Springbank 30 (2023) & Springbank 1996 ‘Special Edition’ (Whisky Sponge)


Beginning the week with two older Springbanks.. the way we wish we could begin every week.

A quick note about our scale... we've had multiple requests to rate whiskies purely on quality and to ignore price. Today's reviews and the ever-increasing price of scotch have finally pushed us to bite the bullet and do it. That's not to say we're ignoring price completely... we'll be adding a comment to every review discussing if we consider it value for money, but our scale will now 100% only consider quality. Anyway, without further ado, our new scale is as follows:

  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

Springbank 30 (2023)

Region: Campbeltown

ABV: 46.0%

Price: £880.00

The latest edition of Springbank 30 was matured in a mixture of 80% bourbon and 20% sherry casks.

Nose

Apple skin, toffee, salted caramel, lemon scented window cleaner, kefir lime leaves along with the classic dunnage warehouse funk we’ve come to love. We’re also finding damp soil, a dustiness like you’d find on an antique dresser, along with a little synthetic sweetness too. Time and air transforms the apple skin into sour apple boiled sweets. The alcohol is very nicely integrated and there’s so much going on here, it’s a new experience every time you nose it.

Palate

The palate bursts open with fresh, juicy green apples coated in a toffee shell. We hesitate to use the word smooth, but it really is. Saying that, there’s lots of body here, it’s got a light sugar syrup texture with salted fudge and a little tobacco too. The wisps of peat sit nicely in the background, and the finish lingers on for a medium to long while. Time and air brings out some aniseed, a bit of wood spice, vanilla cream and more warm oak as you continue to sip it.

Nose (with water)

Water brings out a little bit of bleach on the nose, along with some wax and a touch of grapefruit. There’s also honeydew melon and orange peel.

Palate (with water)

The reduced palate brings out more lime, along with toasted hazelnuts and candied almonds. The sweetness has morphed from white sugar to brown, and we’re getting some mocha coming through too. The mouthfeel remains mostly the same, but the finish has a little more bitter oak coming through.

Conclusion

This is really quite gorgeous.. we didn’t want to like it as much as we did, but it far surpasses last years edition for us. We did notice that it becomes a touch more bitter on the palate as you become accustomed to it, but it’s a minor nitpick. We’d avoid adding any water, it doesn’t help the dram for us.

Score: 8.5/10

Value: Lovely, but we're not rich.


Springbank 1996 ‘Special Edition’ (Whisky Sponge)

Region: Campbeltown

ABV: 53.5%

Price: £895.00

Distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2023, the latest Sponge Springbank has spent 26 years in a first-fill sherry butt, producing 365 bottles.

Nose

The nose transports us straight to the bodegas in Jerez, standing over a freshly opened oloroso butt, hazelnuts, prunes, dark (yet still quite creamy) chocolate and salted caramel. This is a rich and decedent dram, but we also find some fresher aromas of ripe raspberries and some tangerine too. There’s a touch of peppery alcohol on the nose, but it doesn’t stop your nose getting deep inside the glass. Digging deeper and we’re finding cured venison, balsamic glaze and a few tobacco leaves too.

Palate

The palate is viscous, mouth coating and syrupy, leading directly into a rich chocolate torte and plums. The oloroso character is in full show, it’s reminiscent of a VORS sherry, mature with cedar wood, clove and old oak. There’s a herbal flavour coming through, dried mint, cherry walnut cake, well-brewed tea leaves and old leather furniture. The finish is long, lingering with cocoa beans and spent coffee grounds. Time and air brings out some of the meatiness we perceived on the nose, but slightly sweeter, honeyed almost. The alcohol is well balanced, appearing just enough to remind you it’s there.

Nose (with water)

Reduction brings a certain freshness to the dram, not in a zingy citrus way, it more in a rehydrated dried fruits, raisins, dates, type of way. It’s brighter, a little vanilla appearing, light brown sugar and honey roast ham.

Palate (with water)

The reduced palate follows suit, with sweeter flavours of caramel, toffee and honey roasted cashews, whilst maintaining the lovely mouthfeel and long finish. The richer, dark chocolate and coffee flavours have fallen into the background, but we’re actually quite enjoying it with a splash of water.

Conclusion

26 years in first fill oloroso really does something to a spirit. This whisky displays all the characteristics of a sherry bomb, but with a little more finesse. It’s one to sit with and sip away, appreciating the different flavours and aromas that develop over time. Do we get much of the Springbank character here? A little salinity, maybe a bit of mustiness, but this is full on sherry goodness layered on a quality spirit base.

Score: 8.5/10

Value: If only we could afford a bottle.

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  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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