Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Springbank 12 - the complex oddball

The Kintyre peninsula a century ago was the biggest whiskey producing region in Scotland with over 30 distilleries. When Prohibition hit that all changed and now there are really only two: Glen Scotia and Springbank (although Springbank is starting up subsidiary brands at a good clip - up to four now: (the other three are Longrow, Hazelburn, and the just formed Kilkerran)). This story fascinated me when I first got into single malts and Springbank became a staple in my cabinet. The complex mix of sweet, spice, and maritime aspects seduced me. I found the 12 heavily overshadowed by the older expressions, however. Time to revisit this assessment.

Color - pale gold, almost straw.

Nose - raisins, dried figs, rancio (brandy rot), butter and a twist of citrus.

Elegant sweet entry with honey, fresh grapes, and honeysuckle flowers. Light heathery lacy mouth feel. Midpalate hits with white pepper, malt (like fresh powdered malt), some acid like white balsam and some sea brine and distant iodine. There are also citrus and conifer notes. The finish is moderately short with lingering flowers and vines but also a bit of cardboard and then a bitter sap note at the end.

It's very complex but lacks the depth and the richness of the black fruits that grace the older expressions. This is particularly noticeable in the short snap of the finish. The upside is the delightful floral nature of the opening.

I'm a bit conflicted. This is a light heathery floral dram with some Dalwhinny or Royal Lochnagar mountain meadows and flowers and also a hint of sea air and brine - as advertised. However this whiskey feels awfully young for a 12 year old. It seems Springbank benefits from more time in the wood. I recommend you save up for the 15 or the 18 unless you have an academic interest in how the younger expression enhances the floral opening.

3 and 3/4 stars ***+. I long to go 4 because of the honey floral glory of the opening. If you keep sipping pretty quickly you can keep that glory up most of a glass - but the parting view is less pretty. The 12 is like a maiden with a gloriously beautiful face and gleaming golden hair but an unattractive derrière. You have to think twice. (Lord, forgive me for that metaphor).


  1. I didn't even know there was a Springbank 12... thought it went 10 to 15. This really doesn't sound too much like the 10 - have you had that one? I had a miniature a while back, but it's something that I'll probably revisit with a full bottle at some point (and is the only expression available in PA).

  2. OMG! You're right! They discontinued the 12! This is an obsolete expression. I had purchased several bottles a while back (maybe 10 years ago, truth be told) and I just pulled this from the storage cabinet and opened it up and started drinking heedlessly. I read your review of the 10 and it sounds like the 10 might be better than the 12. Is that reasonable? I'll have to get a sample. Where do you get your miniatures?

  3. This is one of the handful of minis I got from Loch Fyne last year. It's the only site in the UK with reasonable shipping prices for minis as long as you order more than one (2 GBP shipping per mini), except The Whisky Exchange which has OK prices if you only get 1-3 minis.

    I don't know the shipping rules in NJ/NY, not sure if you can order from anywhere in the US. I never check those sites because they don't ship here.

    The 10 is definitely distinctive. I can honestly say I was unable to figure it out from one 50 mL mini, which is a good thing!

    1. I thought I would add this warning for you, since I've been there: shopping online for whisky - even miniatures, or maybe especially miniatures - is DANGEROUS. Self-control becomes elusive ;-)

    2. Yes, I'm aware they have a 50 year old bottle of Springbank with a 1919 vintage for about the cost of a top of the line BMW... Now THAT would be a Springbank tasting to remember...

  4. Springbank 12 has since been brought back as the cask strength entry of the line. The Springbank 10 100 proof has discontinued to make room.