Springbank are going through a real purple patch. Interesting finishes, excellent cask selection, fair pricing and a very high quality underlying distillate. It’s little wonder that the distillery has built up a clamouring worldwide fan base. Alas, with success comes a downside – releases shift in no time at all, and you really do have to be quick on the draw to nab new limited expressions. Ah, the price of fame.
Springbank 17 year old Sherry Wood was released at the start of 2015. Whilst Springbank generally use a fair whack of ex-sherry casks for most of their expressions, this bottling is entirely matured in both in both fresh and refill sherry butts. This is not to say that you’d ever really consider Springbank to a producer of so-called sherry-bombs, much of their core range comes from a marriage of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry to add flavour and complexity to the pungent and slightly peaty Springbank spirit.
The use of sherry casks in these bottlings, not only adds flavour, but also ‘soften’ the spirit during maturation, polishing rough edges as it were. Therefore, when it comes to this 17 year old, we’re looking at whisky with a very different focus to what you might normally be expecting from this Campbeltown distillery. It clocks in at 52.3% ABV and was a release of 9120 bottles. Sold out, but still available from some retailers….generally at the sort of premium which will bring a bitter tear to your eye.
Nose: Immediately sweet and undeniably sherried. There’s a huge amount of fruit going on here and pleasantly, much of it is pronounced – light and fresh honeydew melon, stewed redcurrants and raspberries and some dark sour cherries and plums. Behind this is the trademark Springbank smoke. You can already detect that it’s pungent, oily and a wee bit musky. There’s some farmyard here too and some damp earth. Sweet, fruity and surprisingly organic.
Taste: Big oily arrival which is packed full of cask spice in the form of pepper. Fruity is still playing ball with the dark fruits (sour cherries and plums) taking over from lighter berry elements. The peat is now much more pervasive and is rather bitter and astringent, but still merges very well with the sweeter fruitier notes to show real balance. Coffee grounds, licorice and light chocolate impart both richness and deepness and sit alongside some underlying maltiness which connects everything together. Water reduces the oily arrival and adds some light honeycomb, but in doing so, much of the impact is lost. I’d go au naturel here personally.
Finish: Medium to long with some leathery notes and light salinity coming to bear.
Springbank 17 year old Sherry Wood offers some deep, impactful and rich sherried notes and cleverly manages to maintain its balance and poise whilst still offering a decent hit of underlying distillery character. The nose doesn’t quite translate through to the palate, losing much of the farmyard earthiness (which I personally like in my Springbank expressions) to more typical sherried flavours, however the experience as a whole offers a good degree of cohesion. Whilst sold out, the original price was probably a touch to high (around £100 from memory) compared to many Springank releases. This is one to try when spotted on an interesting bar shelf – which is exactly what I did.