I've reviewed Springbank's entry level 10 yo whisky before, so why am I now reviewing a 12yo Springbank? Surely there wouldn't be that much difference between that 10 yo and this 12 yo, right? Wrong! Why? Well mainly because of those two little words: cask strength.
The 46% offerings from Springbank distillery are good whiskies, but in my experience so far, the cask strength offerings are great whiskies. The 12 yo Springbank is produced in regular batch releases, with the resulting variations in both strength and level of greatness, but I am yet to taste one I haven't enjoyed.
The fact that this bottling is generally available for around $130-140 AUD (for some perspective, the 10 yo 46% bottling is around $100) is an added bonus. There aren't many cask strength single malts around for that sort of money, and even less that are (lightly) peated, non-chill filtered, naturally coloured and, perhaps most significantly, that carry an age statement. What about any made from floor-malted local barley, made using a direct-fired wash still, and matured and bottled on-site? I'd say this is just about your only option!
The sample I'm reviewing here is from an older release, batch 5, which was first released in early 2012, and matured in a combination of first-fill and re-fill sherry casks. But the batches are more easily identified by the strength, which in this case is a nice meaty 55.1%.
The more recent batch that seems to be most available in Australia was bottled at 50.3%, which is obviously a significant difference in strength. I have tasted that one previously though, and don't recall anything particularly negative about it. But a 5% difference in strength, is a 5% difference in strength!
(more recent batch pictured)
Springbank 12 yo, Cask Strength, 55.1%. Campbeltown, Scotland.
Batch 5, released 2012. Matured in combination of first-fill & refill sherry casks. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.
Nose: Sweet malt, rich & dry sherry, a little salty and nutty as well. Stewed stone & tropical fruits, a little dry white wine? Could be a lighter style of sherry though, hard to say. Hint of orange oil, and earthy soft peat.
Texture: Lovely. Big & meaty, but not aggressive. Very nice.
Taste: Dry & crumbly peat, more prominent now than on the nose. Lighter sherry, and a caramel sweetness. Wet stone, a little chilli, a little orange-heavy marmalade. A hint of ashy smoke in the background.
Finish: Long & warming. Mild dark chocolate, perhaps cooking chocolate. More chilli, a little fruit syrup. Peat embers & juicy malted barley go the distance.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: Surprisingly peaty, at least compared to my expectations, especially after a little extra time in the glass. Excellent quality and great texture, with plenty of flavour as well. Not a sherry monster of course, and it's not meant to be, but the influence is there, and I suspect it's not all down to the usual suspect Mr. Oloroso.
A fantastic malt, which all whisky fans should try, and a must-have for the cask strength and / or Springbank fans. The fact that it's great value for money is just icing on the cake. I will say that from what I remember, I do prefer this batch to the later 50.3% version, and I don't remember there being this level of peat influence in that newer release. Nonetheless, that's certainly not a reason not to try or buy it.
Springbank distillery isn't cutting any corners, in production or otherwise, and I think it really shows in their whiskies. I'm yet to try any Hazelburn (triple distilled, un-peated Springbank), but all the Springbank and Longrow malts I've tasted have been very good. And this one definitely continues that trend.