Springbank distillery was overwhelmed by the success of the annual Local Barley series (which seems to get extra releases beyond the planned five) and already announced a similar series which will be released from 2022 to 2026: the Springbank Sherry series.
When it comes to sherry casks, Springbank has been using almost exclusively Oloroso casks because they gives them the most typical, historical sherry character. But recently they’ve been experimenting with other styles of sherry as well, and they will release five different sherry casks, one each year.
Springbank has been working with Miguel Martín as a cask supplier for many years. This company was originally based in Huelva (outside of the official sherry region) but they took over the facilities and stocks of a bankrupt bodega in Jerez called Valdivia, which instantly allowed them to produce wines in the D.O. Jerez and probably more important for them, certified sherry casks.
These sherry casks (8-10 per type) have been filled in 2019, but not with the same spirit. The PX cask was filled with older spirit and it will get a shorter finishing period (as it will be released first), whereas the Manzanilla cask was filled with 2 year old spirit and will be the last release of the series. The aim is to release each of them as a 10 Year Old expression.
In May-June 2021 they already sold samples of these ongoing experiments. With Brexit and all that came with it, I only got to try them now… If you’re interested you can still watch the video stream on Youtube.
Springbank 4 yo 2016 Manzanilla (57,9%, OB 2021, 2 years refill bourbon + 2 years fresh Manzanilla)
Still a pretty immature whisky. On the nose a lot of estery banana and sawdust at first, with just a light almond hint and something of buttery pastry. In the mouth it is a nice whisky already, with a lot of coastal elements, a salty touch, on top of stewed apples and some candied notes. Also white pepper and light vegetal touches. I’d say the sherry is hard to distinguish here, as it doesn’t have a lot to add to the (otherwise excellent) Springbank spirit.
Springbank 5 yo 2015 Fino (59,1%, OB 2021, 3 years refill bourbon + 2 years fresh Fino)
Similar to the Manzanilla in the sense that there’s not much sherry to be found. Less of the immature fruity notes, now a little more peach and butterscotch. A nicely fragrant touch. A drier nose overall, also less woody. The Fino cask is pretty spicy on the palate though, with some pepper and ginger, hints of liquorice, salted peanuts and light tannins. It makes this a more expressive whisky, but not necessarily more ‘sherried’ in the classic sense.
Springbank 6 yo 2014 Amontillado (58%, OB 2021, 4 years refill bourbon + 2 years fresh Amontillado)
This is where the classic nutty character comes out. Walnuts, hazelnuts. Light toffee and spice. Lacking the slightly buttery edge of the two first styles. Again really coastal on the palate, with sea spray and minerals. More nuts and liquorice. Subtle gingerbread and caramelized flavours. Already closer to an Oloroso albeit without the red fruits and raisins. Works really well with the naturally slightly austere Springbank character.
Springbank 7 yo 2013 Palo Cortado (56,9%, OB 2021, 5 years refill bourbon + 2 years fresh Amontillado)
Now the red fruits are starting to show. Obviously Palo Cortado is a delicate Oloroso style, so it doesn’t come unexpected. It’s already nicely balanced at this point, with nuts and fruits with an interesting interaction. Sweeter on the palate than all of the others. Berries, slightly roasted nuts, orange peels and the lightest hint of milk chocolate, while still leaving room for the coastal Campbeltown edge. A great advocate for Palo Cortado finishing, well done.
Springbank 8 yo 2012 Pedro Ximénez (57,1%, OB 2021, 6 years refill bourbon + 2 years fresh Pedro Ximénez)
Already a very strong cask influence. It’s sweet and bold, with raisins and sticky toffee pudding, but it’s not overpowered. There’s even a funky farmy note in the background. On the palate it’s not as sweet as you’d think, there’s a lot of spice as well. Ginger, crushed black peppercorns. Quite mouthcoating and drying in the end. It doesn’t feel very integrated at this point.
Short conclusion? It’s great to see how these casks develop in the early years and I’m sure it will be a succesful and educational series. It’s also great to note that there’s no sulphur, nor rubber to be found in any of them. There’s a lot of wood sweetness throughout, regardless of the sherry type, it shows that the wood is having its say as well.
My favourite was the Palo Cortado cask, followed by the Amontillado and Manzanilla. I may skip the PX cask altogether, it’s the only one that was nearly ready for bottling, but also the least impressive. Expect the first release in this series early next year.