Longrow, as you probably know, is the name of Springbank’s heavily peated malt (it’s also more conventionally double distilled, unlike Springbank which goes through a complicated “two and a half” distillation and Hazelburn which is triple-distilled). Just as there have been a number of wine cask Springbank releases in the last decade, a number of wine cask Longrows have also been appearing from time to time. Of these I’ve previously reviewed a 14 yo Burgundy cask, which I found to be too heavily sulphured to my taste. As a result I’ve stayed away from the Longrow Red series, which has featured a number of red wine finishes/double maturations—a new kind each year. The first (I believe) was double matured in cabernet sauvignon casks (7 years in bourbon + 4 in the wine casks) and the second in shiraz casks (6+5). The current release is closer to a finish, having spent only one year in New Zealand pinot noir casks after 11 in bourbon. This 2014 release, however, appears to have been matured full-term in fresh port casks (if I am wrong about this, please write in below). In general I have had better experiences with port cask-matured or finished whiskies than with those from other types of wine casks, especially peated whiskies (like this Ballechin, for example) and so I’m hopeful about this one. Let’s see what it’s like.
Longrow 11 Red, Fresh Port Casks (51.8%; 2014 release; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Peat off the top, slightly farmy, slightly ashy, pretty earthy and then sweeter notes (red berries). On the second sniff it’s both more pungent (lightly rubbery, more iodine) and sweeter. Very well integrated. With time the trademark Springbank brine and leather emerge. Water mellows the peat and smoke and pulls out some apricot.
Palate: The sweet notes lead here with the smoke right behind; quite a bit of citrus (lemon rind) mixed in here too. Very nice mouthfeel at full strength and there’s absolutely no separation of the sweet flavours from the smoke. The lemon expands on the second sip. The sweet notes get more prominent with each sip and it’s sort of a simple sweetness. With more time it first gets quite salty and then more ashy. Water is less positive for the palate, pushing the smoke and the sweetness apart a bit and thinning out the texture.
Finish: Medium-long. Ashy smoke and earth and cracked pepper and tobacco. Saltier here too with time. Longer and smokier with water and the citrus hangs out longer.
Comments: This is very nice and I am inclined to think that this must have indeed been a full-term maturation in port casks. There’s none of the “winesky” quality that can develop in port finishes and it also was not dominated by red fruit notes. Solid whisky—and solidly Springbank—and a good after-dinner drink but nothing terribly interesting.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!