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Friday, April 1, 2016

Single Malt Report: Springbank 17 year old 1997 Sherry Wood (2015 release)

Springbank has released a number of teenage "Sherry Wood" cask strength casks/batches over the past few years.  The one I'm reviewing today is the most recent 17 year old, the one with the perky red packaging you may have seen from time to time.

(Source: official site)
In addition to the Sherry Wood releases, there have also been a number of recent 16 to 19 year old Bourbon Wood, Port Wood, and Rum Wood batches/casks.  And the main complaint that some of us have with those is how deliriously high they've been priced in the United States.  As in, $300+ for a 19 year old (see here and here for two stores with the median price).

As I've demonstrated repeatedly, single malt whisky prices have gone up rapidly in the US.  But in Springbank Distillers Ltd's case it's an example of the distillery NOT being responsible for the increases, rather it's the importer/distributor with the heavy hand.  For example, (as per Wine-Searcher Pro's Average Wine Prices/History model) Americans are currently paying 47% more for Springbank 18, 53% more for each of the two Green releases, and 77% more for Longrow 18 than the Scots and Brits are.  Do tell, Pacific Edge Wine and Sprits, what in the greasy f**k?

With all that being said, this 17 year old Sherry Wood is only 16% more expensive here than in Continental Europe.  And its average US price is nearly the same as the older but lower-ABV and more widely available regular 18 year old.  In fact, it's $20 cheaper than the regular 18 at a local store.  So, perhaps this one slipped through Pacific Edge's hooks?

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown
Type: Single Malt
Age: 17 years (April 1997 - January 2015)
Maturation: "fresh and refill sherry butts and hogsheads"
Limited Bottling: 9,120 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.3%
(From a purchased sample)

Its color is a medium gold.

A reassuring grungy industrial Springbank-y note burns brightly in the nose.  It meets a mild dry sherry and a gentle mossy peat, as well as loads of cherry shisha and toffee pudding.  It's at alternate time plummy and minty.  There are smaller salty oceanside and anise notes.  After 20 minutes in the glass, it picks up a sharp lemon zest note, as well as vanilla bean and a little bit of barbecue.

The palate begins malty, with a side of fresh cherries and blueberries, then moves to limes and a zesty herbal-liqueur-like bitterness.  Delicate sherry notes.  Softly sweet plums, prunes, and black licorice.  A slight spicy zing.

A drier sherry in the finish.  Malt, distant smoke, a bitter rumble.  Also a nice spiciness that feels like a long-aged rye finished in sherry casks.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The anise note grows in the nose, as does the peat.  The sherry gets a little more sugary.  Dried berries and cherries.  Earthy molasses and orange zest.  The "Springbank-y" note remains, as does the toffee pudding.

The palate is sweeter and spicier.  Small floral notes meet up with the zesty bitters.  A hint of smoke.  Dark berries and dried apricots.

Those dried apricots continue into the finish.  Sweeter fruitier sherry (or European oak) notes show up alongside peat residue.

This smells and tastes like a combination of the official 12yo Cask Strength and 18 year old, but richer.  I've read a number of reviews online that comment/complain about the lack of sherry notes in this one.  Dunno what they're talking about, the sherry and European oak (and probably some US oak) are all present and accounted for in the whisky.  Perhaps everyone's used to Glendronach and Glenfarclas sherry bombs.  Here those notes are more moderate, which is great because the Springbank spirit can still be heard.

For a change, I agree with Whisky Advocate's take on a whisky......except for this sentence: "This bottling also wins plaudits for affordability."  Wat?  I don't care what the market is like, $170 does not qualify under "affordability" for one bottle of mass produced liquid.  My god, the delusions.

Anyway, this is great whisky.

Availability - Probably a few dozen specialty retailers in the US
Pricing - $160 to $190 in the US
Rating - 89