Springbank Distillery & 12 Year Old ‘Cask Strength’ Review

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Campbeltown was once known as the Whisky Capital of the world, with more than 30 working distilleries in the area. Today is a very different story however, with only three still in production… Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank. The best known is the latter – Springbank produces three brands of Single Malt – Springbank, which is lightly peated, Hazelburn, unpeated and triple distilled and Longrow, a heavily peated expression. The distillery is situated right in the heart of the town and dates from around 1828.


I recently paid a visit to the distillery and took in the tour, covering all aspects of the production process – Malting, Mashing, Fermenting, Distilling, Maturing and Bottling (though ongoing maintenance work in the bottling hall prevented access – there’s a pattern emerging here, the same thing happened to me at Bruichladdich!) The tour was informative and entertaining and the distillery has a ton of character along with a healthy coating of grime. Just as it should be.

Springbank, Campbeltown
The Malting Floor
The Kiln
The Malt Bins
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The Washbacks…
The Three Pot Stills
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One of Springbank’s warehouses…
Casks…
…Casks…
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…and more Casks

In addition to Springbank, J & A Mitchell own Glengyle distillery next door as well as independent bottler, Wm. Cadenhead’s. As a result, there are casks from multiple distilleries resting in the dunnage warehouses onsite. This seemed an opportunity too good to miss so I followed up my tour with a Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting hosted by Mark Watt himself, the man responsible for selecting and bottling the whisky. What followed was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a distillery where I was treated to a diverse range of drams as varied as Aultmore, Auchentoshan, Glenlivet, Highland Park and Bowmore – not to mention a 42 year old Inchmurrin from Loch Lomond Distillery.

Normally when I write up a distillery visit I review the whisky I bought on the day, but on this particular occasion I picked up a Cadenhead’s bottling of Tamdhu which I will review at a later date. Fortunately though, I have a bottle of Springbank’s 12 year old Cask Strength release on hand, ready and waiting to be popped open.

Springbank’s 12 Year Old is an annual batch release, bottled at Cask Strength. It’s blended from ex Sherry and ex Bourbon Casks and with Sherry making up the majority, we should expect some big flavours to be contained within. On the nose there’s Burnt Toffee, Raisins & Sultanas, Cocoa and subtle Peat Smoke while it arrives on the palate in a burst of fruits: Raisins & Sultanas again, Cherry, Orange and Lemon, then there’s Honey, Toffee and Brown Sugar with Peat Smoke and Dark Chocolate.

Smell: Very attractive, the combination of Sherry fruit notes and subtle, coastal peat smoke is a sure winner.

Taste: Bottled at 54.1% it packs a real punch but isn’t over the top. It’s a big, bold, fully-flavoured dram.

Value for Money: Came in around £50, not bad at all for a 12 year old, naturally presented, cask strength whisky with a strong sherry influence.

Overall: 46 / 50.

A limited release that appears just once a year and while it doesn’t hang around long, it’s a great purchase for those lucky enough to get their hands on one. In fairness, the same can be said for any Springbank release, whether it be Springbank itself, Longrow, Hazelburn, or one of the Cadenhead bottlings, you can guarantee a quality product that justifies the cost.

For more on Springbank

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