Springbank 1996 ‘Special Edition’ (Whisky Sponge)

Springbank 1996 ‘Special Edition’ (Whisky Sponge)

I wonder why the Sponge is weeping on this label. Is he musing about the quality of sherry casks in the past, or perhaps about the price of this bottle (£ 975), lamenting the fact that Springbank has gotten out of reach for most of the whisky drinking scene? He’s looking at the glass, which is actually a cutout shape in the paper, showing the whisky underneath and becoming empty once you’re halfway. Great idea.

Inside the bottle is a Springbank 1996 from the Whisky Sponge, a special edition hors catégorie. It matured for 26 years in a first fill sherry butt and comes in one of these vintage green bottles with air bubbles trapped inside the glass.

I tried this whisky as a cask sample before bottling and I thought it was very extractive. I didn’t even pick up a lot of smoke, simply because the sherry was so overpowering. The second time I was prepared and started to appreciate it more. I’ll be mixing some thoughts from the first impression with the ‘proper’ tasting notes of today.


Springbank 26 yo 1996 (53,5%, Whisky Sponge 2023, first-fill sherry cask, 365 btl.)

Nose: very rich Oloroso indeed, taking over the typical Springbank notes a little. That said, a perfect old style of sherry cask, with a lot of prune juice, dark caramel and chocolate truffles, alongside dates and cured meat. Aromatic cedar wood, tobacco leaves and leather. Then all kinds of mints, with hints of old rancio and dried herbs. Very complex and fairly clean.

Mouth: a lot of cigar boxes and hints of sandalwood this time, with drying leafy notes and herbal extracts. Nice marmalade, roasted walnuts, tarry notes and bitter chocolate. Then light tarry notes, one or two struck matches but also a brighter, herbal and fruity top note. Aniseed and liquorice. Camphor. Tobacco juice and coffee. Very heavily concentrated, tipping over to the herbal, resinous side a few times.

Finish: long and drying, with medicinal notes and plenty of earthy hints, as well as drops of these early 1990s Enmore rums.

This is an impressively boisterous sherry cask. The intensity is mad and in my humble opinion the wood influence is borderline. I keep hemming and hawing, ending up with a slightly undecisive score. I’m sure some will love this more than I do. Sold out from Decadent Drinks and I’m guessing that was the entire allotment.