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A peek at the upcoming Springbank Sherry Series

What you need to know:

    • Riding on the high from the successful Local Barley series, Springbank would be releasing a new set of five sherry-matured whiskies, starting from 2022 through 2026.
    • Each of the 5 whiskies would be partially matured in a different variety of sherry cask: Pedro Ximénez, Palo Cortado, Amontillado, Fino and Manzanilla. 
    • This new series includes cask styles with a slightly more experimental spirit. The Manzilla and Palo Cortado releases would be the first of their kind.
    • The series would also give drinkers with the full set the opportunity to taste and understand the nuanced differences between various sherry cask styles.
    • Cop the Drop or Not Verdict: Cop (particularly the Palo Cortado release (2023) and Manzanilla release (2026)

Note: This article was first published on 26th October 2021. We've since uncovered new details on the first bottling of the series, the 10 Year Old Sherry Wood Pedro Ximenez (PX) Cask Matured Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which you can read about here.

Note: Springbank has announced its new Sherry Series, but the exact details on ABV and label design would be provided separately.

 

Reputation, scarcity and novelty. These elements make up the formula for creating a highly sought-after whisky beloved by drinkers and collectors alike that is guaranteed to be sold out within seconds.

The successful Springbank Local Barley series including its latest 100% Sherry-matured Local Barley 2021 release, nicely demonstrated this formula. Devoted whisky enthusiasts already love Springbank because of their very traditional craftsmanship and consistent high quality through literally hundreds of years. The Local Barley series is only released one-bottle-per-year with limited quantities available to keep fans anticipating. And to top it off, the latest 100% Sherry-matured release has a first-of-its-kind novelty factor that is guaranteed to leave fans boiling over with excitement.

 

(Image Source: Springbank Distillery) 

 

Well, Springbank is returning to that formula in 2022. After witnessing its success with the Sherry-matured Local Barley expression, the distillery has decided to release a set of five 10-year-old whiskies matured in various types of different sherry, one bottle per year starting next year (2022).

In fact, Springbank has already released a “work-in-progress” tasting set for the anticipated releases in April 2021 to tease us. For Springbank geeks, definitely check that out! Springbank has also conducted a guided tasting session of these samples that can be found here.

 

 
(Image Source: Carousell.sg: @artmount)

 

What’s interesting is that pure sherry-matured expressions are relatively rare in Springbank’s history. The traditional Springbank recipe is 50% first fill bourbon, and at most 50% sherry. The Springbank 12 for instance, is the classic expression to demonstrate the distillery character.

 

 

Click here to read our review of the quintessential Springbank expression.

 

The new sherry series also features substantial aging in varieties of sherries not often used by Springbank, such as Palo Cortado and Manzanilla sherry.

 

Release timeline: 2022 through 2026

 

 

There are 5 bottles lined up to be released annually in this order:

  1. 10 year old Pedro Ximénez release - 2022
  2. 10 year old Palo Cortado release – 2023
  3. 10 year old Amontillado release - 2024
  4. 10 year old Fino release - 2025
  5. 10 year old Manzanilla release - 2026

 

 

Chart of Main Styles of Sherry

Manzanilla

Pale, straw-colored. Delicate, light, tangy, and very dry 

Fino

Pale, straw-colored. Light in body, dry, and delicate.

Amontillado

Deep amber. Similar to Manzanilla and Fino, but richer and nuttier

 

Oloroso

Dark gold to deep brown in color. Full-bodied with rich, raisiny aroma and flavor, dry.

 

Palo cortado

Deep amber. As rich and fragrant as Oloroso, but also delicate, light and nutty as amontillado. 

Pedro Ximénez

Dark brown. Very sweet, syrupy.

 

 

10 year old Pedro Ximénez release: 2022

The 10-year-old PX release would be released the soonest, sometime in 2022.

This would be matured for 7 years in refill bourbon and 3 years in fresh Pedro Ximénez casks.

To ensure that Springbank’s distinctive distillery character can be felt, the distillery has gone with a relatively short 3-year maturation period in PX casks. This is considering the fact that PX is the strongest tasting of sherries, and too much sherry influence could overwhelm the palate.

 

The 8-year-old "work in progress" sample for the upcoming PX release.

 

To get a sneak peek at how this would taste, the corresponding “work-in-progress” sample (8 year old) already has strong PX cask influence with a lot of sweetness with considerable notes of raisins, sticky date pudding and jam, with a good amount of spiciness including candied ginger and pepperiness. The texture is thick.

 

 

10 year old Palo Cortado release: 2023

The 10-year-old Palo Cortado release would be released sometime in 2023.

This would be matured for 6 years in refill bourbon and 4 years in fresh Palo Cortado casks.

Palo Cortado is a rare type of sherry not often used by whisky-makers. This variety of sherry has undergone two types of aging processes: oxidative aging and biological aging. (More on that later.)

 

The 7-year-old "work in progress" sample for the upcoming Palo Cortado release.

