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Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bank on these...



Every now and again, we're supposed to take time off- even from the things we love. Maybe it's because we all need time to reflect on how great certain things are, or to occasionally rethink one's strategies. At Caskstrength.net, we find that really hard to achieve when it comes to whisky. Last Friday, a social gathering was arranged with some of our top chums (Darrell and Tim), with the view being that we'd for once leave the tasting books at home, watch a film (the mostly excellent 'In Bruges') eat pizza and chat about other things in our lives.  Yeah right.... 

Of course, it would have been simple if  A: we had no whiskies, or B:  we had a modicum of will power between us. 

So, without further ado, we bring you a rather unexpected lateral tasting, which came together in a relatively spontaneous manner.
After acquiring a rather interesting Springbank single cask bottling (exclusive to Oddbins) a couple of weeks back, we were itching to get stuck in. But to make things really exciting, we also hastily rustled up both batches of Springbank's rather splendid 1997 Vintage as venerable sidekicks.  Side-by-side,  the bottles look identical. In fact, only very subtle cosmetic artwork changes reveal the uniqueness of their contents- which are all from the same group of re-charred sherry casks. 
So, will power consigned to the bin and an all-star trio in front of us on the dining table,  which would come out as the banker of the 'banks??

Springbank 'Vintage 1997' - Batch no. 1 (bottled in June 2007) - 55.2 % abv - 70 cl 

Nose: An initial mustiness emerges from the glass, but is swiftly followed up by cloves, bags of fresh mint and cracked black pepper corns.  A few swirls -and the addition of water reveal more of that 'dunnage warehouse' dampness- fresh, but clouded with the aroma of a nicely aged cask.  After time, a real element of Canada Dry Ginger Ale comes thru.  

Palate: Surprisingly sweet on the first sip, then leading into masses of white pepper, a hint of marzipan, candyfloss, pears and Caramac bars.  What starts out fresh and vibrant, leads into something hot and firey, with green chilli emerging on the death.

Finish: The tiniest notes of elastoplast arrive after that chilli has settled down, giving a long and slightly medicinal echo.  Really warming and enjoyable.

Overall:  If anything, this improves over time within the glass.  The balance of sweetness against the backdrop of its firey mouth feel is really excellent and sets the bar highly for its siblings. 

Springbank 'Vintage 1997'  - Batch no. 2 (bottled in May 2008) - 54.9% abv - 70 cl

Nose: On first nosing, noticeably different from its slightly younger brother.  Notes of milky coffee jump out immediately and a slight woodiness, which make this less biting and much more subtle.  Given time in the glass though, its heart and spice start to come through and that familiar spice and pepperiness start to emerge, this time with a hint of smoke.

Palate: Definitely less sweet than batch 1, with initial spice, cedar and then a slightly candied note (barley sugar?) coming through.  More air and a little touch of water reveal a really dry, oaky red wine characteristic as the tannins come to the fore. 

Finish: A similar lengthy finish, but this time with fresh apple and then a much drier mouth feel.

Overall:  Another cracking bottling, showing signs of its slightly longer cask time, with the woody, oaky notes this time more prevalent.  

Springbank 'Vintage 1997' - Single cask bottling exclusive to Oddbins - Cask no. 789 filled 1997- bottled 2008 - limitd to 475 bottles

Nose: Wow, initially fresh and fruity with green apples, then a peated loveliness coming through which was perhaps missing from the previous bottlings.  A slight farmyard note of damp hay, then cloves and back into the fresh mint of batch 1.  Much more concentrated and expressive than the other two bottlings.

Palate: Initially hot on the taste buds but quickly, a real sweetness takes over the mouth with brown sugar, vanilla, apple peelings, touches of cedar then an almost cayenne pepper-like quality. A huge amount going on in the glass. 

Finish: Very long, dry and oaky, with that delicious red wine mustiness, then hints of coffee on the death.  

Overall: The cracking mouth feel and depth of this bottling wins over our hearts and perhaps puts the other 2 bottlings slightly in the shade. This is an excellent expression of Springbank. Try to seek out one now, if you still can!

The progression through these 3 bottlings was extremely enjoyable, with each one offering up a slightly different, but nonetheless delicious surprise.  Who needs will power, when you have whiskies like these....