Okay, I am done with my mini-tour of Islay (stops at Caol Ila, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg). But I’m not done with peat. Let’s take the ferry back to the mainland and head south, to Campbeltown. And let’s get quite timely for a change. This is the 2020 release of the Longrow 18. I reviewed the 2019 release last year and thought it was just excellent. Will this be as good? Well, it’s certainly not made in the same way. Though I did not note it in that review, the 2019 release was put together from a vatting that was 75% ex-sherry and 25% ex-bourbon casks. This year’s edition has a more complicated composition, being from 25% ex-bourbon, 55% ex-sherry and
4520% ex-rum casks. Now, I’ve never had a Longrow that had been near rum casks before—that I know of at any rate—and I’ve never been too impressed with any whisky that came out of a rum cask, but I am a little bit intrigued anyway to see what that might do to Longrow’s trademark austere character. Let’s see.
Longrow 18, 2020 Release (46%; bourbon, rum and sherry casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Sweet notes of dark rum mingle with mineral peat, damp earth and sack cloth. In short, classic Longrow but with added sweetness. With time the rummy notes recede and it’s on solidly familiar Longrow ground now. Some vanilla too now and expanding citrus (preserved lemon). With a few drops of water the citrus gets a little mentholated at first (citronella) and then there’s some charred pineapple.
Palate: Drier arrival on the palate and there’s more brine here as well but otherwise it’s that Longrow/Springbank complex from the nose. Excellent texture and perfect drinking strength. The peat expands as I swallow. Not much sign of the rum here and the sherry too is very restrained. The smoke gets a little more assertive with time (charred rather than phenolic) and it gets sweeter. okay, let’s add water. Sweeter with a few drops and it’s a darker, I daresay brown sweetness—is that the rum? Would I say so if I didn’t know there was rum cask involvement here?)
Finish: Long. The peat keeps expanding picking up more and more char at first and cracked pepper. With time the preserved lemon pops out here as well and there’s some coriander seed too.
Comments: Well, I didn’t get very much sherry in the 2019 release and with far less sherry cask in this vatting it’s no surprise I’m not getting any obvious sherry notes here either. Refill casks, one assumes; the rum casks are also restrained (though more apparent with water). In some ways it reminds me of the Springbank Local Barley 16—I wonder if some of that distillate made it into this. Be that as it may, all of this adds up to another nearly flawless Longrow 18. Just a touch too sweet perhaps and just a bit below last year’s release in my estimation. Your mileage may vary.
Rating: 89 points.