Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength Calvados Cask Finished

Campbeltown Single Malt, 12 Years,
52.7% ABV, $90

There aren’t but a few Campbeltown distilleries in operation today, so I’m excited about this offering from Springbank. It comes highly recommended and is still available (it’s a limited edition) so that plays a role in the timing as well. After all, I only have a 1.5 oz. sample (thanks, Mark!).

It pours a clear golden color or a light amber. On the nose, its lightly peaty with a soft smoke that’s barely detectable. There are added notes of honey, toffee, ginger, cherry and vanilla (sorry, I don’t get any apple).

The taste is hot ginger with lots of vanilla, lemon, orange, white pepper and the finish is woody with mild peat and smoke. The spices linger in the background, but aren’t bold. This definitely needs some water.

With the addition of a few drops of water, the apple appears but it’s still light. The peat and smoke are subdued, but the honey remains dominant with notes of grass and white pepper. The taste becomes spicy and hot briefly, but diminishes to a mildly bitter wood, ginger, leather and white pepper finish. The fruit up front is dominated by spice; however, I still taste bitter pear, pineapple and apple along with vanilla. I’m going for more water.

The initial burst of spice is almost overpowering and it still settles into a spicy and woody finish… more water. By the time that the peppery heat is tamed, the fruits are too subdued. The spice is far too dominant here and I’m disappointed. It could really use some help from that Calvados cask, but I’m just not getting it… at least not to the degree required to restore some balance.

Having come this far, I’m pretty sure that the water destroyed the fruit and enhanced the spices and that’s the opposite of what I was hoping to achieve. It could be that the balance was best at full proof.

Based on this experience, I’m thinking that I’m going to pass on this $90 offering (and that’s with $15 off for the next few weeks), but I’m still not sure. It’s hard to believe that all of these people have been that far off in their praise. It’s also possible, that I just don’t appreciate this whisky.


I was provided with another sample (thanks, Gene!), so I’m giving it another try. This time no water!

My notes above still stand. The taste is spicy, slightly sweet and fruity. The wood arrives last and carries into the finish with the spices as the sweetness and fruits fade. The finish is leathery, bitter wood and spices of ginger and white pepper. The fruits up front are mildly tart and sweet with flavors of green apple, orange, lemon, tart cherry, peach, persimmon and pink grapefruit. There are notes of vanilla and grass, but the prominent flavors are fruit and spice that transition to a spicy bitter finish. As i sip it more, i discover more sweetness up front that lasts a bit longer, but the spice still wins out easily. Also, at this proof I start to experience some numbing that subdues these sweet flavors as they develop. It’s very flavorful, but I don’t think its the style I prefer. For me, this is not well balanced mostly because of the bold spice and wood. I stand by my previous assessment and will pass on this one. If you like this profile, then this is a fine whisky.

I was discussing this one with a friend and we wondered if this one works better on ice, which is the way he drinks his whisky but not the way I drink mine. In any case, I share that just in case its your method and you like a spicy, woody malt.

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