Batch #23 100% Ex Bourbon Casks
The first batch of 12-Year Cask Strength to use exclusively ex-bourbon casks. A well-regarded release known for its expertly blended range of casks to perfect a core distillery bottling. This release seems like a perfect opportunity to understand Springbank’s malt character without the sherry influence.
Tasted neat in a Glencairn with 15 minutes of rest. Dilution added throughout the tasting.
The nose has a musty dry malt aroma to it. Botanical and floral in composition. Dusty shelves, pinewood, and coniferous needles. Raw demerara sugar sweetness certainly from that ex-bourbon new charred oak. Ripe honeycrisp apples, anju pears, and a slightly tart prune juice. There’s a lactic or acidic fermented aroma. Sparkling dry cider or Pinot Grigio. I wouldn’t say there’s a distinguishable baking spice you get from many bourbons, but there is a distinct nutmeg note on the nose. Tea biscuits, shortbread, oatmeal, or lightly sweetened oat cakes. Adding water created an even sweeter fragrance. Corn syrup, apricot jam, and fruit blossoms. The malt is boisterous and the greens are not subtle.
The palate packs a white peppercorn punch. Olive oil peppery notes and viscosity. Intense sweetness from the malt and cask influence with caramel, pie crust, and buttery toffee notes. Barrel char is present more on the finish but develops within your olfactory. A tart and bitter citrus note grows like sour candies coated in citric acid. More often during tastings, I felt like I needed to pair this dram with salty food. There’s a lack of a saline character in this bottle that would lift it beyond the more linear elements.
A faint hint of peat and the salinity I was craving arrives on the finish. Mineral water, slate, calcium, and clay. A touch of copper and tin almost like a new penny flavor. Toasted grains. Whole grain unleavened fried bread. Tallow or lard, but not butter flavor. Chili pepper bite with the olive oil sharpness. Barrel char bitterness builds at the back of the tongue and throat. Lanolin, twine, burlap, hay, and grass. Burnt embers, oak timbers, and a bit of a barnyard character. Paste wax, chapstick, and finishing oils. Ultimately the finish brought the uniqueness I was looking for that the palate lacked.
A straightforward malt but has qualities missing that only sherry casks hold. That funkiness of the worm tub is certainly less noticeable in this release. It’s as if a curtain has been pulled back revealing Springbank’s malt character more purely. It’s less delicate than I recall and not that dainty floral malt I’ve found from so many other bottles.
I do feel as though there’s a little sprinkling of “seasoning” needed. A cask that can lend a bit more brine and heighten the sweet flavors of the malted barley and cask influence. It would bring more complexity and the flavors would complement each other a bit better.
These are all tiny nags at an otherwise delicious and enjoyable bottle. This release makes for a great comparable bottle to previous and future batches. Allowing you to side-by-side to compare and contrast notes. I feel it is well worth seeking out a bottle for that reason alone. Just be careful not to finish it off too quickly. It grows on you and that evening dram could quickly turn into a second pour of the night.