This is another of Springbank’s double matured wine cask releases, albeit for their Longrow line of peated malts.I’m usually a little wary of red wine finished whiskies but, as is usually the case at Springbank, this is closer to a double matured whisky: it was distilled in 1997 and spent eleven years in refill bourbon casks and then a further three years in fresh Burgundy casks. That and the fact that Springbank’s distillate is by its nature robust emboldened me to purchase it after release. I opened this bottle quite some time ago for one of my local group’s tastings and my notes say I liked aspects of it but found it a bit clouded by sulphurous notes. Since then it’s sort of got lost in a corner of my whisky lair and despite having planned to review it a long time ago (hence the picture taken in a different season) I’ve never actually gotten around to it. Well, here I am now and I hope those sulphurous notes have abated a bit, as sometimes happens.
Longrow 14, 1997 (56.1%; Burgundy Wood; from my own bottle)
Nose: Not very red winey at first: raisins and a meatiness suggest intense sherry instead. Quite a bit of gunpowder too, mixed with salt. Some leather as well after a couple of minutes and some beef stock. After another couple of minutes here’s some red fruit but it’s mostly in the plum rather than the cherry or berry family; and some dried orange peel too. Not very red winey after 10-15 minutes either. And I just realized that I haven’t mentioned smoke either. The gunpowder recedes with time. Water pulls out more fruit: plum, orange peel, a bit of apricot.
Palate: More red fruit up front on the palate but there’s a lot more gunpowder here along with clove and cinnamon and salt. The smoke is masked by the sharper notes. On the second and third sip there’s more leather and salt and the gunpowder is less loud. The fruit recedes as well. Water balances it nicely—the sulphur’s pushed back and, as on the nose, the fruit comes to the front (and it’s still not particularly red winey).
Finish: Long. Spicy at first and then after a while salt is the predominant note. It’s on the finish that the smoke, or ash rather, makes itself most known. As on the palate with water but now the smoke/ash recedes too.
Comments: Well, I think there might be even more sulphur in this now than when the bottle was first opened. Neat, it starts out just on this side of too much on the nose but goes clearly over on the palate. With water it’s much better: all around less sharp, more integrated. I know how I’m drinking the rest.
Rating: 82 points. (Pulled up with water.)
For two different takes see Michael K., who loved it, and Serge, who liked it even less. (Serge, oddly, doesn’t mention sulphur at all; and, just as oddly, Michael likes it more than I do even though he’s usually more sulphur-averse than I am.)