My thoughts will return to the sound of your laughter,
One of three remaining distilleries in Campbeltown (a distilling region all to itself), Springbank produces some of Scotland's most stunning and complex single malt whiskies. All of them possess terrific, pioneering, and masculine names like something out of a James Fenimore Cooper novel: Straight-Tongue, Deerslayer, Hawkeye, La Longue Carabine, Pathfinder, Leatherstocking, Longrow, Hazelburn, Springbank (ok, so only those last three are whiskies). All of them are unique in their own right, despite coming from Springbank: The Distillery. Longrow is distilled twice and heavily peated to around 50-55 ppm phenols. Hazelburn is distilled three times and is unpeated. Springbank is the most complex of the bunch, being distilled two and a half times (I'll explain what that means some other time) and being mildly peated to around 12-15 ppm. I found this particular bottle hiding away in Middle Earth (Arkansas) in a small, expertly-run liquor store on Christmas Eve. It was surrounded by three different single cask bottlings of 12 year old Springbank and two other bottlings of Hazelburn (one since discontinued). Woe, that I have but a limited budget for holiday whiskey!
I have most recently tried Springbank's 12 year old cask strength expression, but in this case I wanted to venture off the beaten path and try something truly unique. This particular single cask was matured in a refill sherry hogshead (the type of sherry was not specified). Only 281 bottles of it will ever exist, which by my iPhone calculator means that I am drinking approximately 1/281th of all of this liquid that will ever exist. There were 3 bottles left at the store (Colonial*SNEEZE*LittleRock*COUGH), but for how much longer...
While you're chewing away at that, I'm sitting here puzzling over this liquid's color. I didn't expect a refill hogshead to contribute much to the color (or the flavor, really), but this goes beyond the pale (pun fully intended). No, really, it's a super-light yellow, much lighter than I'm used to in an 11 year old. When you add water - which you should certainly do at 57.1% ABV - it gets even crazier. I'm calling it a slightly greenish straw color. Limeade? Meh. By color alone, you'd worry that there's not gonna be much there.
Boy would YOU be wrong. The nose is massive and complex, distinctly bright and Springbanky with tons of sprightly peat smoke whisping about. I'm getting lemon chews, tons of pencil shavings, dried banana chips, horse's stables filled with hay and sawdust, nectarine rind, magic marker (black), and something a bit like the exhaust fumes of an original 1967 Mustang as you ride down a road in winter with your sunroof open. There's an elusive hint of something like pickle juice lingering underneath it all that lends an oily character to the whole affair. Beautiful!
Initial entry on the palate is dry and hot, a bit like biting into a chili pepper. That heat chases the smoke right through your sinuses, only the sensation here is ever so sweet, vegetal, and intensely minty, like chewing up a pack of Trader Joe's Green Tea Mints. That minty freshness morphs into a mellow, malty sweetness about halfway through, like licking brewer's malt extract off your fingers. Green hay smoke, green tea mints, and grapefruit notes linger on the extremely long finish (which you can still taste at least half an hour afterward). The traditional Springbank oiliness is held greatly in check, presenting itself only through a persisting umami quality in the barley malt itself. What a delightful departure!
I'm supremely pleased with this choice! It certainly benefits from being bottled at cask strength (raw cask at that - you can see bits of barrel char floating around in the bottle!), and the sweetness comes out in droves with the addition of water. I can't wait to try my turn at a Hazelburn in the near future. Slainte, friends, and a merry new year!
Tasting is a synesthetic experience. In this blog, every whisky gets a song - one that describes, suits, and evokes. I review any whisky that suits my fancy, and some that don't. I don't give scores. You'll know whether it's a winner or loser when we peel back its mysteries and start putting pen to paper.