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Cigar Spirits: Springbank 12 Year Old Claret Cask Single Malt Scotch Whisky

22 Jan 2013

The Scottish town of Cambeltown once claimed the title “whisky capital of the world,” but today it’s a shell of its former self. Where once there were reportedly 28 active distilleries, now there are just a few, with Springbank the largest remaining operation.

SpringbankSpringbank 10 is the distillery’s most widely available expression. It also makes a wide variety of other bottlings, including a “Wood Expressions” line with various finishes and ages, including the 12 Year Claret Cask. (In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “claret” is commonly used in Britain as a synonym for red Bordeaux wine.)

Fortunately, Springbank puts all the details of their Single Malt Whisky on the label. This particular bottle (one of a run of 9,360) was distilled in 1997 and finally bottled in 2010 at a strength of 108.8-proof. It spent nine years in refilled bourbon casks, before being transferred to fresh claret barrels.

Springbank uses a unique distillation process where the whisky is distilled two-and-a-half times. As shown in this graphic, there are three distillations in each batch, but a certain percentage skips the second still. Also, Springbank doesn’t chill-filter or add coloring to their whiskies, the latter of which is an unfortunately common occurrence.

The natural color is golden and straw. The nose is a fantastic combination of smoke, butterscotch, orange peel, and honey. The whisky coats the palate with a consistency that is not so much syrupy as oily. There’s lots of smokiness, some brine, but not a lot of peat, and hints of apricot, mint, and vanilla. The finish is long with dried fruit, salt, and wood spice.

While Cambeltown whiskies have not always been my favorite, this one impressed me, even at $90. It’s complex and layered, with just the right combination of fruit, smoke, and spice. A few drops of water open it up nicely, but ice is wholly unnecessary.

Medium bodied cigars suit the Springbank and, depending on your mood, you couldn’t go wrong with any of these: La Riqueza, PG 15th Anniversary, El Centurion, or Partagas Benji Menendez Master Series.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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