Okay, let’s make it three peat weeks in a row. Unlike Caol Ila week and Lagavulin week, this week saw stops at Laphroaig and Bowmore and now I’m at a third distillery that isn’t even on Islay. We’re not that far away in the scheme of things though—at Springbank in Campbeltown. Monday’s Laphroaig was from a bourbon cask and Wednesday’s Bowmore was a port finish; this Longrow is from a fresh sherry hogshead and was bottled for the Nectar in Belgium. All of that should add up to goodness but you never really know. My last Longrow from a first-fill sherry cask was this 13 yo which I was not very crazy about—a bit too much sulphur, even for me. I did like the last Springbank I reviewed, which was coincidentally also of a sherry cask, though a bit younger at 12 years old and from quite a few year previous; and, of course, not as heavily peated—at least in theory–as Longrow usually is. Anyway, let’s see what this is like.
Longrow 17, 2002 (49.7%; bottled for The Nectar; fresh sherry hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Pencil lead, damp earth, brine. After a few beats there’s some dried orange peel, ashy smoke, more salt and some cracked coriander seed. For a dark whisky from a fresh sherry hogshead there is no sherry overload here—not that I’m complaining. Sweet ham brine shows up as it sits. A bit sweeter with water and then there’s more of the ham brine along with some long preserved lemon.
Palate: A bit sweeter but otherwise exactly as advertised by the nose—which means it is rather good. An excellent drinking strength and a full texture. A bit sootier and then more acidic (lemon rather than orange) with time but otherwise quite consistent. Okay, let’s add water. Ah yes, everything gets integrated even more fully and that preserved lemon shows up here as well.
Finish: Long. The peat emerges most fully here as a mix of soot and ash makes the lasting impression. Gets more bitter as it goes (a nice counterpoint rather than an off note). Water pushes both the soot/ash and bitterness back and brings out the preserved lemon here as well.
Comments: Either this was not a very peated run or the sherry muted the peat. That said, it’s no sherry bomb either despite the dark colour. On the whole, it’s one of those Longrows that makes you wonder what the distinction between Springbank and Longrow is supposed to be. What there’s no doubt about is that this is excellent stuff and dangerously drinkable. I’m sure this was priced out the wazoo but in the abstract I’d love to have a bottle of it. Only a lack of complexity in the form of development keeps it from the next tier.
Rating: 89 points.