Springbank 12 Claret Wood Finish

The Springbank 12 CW was one of the first $99 bottles I’d ever purchased—$99 at 70cl, too. I was thinking about exploring Campbeltown, and this was the one I’d found for under $100 that had the best reviews. A cask-strength expression, bottled at 53.2% ABV (the label reads 54.4%, but there is a curious sticker on the cap that reads 53.2%), the Springbank 12 CW is a rich campbeltowner, with the thick, syrupy mouth-feel that I’ve really come to love in my wine-finished/sherried whiskies. It’s deep, robust, and all around delicious—albeit with a caveat that I’ll mention after the tasting notes.

Nose: This one has a musty overtone that I’ve never come across before. Not in a terrible, mouldy basement sort of way, but in a really cozy, “attic where your grandparents keep old photo albums and a gramophone” sort of way. It has strong scents of apple, sherry, some cherries and orange peel. Hints of vanilla, coffee and ash.

Palate: Despite being high ABV, this whisky is cool, rather than hot. Syrupy but not too thick. Mouth-coating, with creamy toffee, vanilla, and a hint of mint.

Finish: Long finish, dry, cool, peppery toffee and cherry notes, hints of mint.

Grade: B+

Now that I’ve graded this one, the caveat: the Springbank 12 CW was a temperamental whisky. Although I think I’ve finally tamed it, this ‘work’ was initially reflected in the grade. This whisky was a solid B on first sip, that moved up to a B+ after three drams. It dropped to a B- and B for the fourth and fifth drams, mostly on the palate breaking up with various additions of water. Once I understood it, though, I found the spot where it was consistently an B+.

This all depends on how much water you add. Despite being cask-strength, this whisky needs very little water. It needs water, but only about half a teaspoon, maybe one teaspoon at most. Too much, and the beautiful, mouth-coating, Christmas-pudding-by-a-campfire-experience just disappears. No water, and it’s prickly as all hell. It also needs to sit and open up for 15-20 minutes.

While I initially had this whisky at a B, with it’s high-maintenance and price costing it points, I have now re-thought my earlier review. I came to this revelation recently when a friend of mine joined me for what were to be the last two drams of this whisky. By this point, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. We’d spent the better part of 4 months together, Springbank CW and I, and in the end, we were friends. It’s only fair that I grade it what I think it really is, and not the whole journey. After all, anyone who reads this review and buys it knowing to add only a teaspoon of water will have nothing but the best this whisky has to offer all the way through.

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