Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Whisky Review: Springbank 15

This is another provisional review, this time from a trip to the Whiskey Soda Lounge here in SE Portland.

Springbank 15 Year

Nose: gentle but rich Oloroso sherry, the characteristic Springbank coastal brine underneath, brown sugar, soapy in a pleasant fashion - kind of like fresh laundry, peat - somewhere in between smokey and vegetal, slightly yeasty, some barbecue notes. After adding a few drops of water, more oak emerges, the brine holds fast, while the peat becomes creamier and more vegetal, some dry cacao, and hints of sherry.

Taste: Brine and malt dominate, a bit of peat near the back, some sugary sweetness up front. After adding water, the taste is initially still sugary sweet up front, then a muddled wave of sherry, brine, and peat all crowd for attention, with just a little bit of TCP at the back of the mouth.

Finish: more brine and malt, oaky tannins come out. After adding water, some drying peat comes out.

Overall I'll have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed by this whisky. The nose is fairly good, though less sherry-influenced that I expected it to be given that the whisky going into this expression is aged entirely in sherry casks. The sherry and peat combo reminded me of Talisker Distiller's Edition, though I found this Springbank to be much less robust. Additionally, while I generally liked the nose, the palate was rather disappointing, tasting little better than the much less expensive Springbank CV. Admittedly, I was trying this whisky under less than ideal conditions, but it wasn't an experience that makes me want to rush out and buy a full bottle (especially at $80+ a pop).


  1. I must confess, after falling in love utterly with Springbank in the 80s and 90s I, too, have been a bit disappointed with some recent releases. Looking over my tasting notes I find that the nose often leads to higher expectations than the palate delivers. I often get bitter finishes, tastes of beer wort in the back end, sourness in the "citrus" notes etc... The mix of brine & gentle bits of peat are nice character aspects, but balance counts.

    I think a lot of the love is for Springbank's traditional methods. Ultimately, however, its only what's in the glass that counts. I'll give them a lot of leeway, however. I hope they can find the pathway back to greatness soon.

  2. The sad thing is all I really wanted was some more sherry on the palate. Given that sherry cask aging is the whole point of that expression, it was a huge disappointment that it didn't have a greater presence.

    I do wonder how much of it is the result of only nosing casks when selecting them for vatting:

  3. Springbank is like no other whisky for me...absolutely my favorite. I love the combination of not too much sherry or too much peat. As you describe, it's a sherry and peat combo that is perfectly balanced. However, if you were looking for a sherry bomb...easy to see why you were disappointed. However, tasting this whisky for what it is has been recognized by many as one of the finest...rated 90 by Michael Jackson. However, ratings often don't mean much if you don't like the whisky. The 12 cask has some more sherry than this 15, but I'm not for sure you'd like that either...again a balance of peat smoke and rich toffee sherry flavors. Springbank whisky's are usually complex and often have hints of sherry rather than a blast.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I suspect that a lot of it had to do with the less than ideal circumstances - at a bar, with a glass that flared out. I have a mini that I'll retaste at home using proper glassware, so I'm hoping it will be better that way. I've really enjoyed some of the other whiskies I've tried from Springbank.

  4. Springbank is by far my favorite, but you have to like the synthesis between peat/smoke and rich toffee sherry flavors. If you were looking for a sherry bomb I can see why you would be disappointed. I'm so happy I found Springbank...I know some guys love the peat bombs like Ardbeg, and other guys love the sherry bombs like Aberlour...but I prefer a little of both. Interesting you say brine and malt dominate, as I don't get that. This malt is extremely Rich and sweet balanced with delicate brine, peat, and least that's what I get.