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  • Writer's pictureHarold

Springbank Port Duo

I’m not breaking any news here when I say there’s something special about Campbeltown spirit paired with a Tawny port cask. Tawny, with those wonderful oak driven notes, as opposed to the brighter, fruit driven ruby port tends to age rather well with Springbank, as well as Glen Scotia’s spirit. But let’s stick to Springbank for now. My appreciation for the pairing goes so deep, I even decided to make my own mini barrel experiment using Campbeltown Loch, which I finished in a tawny port seasoned, 2 liter barrel. The resulting “Camby Funk,” as I labelled it, was a damn fine...solid drinker, in my book!

 
Springbank 1996/18 Year |Single Cask|  Fresh Port (US Exclusive) - 52.1%
Bottle Image Credit: Spirit Radar

Springbank

1996/18 Year |Single Cask|

Fresh Port (US Exclusive) - 52.1%


“Single cask” is a rather loose term for not only Springbank, but for the entire industry as well, so you’ll hear no gripes from me about any one distiller/brand. I believe the next wave of transparency in the market will need to have the SWA establish a stricter set of rules defining what truly should be considered a single cask. But for Springbank, they make no bones about how they double mature, or re-rack their casks, whenever necessary. And whether a “single cask’s” spirit was aged in 1, 2 or even 3 other casks before it was filled into the final one bottled, shouldn’t matter as long as it tastes good, right? Sure. Now, as I jump off my high horse…speaking of transparency…I believe Springbank’s interpretation of a “fresh” cask just means it’s a first fill, right? At least that was the case back when I heard it at the distillery back in 2019, I believe. However, others have made the claim it’s their way of saying it’s a really wet cask. Either way…you would expect to taste a lot of what the cask was most recently used for and in this case, it’s…tawny port? Ruby port? WHITE PORT?? WHY IS THE LABEL SO VAGUE?!?!....Ehh it’s probably Tawny.


Appearance: Old oak, the subtlest of a red tinge

First Whiff: Chocolate covered prunes

Nose: No question it’s a tawny. Obviously, a bit woody/tannic but not the dry type. We’ve got some lovely dark fruits…black cherries, prunes with a drizzle of chocolate syrup (Hershey’s preferred). Wet coffee grinds and sweet pipe tobacco. Little to no spice…very soft/buttery.

Palate: Leathery, sure but also rather firm and tart. Blueberries, tart red apples and black cherry compote in the front give’s way to something tropical/clay like in the backend. Looks like we might’ve found some Springbank in here, after all. With water: That clay/earthy note gets magnified a bit, I’d say it’s a mix between guava and ginkgo fruit. Slightly shroomy as well.

Finish: : Medium, and a bit prickly (even with water).


Summary: Not your typical tawny port-heavy influence. Still a decent amount of Springer DNA left in there, fighting through…which is always a great sign. Proper air time is a necessity, and even after that first sip, I’d let this one sit a bit and see how it evolves.

IDS SCORE: 90

 
Springbank (Private Bottling)  1995/19 Year Fonseca 1970 Vintage Port Cask #545 53.9%
Bottle Image Credit: Whiskybase

Springbank (Private Bottling)

1995/19 Year

Fonseca 1970 Vintage Port Cask 545 53.9%


Similar to how I understand a wine drinker would handle an old vintage port, of this caliber, I thought it best to give this 1 oz sample an ample amount of time to breathe in the glass. So, while that’s happening, how about a quick thoughtsicle about distillery private casks? A lot of mystery always surrounds private casks, typically since they’re rarely ever marketed for sale, so any cask information usually must rely upon word of mouth. Some questions I’d have for Springbank or the lucky owner of this cask (if they should ever stumble upon this) would be…Was this a full or double maturation? If double, how long for each (obviously). Was this a split cask? Or maybe was this a case of re-racking 1 or 2 casks into a smaller cask? I ask because, although I’m clearly not a wine connoisseur, I believe a yield of only 185 bottles (from a standard port pipe) would be rather difficult to explain, especially with a fairly decent 53.9% abv still left at bottling, unless Fonseca used a smaller cask (hogshead for instance) to age the port. Anywho’s, I think I gave this sample enough time to oxidate a bit.


Appearance: Burnt umber

First Whiff: Nutty old wood…crushed walnuts with a crisp, smoky undertone.

Nose: No sweetness here. Classic old wine/floral notes with a bit of vegetal funk and a hint of juniper. Slightly mineral with a touch of crisp green apple. Subtle plastic-y peat, the old band-aid kind. I suspect that’s the bit of distillate ready to shine.

Palate: Indeed, there’s quite a bit of that wonderful oily, mineral/chalky, citrusy grapefruits in the initial sip. Slightly cereal, with a grassy/vegetal style…like dirt covered tomato vines. The clay/guava bits are there, like the previous pour…which I guess can be interpreted as plasticine? Certainly, more distillery character/driven in this one.

Finish: Medium-long, with a crushed vitamins note, kind of like that famous Tennessee whiskey.


Summary: A beautiful representation of an ideal marriage between a great spirit and an equally impressive wine cask. I honestly did not expect this would be so distillate driven, but happily welcomed it. Some palates might’ve enjoyed a sweeter, wine influence but for me, I’ll always take the subtle complexity of a well made spirit over a so-called “winesky.”

IDS SCORE: 92

 

Springbank Port Duo

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