This new release forms part of a new series of whiskies for 2010 from the cult Springbank distillery. The distillery is unique in the fact that it regularly produces three different single malts on the same site - Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn - and each has its own definitive style. Springbank is lightly smoky, Longrow is very smoky and Hazelburn is not smoky at all but is distilled three times (compared to twice, which is the Scottish norm).
The Springbank distillery is located in the town of Campbeltown, which is found on a narrow peninsula on the west Highland coast of Scotland. It is Scotland's oldest distillery that has been continuously owned by the same family, the Mitchell's. Springbank was set up in 1828 by the Reid family (who were related to the Mitchell's by marriage) and it later passed fully to the Mitchell family. Springbank has a small capacity with a maximum production capacity of 750,000 litres per year and is one of the few distilleries to do all parts of production on their own site including malting the barley, distillation and bottling.
As mentioned, Springbank CV forms part of a new series. J & A Mitchell, the owners of Springbank, first released a version of Longrow CV roughly two years ago and have now created a new version. To this, they have decided to add Springbank and Hazelburn CV. The CV stands for 'Curriculum Vitae' and the whiskies are created using single malts of varying ages from each expression. At this moment, they are only available in a pack which contains one 20cl bottle of each expression. This is on sale as the 'Campbeltown CV pack' for about £35 and all are bottled at 46% ABV. The news is that full 70cl bottles of the Springbank CV will be available very soon in late January, with the 70cl bottles of the Hazelburn and new Longrow CVs coming later in March/April 2010 depending on stock levels. Prices are as yet unavailable.
We were very lucky to be able to get a sneak preview of these new whiskies. The reviews for the Hazelburn and Longrow versions will follow shortly. This Springbank CV is dark golden amber in colour and the nose is pungent and expressive. The two main elements that come to the fore are some dark sweet caramel and a sulphuric smokiness (think of coal smoke or burnt match heads). Through these come other notes - dried fruits (imagine raisins and candied orange peel), toasted nuts (especially almonds), a salty whiff and a hint of liquorice. On the palate, this is rich, mouth coating and initially sweet. The dark, almost burnt, caramel is prominent before some dried fruits (raisins and peel again), woody spices (think of cinnamon) and salty brine-like notes battle through. The smokiness starts pleasantly peaty (imagine damp earth) before turning sulphuric again. At the last moment, the palate become quite dry, woody and particularly spicy and this feeling carries through to the reasonably long finish (in fact, it becomes quite bitter right at the end). The sulphuric edge to the smokiness is dulled with the addition of water, as is the bitterness.
The Springbank CV is an interesting whisky. We tried it with a huge Springbank fan and he was disappointed by it, saying that it lacked 'distillery character', complexity and was "a bit flat". We would say that it is expressive, robust and uncomplicated but it was really the prominent sulphur on the nose, palate and finish was our main disappointment. Other than that, this whisky was pleasant especially with the addition of a few drops of water. Then the lovely fruity and caramel sweetness were allowed to shine.