitting on the shelves in most US cities. Folks ain't going back for that second bottle. Perhaps, soon they'll not buy the first bottle... And you're right though, once a whisky gets great word of mouth it sells out promptly.

    5. @Florin - You and I are likely of a similar opinion regarding port-matured single malts. I know it's not popular to include sherried whiskies as part of the wineskys due to the historical use of sherry in the industry, but sherry can be just as invasive and conspicuous as other wine casks.

      I'll have to taste the Springbank to believe it! :) Though Springbank seems to usually take on other elements well.

  2. If people don't flip bottles, how will the auctions have any?

    - Ol' Jas

    1. Oy. Yeah, you're right. You got me on that one. At least I have the comfort of knowing that flippers never listen to me.