Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well). Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see.
Longrow 13, 2003 (59.1%; Single first fill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A bit of rubber at first and then damp earth, salt, savoury gunpowder, cracked black pepper and a bit of chocolate. Below all that is a bit of woodsmoke. With time there’s some toffee and some pipe tobacco. Water pushes back the gunpowder and brings out more of the softer, sweeter notes.
Palate: The salt hits first and then there’s a big wave of iron (blood in the mouth). A bit sweeter on the second sip and there’s the gunpowder. Drinkable at full strength but could use some water. The earthy notes expand a bit as it sits but the sulphur gets stronger too. Okay, let’s see what water does. It pushes the sulphur back some and pulls out some leather and more of of the damp earth.
Finish: Long. The salt and the gunpowder are the dominant notes here and then that blood in the mouth returns and now it tastes like the sherry is separating a little. The sulphur expands here too with time. As on the palate with water with a little more cracked pepper.
Comments: They obviously chose this well for the market: if you check Whiskybase you’ll see a lot of very high scores from German drinkers. I liked the nose but I think the sulphur is out of balance on the palate. It’s not offensive—it doesn’t cause my tongue to fur up—but it masks too much of the other notes. And mind you, I’m not a sulphur-phobe. This is a case probably of a cask that might have been better off adding interesting notes to a larger vatting. On the other hand, there are people who clearly like this style and why shouldn’t Springbank give them a cask to enjoy?
Rating: 82 points. (Pulled up by water.)