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Monday, April 26, 2021

Springbank 17 year old 2002 Madeira Cask Matured

I was going to call this week, W(h)ine Week! But I'll go a little commercial and call it Cask Exploration Week instead. There will be three Port Charlottes and two not-Port Charlottes.

To begin with, a Springbank. A semi-relevant Springbank at that. Bottled only six months ago, this Springer has a misleading name, "Madeira Cask Matured". One supposes they needed to call it something, and Cask Fuckery 2020 would be too all-encompassing of a title in this marketplace. It's a mix of of bourbon cask and rum cask Springbank that had a three-year secondary maturation in fresh Madeira hogsheads.

I've reviewed a few of these annual cask-y releases, like the Burgundy and Rum, finding them all falling short of the standard bottlings, but still pretty good. How about this one...?

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 17 years (November 2002 - October 2020)
Maturation: bourbon casks + rum casks for 14 years, fresh Madeira hogsheads for 3 years
Outturn: 9200 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 47.8%
(from a bottle split)


There's a swirl of fruity cask things going on at the start of the nose: tangerines, raspberry jam, anise and sugary rum. These elements team up to mute the peat. Hints of steel wool and dried thyme sneak out. Then there's a combination of wet concrete and bus fumes that triggers a sense memory of London, fourteen years ago. The anise note grows with time. The whisky is less fruity, more Campbeltown, once reduced to 43%abv. There's dirt, metal and engine grease. Just little bit of peach candy, apricots and molasses in the background.

The palate hits warmer than expected. It has some of the nose's fruit, but more industrial smoke. There's a little bit of butterscotch, cayenne and Hampden-style olives. It makes for very casual drinking, until it develops more ash and bitterness after 30 minutes. Reducing the whisky to 43%abv doesn't do it any favors. It's earthier but also bitterer, a woody bitterness that doesn't mix well with the lemon candy and fennel notes.

It finishes with sweet and tart oranges, cayenne pepper, copper and a touch of bitterness. Once reduced to 43%abv, the finish shows more tannins, while keeping the sweet citrus.


I didn't realize I took so many notes on this one. It's an expressive whisky, but though it delivers a few unique notes, I can't say it tops any of the standard range, which is inexcusable considering its price. Perhaps Springbank has cursed itself with its excellent single malt. It can't top itself, especially by adding more casks. This isn't as grim of a situation as Ardbeg, since the annual Springbank limited releases have been consistently good. Again, this one continues the quality, but for the price of 3 or 4 10yos, or 2 or 3 12yo CSes, this should deliver more pyrotechnics.

Availability - Not sold out, yet
Pricing - $280-$400
Rating - 86

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