Well, well, well this one is quite the chameleon (hence the dubious title) and considering it's been open nigh on six months I feel it should have settled down and opened up by now, if it was ever going to. I hear that the sherry to bourbon casks may vary with the 15, with some suggesting this more recent bottle (c2018/19) is 100% sherry matured. That wouldn't surprise me either.
Review is neat and sat for, well, about fifteen minutes. Bottle is around two thirds full.
Nose - rubbery, twiggy and lightly smoked peat, sour barley sugars, mustyness, over ripe red berries and a little hint of saltiness all enveloped in big, creamy sherry notes. The sweeter notes sing loudest as they overlay a more smoky, herbal base; but there is this off-fruit sourness as well that I'm not 100% sure about here.
Taste - sweet and sour arrival with the barley sugars being up front and centre. Then the peat smoke unfurls and pricks at the tongue whilst the berry notes, a little more muted than on the nose, begin to show. Mouthfeel is thick and quite oily.
Finish - long. Some spices emerge with cardamom, cinnamon and a little clove. Some not unpleasant tannins add a touch of dryness and bitterness at the death.
Water rounds the sourness of the nose off a touch and heightens the creamy notes whilst further ramping up the peat and barley sugars on the palate. I prefer the taste with a drop or two of water but cant make my mind up about the nose. The finish is less tannic and more gingery - probably an improvement too.
So not what one would describe as an easy going malt but it's Springbank so not exactly unexpected. Its also not without a few awkward corners; that off-fruit funk is a little too heavy on the nose and throws it a wee bit out of balance for my tastes. That being said, when I get the water right in this, and when I'm in the mood for it, this can be a wonderful experience that has a bit of everything, and there's no doubting the spirit quality. The thing is though that it's not often I find myself reaching for it - It can be hard work. Too much sherry, perhaps? Good but not great etc etc.
@RianC You nailed it. There is something a wee bit fusty (fooshty) in there, as my Scottish gran would say. And I’m with @OdysseusUnbound, give me the 12 CS and the 10 and leave the 15 on the shelf. I do have a bottle approximately two thirds full that has been around for about 3 months and I think I’ll start with it tonight just to confirm (or not) my earlier impressions.