Springbank 17 Years Madeira Wood (2020)
These days, any review, blog post or social media discussion about Springbank seems to revolve around price. And it’s true that I too am disheartened by the price developments of (independent) Springbank. But I don’t feel I’ve anything to contribute other than some depressing thoughts, which I don’t particularly feel will do anyone any good. So, instead I’ll leave you with a few comments on the cask make-up of the Springbank 17 Years Madeira Wood; which was actually relatively fairly priced.
Springbank has a history of using (for lack of a better word) exotic cask types for their limited releases. For example, starting in the the early noughties, the distillery gave us a whole range of Wood Expressions. From the (mostly maligned) Longrow Tokaji Wood to the Hazelburn Sauternes Wood, and Springbank matured in Calvados and yes, Madeira casks too—just like their latest limited release. More recently their Longrow Red range comes to mind as well as last year’s Springbank 15 Years Rum Wood. Examples aplenty.
So, in a sense, the new Springbank 17 Years Madeira Wood is nothing special. The Wood Expressions series actually featured an 11-year-old Springbank matured in its entirety in Madeira casks. Yet, there’s something peculiar about the cask recipe for the modern Madeira Wood expression. And it’s not the fact that it was finished for 3 years in Madeira casks.
Instead, people seem to wonder why both ex-bourbon AND ex-rum casks were finished. We know the distillery doesn’t mind experimenting with wood, so it could just be that the people in charge wanted to have some fun. Or, and this a more cynical view point, the bourbon and rum casks were not very good to begin with. I’ve seen people making comments and insinuations to that effect.
But would that be such a bad thing? It is actually why finishing was invented in the first place. They’d be stupid not to re-rack tired casks. The real crime would’ve been if the bourbon and rum casks were of outstanding quality. Because what self respecting distillery would drown their top product in fortified wine? Instead, I assume Springbank made the right call here. After all, they’ve almost two centuries of experience.
Springbank 17 Years Madeira Wood (47.8%, OB, 2020)
Nose: A very clear wine influence. But let’s see. Earthy smoke, minerals, farmyard-y and damp wood with red berries and blackberries. A light candy-esque sweetness balanced by ripe lemon peel and tinned pineapple. Almost lactic at times, like Bruichladdich sometimes has. Even somewhat muddy.
Taste: Sticky and mouthcoating, the classic Springbank profile holds up very well against the Madeira casks. A mixture of bright citrus fruits, beeswax and vanilla custard with caramel, but also soft smoke, hessian and a decent salinity. Finally some spicy touches with a whisper of wet pebbles.
Finish: Long with some fresh strawberries, oak and a touch of charcoal.
At first nosing I was scared the Madeira might be too influential. And while the nose of the Springbank 17 Years Madeira Wood has some peculiarities, it’s a wonderfully complex single malt with classic Springbank qualities.
Photo: The Whisky Exchange
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.