This is the the oldest Longmorn I’ve yet tasted. I referred to it in my review of the 1968-2004 from Scott’s Selection as probably the last Longmorn of this age and era that I will get to taste. This one is from Gordon & Macphail and was bottled for van Wees in the Netherlands. I couldn’t spring for a full bottle but also couldn’t resist paying for two 20 ml samples when the good people of Whiskybase made them available. As the samples were not themselves cheap I hope this one will live up to the standards of the other ancient Longmorns I’ve had.
I think this one might be different though from the others of its age/era that I’ve tasted in that it’s from a first fill sherry butt. I don’t believe the G&M 40, 1971 (the previous oldest Longmorn I’ve had) was from first fill sherry, and I don’t believe any of the Scott’s bottles are either (Scott’s Selection, of course, very rarely specified the type of cask their releases were from).
Longmorn 41, 1969-2011 (59.4%; Gordon & Macphail for van Wees; first fill sherry butt 5294; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Dark orange marmalade, dried tangerine peel, fig jam, apricots. Below that there’s some leather (old books), and just a bit of wood. After a minute there’s some brighter citrus peeping through (lemon) and some fried plantains as well. Just a bit of roasted malt too. Just lovely. More tropical fruit as it sits—mango leather with salt (an Indian thing)—and some dark maple syrup as well. With even more time it gets quite sticky with the fig jam mixed in with some heavily reduced plum sauce. With water it’s brighter with more honey, but also more brightly tropically fruity: straight up mango now and makrut lime peel. And now there’s toffee and milk chocolate as well.
Palate: Colossal. The roasted malt makes the first showing but then the fruit starts expanding and expanding and expanding. Everything from the nose is here and it’s even more intense. As on the nose, it brightens as it goes and picks up some salt on the way. On the second sip the fruit is the first to arrive and now it turns tropical quite fast with mango, guava and overripe pineapple. The roasted malt and the wood now provides the frame for the fruit and there’s some roasted spices too (cumin and a hint of cinnamon). Insanely drinkable and expressive at full strength. A few more small sips and I’ll add some water. As on the nose it gets stickier and sweeter as it sits (think brown sweetness: melted jaggery). Somehow brighter and even stickier with water. More pineapple now but ringed with burnt sugar.
Finish: Long. Forever long. Nothing new develops but all that insanely good stuff from the palate slowly fades out. Maybe picks up a little more salt as it goes. With water there’s much more lime on the finish but those tropical notes have the last word.
Comments: How does barley turn into this? Alchemy is real.
Rating: 95 points.
Absolutely loved this one too! Managed to shell out for a bottle to be enjoyed at leisure. I agree with the masses of fruit – and not just any fruit but gorgeous concentrated fruit – but also found some significant (pleasant) gunpowder in there too, as with some first fill sherried Karuizawa.
Thanks for the great reviews and look forward to more in 2015!
Serge noted the gunpowder too. That might be what I picked up as mango leather with (rock) salt, or it might be that those notes dissipated in the sample bottles. You’ll have to tell me how your bottle goes.
And speaking of bottles…I wrote this review at the beginning of the month but then decided to save it as my final review of the year. In the intervening period I found two bottles at a rather chaotic store in the EU and after a complicated transaction managed to purchase them—I reasoned that I had liked this whisky a bit more than even some of the acknowledged greats I’ve had and since those go for several times the price being asked for this one the splurge seemed like a rare opportunity to purchase whisky this good without resorting to all-out fiscal irresponsibility. I will try my hardest to save one bottle for when my boys are of drinking age. Not sure when I’ll open the other but probably a lot sooner than that.
That is an absolutely massive ABV for something so old.
Yeah, funny how that happens. Some of those old Scott’s Longmorns are even higher (though a bit younger).
And here I thought this one was doing pretty well.
I have a bunch of 30-something malts that are barely squeaking over 40%.
Such an amazing whisky, if I saw a bottle available I admit I’d probably buy it too. Mind-blowing stuff, and the best whisky I had all year (and that was back in June).
Yeah – a good buy even at ~400 Euros. Was it Jurgen’s chaotic whisky store by any chance? I tasted it as a sample actually – tried it in two sittings a month apart, and the gunpowder was still there for sure second time round. Haven’t opened the bottle yet – saving it for an appropriate moment… though the more I do that, the fewer of my favourite bottles I seem to drink…
Perhaps my favorite whisky to date also. I opened this bottle on my last birthday with friends. Spectacular. The complex flavors of mango and guava on the palate are indeed a kind of alchemy. Amazing freshness and vibrancy for having been in the cask 41 years.
There’s an emotional and historical aspect to this whisky. No ’60s or ’70s Longmorn single casks have been released in the last two years – they may all be gone. It’s the end of an era as Longmorn’s floor maltings ended in 1970, and the production process was changed with capacity doubling in 1974.
Patrick has a nice review of this bottle:
And Keith Wood discusses its appearance at the Malt Maniacs dinner last year:
Thanks for that and for those links—I hadn’t seen them. 19/20 from Patrick is not an everyday thing.
Sad to think that these Longmorns may be gone forever; I’m happy though that I got into whisky just in time to get to taste a bunch of them.
I just snagged the last 100ml sample of this and a bottle of the 72 from the same series. I am kicking myself now for not grabbing a whole bottle while I had the chance. I find it amazing that this ambrosia sat on shelves for almost three years.
This has reappeared at Jurgen’s Whiskyhuis but the price has shot up dramatically. Ditto for the 1968 and 1972. Apparently the increase is courtesy van Wees—so it would appear that they held back some stock in the hope of greater future profits.
I was trying to find another bottle and also heard the same story – that there was a price increase by Van Wees. I was quoted between 680 and 780 Euros from several retailers.
The price increase followed your stellar rating, but I think it’s more likely due to the recognition by Van Wees that these old Longmorns are all gone. Even G&M doesn’t seem to be releasing them in the last couple of years.
Even if another 1969 cask was left to be released in 2015, at 46 years old it would run the risk of being overoaked. That’s my best guess as to why we’re not seeing anymore of these – they’d reached their prime and more age wouldn’t have been beneficial, so they’ve already been bottled.
What’s unusual about these old Longmorns is that they were able to reach that 40 year mark and gain so much complexity while still remaining so fresh and drinkable.
I would love to know the story on that batch of sherry casks that this 1969 #5294 was part of. There were a handful in that numerical series, one or two released for Japan, and most or all have a great reputation. Where did the casks come from? What made them so great as a crucible for the spirit when filled in that summer of love?
Yes, I doubt highly that my review has anything to do with the price increase. Leave alone European retailers and bottlers, most European whisky geeks don’t know my blog exists.
As for the “magic” of these casks: probably some serendipitous combination of great distillate, high quality casks*, the right corner of a warehouse and most importantly, luck that these casks were spared blending or dilution for Gordon & Macphail’s various 43% and 40% releases of old Longmorn over the years (most of which, I should add, are quite excellent as well).
*Who knows how many others from this time deteriorated or showed signs of doing so well before getting to this age. In fact those might have been salvaged in vattings for some of G&M’s non-vintage releases. I am assuming, of course, that these were all casks G&M had filled to order and matured themselves in their own warehouses.