A small, almost unique distillery
The cult Springbank distillery is located in the town of Campbeltown, which is located on a narrow peninsula on the west Highland coast of Scotland. It is Scotland's oldest distillery that has been under the same continuous family ownership, the Mitchell's. Springbank was set up in 1828 by the Reid family (they 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.
Details of Claret Wood
This 12 years old joins an expanding list of innovative limited edition whiskies in Springbank's Wood Finishes range. It was recently previewed at Whisky Live London 2010 and there are just 2360 bottles. The whisky is bottled at cask strength (54.4% ABV) and has been matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to ex-Claret red wine casks from Bordeaux for three years. A bottle should cost around £40-45 from specialist whisky retailers.
Our tasting notes
The colour is amber with a reddish hue and the nose is rich and fruity. There are a pleasant combination of aromas present - butterscotch, caramel, cereals, plenty of dried fruits (imagine raisins, prunes and dried peel) and a whiff of slightly sulphuric coal smoke. On the palate this whisky is fresh and vibrant, with an initial lovely sweetness. There is plenty of juicy fresh red fruit (think of red berries and plums) underpinned by vanilla, caramel, dried fruits (the raisins and prunes again), orange peel, some saltiness (think of brine) and woody, earthy spice notes (imagine cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns and nutmeg). Finally, a hint of the smoke from the nose appears. The finish is drier and spicier (more nutmeg and pepper) than expected. It is long and very enjoyable, with the whiff of earthy smoke slightly more prominent than before.
What's the verdict?
This is a possibly our favourite Springbank to date - it offers rich complexity, intense flavours and good value for money (considering that it is cask strength and a limited release). This whisky would give a good introduction to the relatively new phenomenon of wine cask finishing. It is one of the better examples but sadly, all are not quite so good. The combination of juicy fruits, caramel, spiciness and small amount of smokiness is very good. Grab a bottle while you can!