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Between passing a recent exam and a birthday a few days ago, my wife has spoiled me rotten with 4 new bottles - Sullivans Cove Double Cask (my review is here: connosr.com/reviews/sullivans-cove/… ), Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (my review here: connosr.com/reviews/ardbeg/… - but I will be putting another one up in the next few days), a special limited edition Lark bottling, called the 100 bottles and this, the Springbank 16 year old.
I have previously reviewed the Springbank 16 year-old cask strength bottling which I had a tasting of many moons ago (that review is here: connosr.com/reviews/springbank/… ), but this is the non-cask strength version, and one of the very last bottles remaining.
To quickly rehash the history, when the Lark Distillery first started up, they bought a barrel from Springbank, aged it 16 years and bottled it.
So on to the actual review...
Straight from the bottle the nose is bit less overwhelmingly spicy, but the spice is still a big part - lot's of clove, cracked pepper, cinnamon. However, along with the spice is a really thick honeyed mead - almost like someone has taken an excellent spiced honey mead and gently warmed it. It's really hearty, meaty, warming and rich. Powerful too - I can get whiffs of this from 3-4 feet away. It's the middle of winter here, and this nose is really welcome and seasonally perfect!
The taste is initially warm and spicy, but not overwhelmingly so, until the arrival of a wave of rich honeyed mead, and a smooth nuttiness that is intriguing and really balances the cinnamon, cloves and cardomom. With this balance a lot more nuances come out - hints of caramel and a real savoury oak note.
The finish is long and just short of hot. The spices are there, and slowly become more prominent, but the honey sweetness, plus the creamy nuttiness and oak keep it in check as it slowly fades over several minutes, and I mean several.
This is a real cracker of a dram. A real cracker, and shows what an independent bottling of a single cask can be at its best. The cask strength was a real knock your socks off and take no prisoners dram, whereas this is far more genteel, civilised, nuanced and complex, but still plenty muscular for all but the most crazed whisky adrenaline junkies. I can;t say I prefer it over the Cask Strength, but it stands on it's own two feet, and I'd probably drink it more often than the more powerful version!