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I bought my first Springbank, a 10 year old, a little over a year ago. I purchased it based on nought but its Internet reputation and a seal of approval from the inimitable Ralfy. I was not disappointed. It was, at that point, the most complex whisky I'd ever tasted, save perhaps an outstanding batch/bottle of Lagavulin 16. And the Springbank 10 was a true chameleon that developed beautifully over time. Alas, the Campbeltown malt is not easy to find in Ontario, so I haven't had much of a chance to revisit their offerings, until now.
The sample for this review was graciously provided by @Nozinan This is Springbank 12 YO Cask Strength Batch 11, 53.8 % ABV. It was opened September 4, 2017, gassed after each use, and was 3/4 full when the sample was poured November 13, 2017
Nose (undiluted): iodine, vegetal peat (no smoke though), a briny mineral note like sea-sprayed rocks, damp wood and dusty hay, reminiscent of an old barn (in a very good way), raisins, some milk chocolate, orange peels. This is a complex nose that develops over time. After 15 minutes in the glass, there's a distinctive salted caramel aroma emerging.
Palate (undiluted): rich, oily arrival, full-bodied, spicy white pepper, fresh ginger, oranges and apricots, strong oaky barrel notes (cloves, pepper, barrel char) near the end.
Finish: fairly long finish, some peat returning with a bit of smoke and black pepper this time, a chalky minerality returning and ending on some raisin and cereal notes with just a touch of cinnamon and vanilla, (oatmeal cookies perhaps?)
With water the chalky, mineral note comes right forward on the nose, followed by a big wave of salted caramel. The longer this sits, the more that salted caramel aroma takes over, and it's not unpleasant. The old barn notes are pushed back, almost imperceptible, as the raisins and orange peels rush forward. It's still good, but a bit of a disappointment to lose those "old barn" notes. On the palate, the oiliness is diminished with water; it feels a bit waxy, and the whisky's fruity notes (oranges, apricots) again take centre stage with the ginger remaining throughout. The smoke on the finish is slightly subdued, the chalkiness remains, and some milk chocolate notes appear before ending on a sweet, pleasant cereal note. Later, there's a lingering fruity, green apple note with just a hint of cloves. Springbank 12 is very good with water, but I prefer this one at full strength.
This whisky is complex. It develops with time and is not a casual sipper. It's like a terrific three course meal; I spent well over an hour with this one.I was a bit disappointed that the iodine, peat, and old barn notes more or less disappeared with the addition of water. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase a bottle of this whisky.