 

The sherry is well-balanced, and similar to Oloroso-style whisky. It is a little less sweet than PX sherry, and features nutty aromas of hazelnut, aromatic herbs, spices, dark tobacco and wood. The corresponding “work-in-progress” sample (7 year old) is complex, well-balanced, with a good amount of sweetness, nuttiness and fruitiness. Moderate sweetness, notes of red fruits, orange supreme, hazelnut butter and some earthy ground coffee notes. There is also as good amount of Springbank distillery character with a light brininess. The texture is oily and slightly dry.

 

 

10 year old Amontillado release: 2024

The 10-year-old Amontillado release would be released sometime in 2023.

This would be matured for 5 years in refill bourbon and 5 years fresh Amontillado casks.

Amontillado is made in a similar way as Palo Cortado, but is a little more crisp and fresh tasting.

 

The 6-year-old "work in progress" sample for the upcoming Amontillado release.

 

The corresponding “work-in-progress” sample (6 year old) is nutty, spicy and caramelised, with slightly less sweetness than the above. Mild sweetness with light caramel, roasted walnuts, and licorice. There is a little more classic Springbank distillery character with some brininess, minerality and very faint peat. The texture is oily and drying.

 

 

10 year old Fino release: 2025

The 10-year-old Fino release would be released sometime in 2025.

This would be matured for 4 years in refill bourbon and 6 years fresh Fino casks.

Fino is one of the least sweet and driest varieties of sherries, and has only undergone a biological aging process. (More on that later.)

 

The 5-year-old "work in progress" sample for the upcoming Fino release.

 

The corresponding “work-in-progress” sample (5 year old) is fragrant, delicate, spicy and fruity. Substantial spice accompanied by lightly sweet and crisp notes of peaches, butterscotch candy and salted caramel. There are slight medicinal and herbal notes of liquorice. The texture is medium-light bodied.

 

 

10 year old Manzanilla release: 2026

The 10-year-old Manzanilla release would be released sometime in 2026.

This would be matured for 3 years in refill bourbon and 7 years fresh Manzanilla casks.

Manzanilla is made in almost exactly the same way as Fino sherry is, but in a different Spanish city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a seaside locality where the soil contains more minerals and salt. It is said to contain more notes of almonds and yeastiness compared to Fino.

 

The 4-year-old "work in progress" sample for the upcoming Manzanilla release.

 

The corresponding “work-in-progress” sample (4 year old) is very delicate, estery and solvent. There is substantial solvent / banana notes with a slight maltiness, developing to fresh apples, pears and a considerable amount of heat. The texture is medium-light bodied.

 

 

Fino-Manzanilla vs PX Sherry: Biological Aging vs Oxidative Aging

The main difference between Fino / Manzanilla sherries and PX sherry is the fact that Fino / Manzanilla sherries undergo “biological aging” rather than “oxidative aging”.

Unlike oxidative ageing (driven by oxidation of the wine), “biologically aged” sherries are aged using sherry yeasts that form a film on the wine’s surface (known as “flor”). The lack of oxidation helps to keep the components of the wine as fresh as possible. The result is that Fino and Manzanilla sherries taste more delicate and contain more freshness, greenness and light fruitiness.

 

When Fino and Manzanilla sherries undergo "biological aging", a layer of yeast (or flor) grows on top of the wine that protects the wine from oxidation, but still ages the wine "biologically". (Image Source: Whiskirific)

 

My Take

This new Sherry Series probably marks a slight change in Springbank Distillery’s attitudes in its willingness to indulge in experimentation and more unconventional cask styles.

Springbank is traditionally quite conservative with the types of sherry casks used. The distillery prefers using mainly oloroso sherry because they believe that oloroso provides better balance of flavour without overwhelming the distinct Springbank distillery character. Oloroso sherry is not too sweet and not too dry, and adds some complexity with nuttiness, spiciness and Christmas cake flavours.

I like that this new series includes some rather interesting cask styles with a slightly more experimental spirit. The Manzilla and Palo Cortado releases would be the first of their kind in Springbank’s portfolio. The series would also give drinkers with the full set to taste and understand the nuanced differences between various sherry cask styles.

There is also no doubt that these whiskies would be very high quality. The distillery is eager to demonstrate how it takes a very careful approach towards cask innovation and conducts very controlled experiments. There is an awareness that too much sherry character might overwhelm the whisky’s flavours and mask the classic Springbank Distillery character. The robust-tasting PX casks are only used for 3 years while the more delicate, lighter-tasting Fino and Manzanilla casks would be used for 6 to 7 years.

From a collector’s standpoint, on the other hand, I would probably really focus on the Palo Cortado (2023) and Manzanilla (2026) expressions- the first of their kind.

I have excitement, but a little less excitement over this series as compared to the Local Barley series. It is a bit of a misnomer to call this the Sherry series because none of the bottles were exclusively matured in sherry casks. The PX release for instance is actually 70% bourbon-matured. With the exception of Palo Cortado and Manzanilla, the distillery has also previously released expressions matured in the other varieties of sherry. 

 

Cop the Drop or Not Verdict: Cop (particularly the Palo Cortado release (2023) and Manzanilla release (2026))

 

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