This is the third oldest of the five ancient Longmorns bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2011 for van Wees in the Netherlands. I have previously reviewed the 1972 (outstanding) and the 1969 (which I gave the highest score I’ve yet handed out). While I purchased full bottles of the 1969 and 1972, the 1964, 1966 and this 1968 I only have 6 ounces each of, having split them with three fellow Minnesota whisky geeks (the 1972 was also originally part of this split—I purchased a bottle after tasting it). The prices of the remaining stock all but doubled shortly after this purchase and so this is all I have and all I will ever have; and as it’s highly unlikely that 1960s/early 1970s whisky of this quality will be available again any time soon for the prices we paid this is almost certainly the first and last time that I will get to taste such a stellar lineup of whiskies. Each pour is thus very special. For this reason I have avoided getting into my shares of the three that I do not have full bottles of in the wings, waiting for special occasions.
Well, I suppose Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday is as good a time as any.
Longmorn 1968-2011 (55.4%; G&M for van Wees; first fill sherry butt 909; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Despite the strength not being particularly high it starts out a little closed with pine and camphor. After a few minutes of airing the sherry begins to talk: leather first and then the expanding fruit basket (dried tangerine peel, apricot, marmalade, a hint of tart-sweet mango) and some dark rum. Quite a bit of salt too and the camphor hangs around as well. A bit tannic too: partly oak spice (cinnamon) and partly dried mushrooms and concentrated beef stock. The fruit gets more intense as it sits: there’s some plum now and some stickier notes (fig, honey). With a couple of drops of water it’s the camphor that expands first and then the sweeter fruit comes to the top (the plum mostly). After a long time I’m getting a bit of gunpowder as well but it burns off as suddenly as it appeared.
Palate: Leads with the fruit with the oak right behind (and the oak’s louder here than on the nose). Everything is much more compressed than on the nose, except for the wood which is speaking a little too loudly for my liking. Okay, I’ll give it a bit more air and then probably proceed to water. As on the nose, more time and air bring out more of the fruit on the palate as well: brighter citrus here at first (orange verging on lemon) and some apricot and then rich rum-soaked raisins; some gunpowder too. Water pushes the oak back and brings out more of the more of the sweeter fruit and then quite a bit of lemon and lemon zest and then marmalade and honey. With more time the fruit gets richer and sweeter still (figs, a bit of date or is that molasses?).
Finish: Long. It’s the wood, somewhere between spicy and tannic that’s dominant here too, with some salt thrown in. Sweeter with time and then the brighter citrus hangs around too. Much more balanced with water and slightly peppery now at the end. With more time the richer fruity notes hang around longer and the leather from the nose shows up.
Comments: This is very good indeed, but, unlike the 1969, feels to me like it may have stayed in the cask a bit longer than it should have—at least till water is added. At any rate, not as intoxicatingly fruity as the 1969 or the 1972 and not as complex on the palate. I think this one definitely needs water to be at its best.
Rating: 90 points.