Campbeltown week started out strong with the Kilkerran Work in Progress 1 and then hit a major pothole with a SMWS Glen Scotia 11, 2008 that ran completely counter to the quality and profile of all the other SMWS Glen Scotias I’ve reviewed in the last year. Here to set things right is a Longrow 18. This is from the 2014 release. By the way, the eventual symmetry in this week’s reviews was not planned. By which I mean I began with a Kilkerran released in 2009, moved on to a Glen Scotia released in 2019 (or maybe it was 2020) and am ending with a Longrow released right between those two in 2014. I purchased this bottle in 2015 and for some reason am only reviewing it in 2022. I am confident that it will set things right because the Longrow 18 is as close as you get to a sure thing in the world of single malt whisky (I’ve previously reviewed the 2008, 2011, 2019 and 2020 releases). Also, this is my third pour from the bottle and so I already know it is excellent. Prescience is easier when it follows experience.
Longrow 18, 2014 Release (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Ah, all the expected good stuff: damp earth, putty, sack cloth, smoke from a wood fire put out by water (yes, it’s very specific), a bit of machine oil; and then brine, coriander seed and a touch of lemon. Some savoury notes (ham brine) emerge with time. A few drops of water push the peat complex back a bit and pull out more of the spice and some vanilla. The damp earth turns to wet stones.
Palate: Comes in as promised by the nose with a little more sweetness and lemon and some cracked pepper. The smoke (charred rather than phenolic) expands as I swallow. Perfect drinking strength and very nice, oily texture. The lemon expands as it sits but other than that there’s not much change with time—but why would you want it to change? Okay, let’s add some water. Here too the smoke retreats with water and lets out more of the citrus and the savoury notes.
Finish: Long. The smoke keeps going and picks up more pepper. Salt at the end. A little bitter with time but so am I. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Man, the Longrow 18 is always sheer class: austere and expressive at the same time. One of the rare cases where a whisky seems worth the premium asked for it: both for its intrinsic qualities and for the relative uniqueness of the profile. I think these days if you asked me to pick five whiskies to drink for the rest of my life the Longrow 18 would be my first pick. I look forward to drinking this bottle down over the rest of the year.
Rating: 90 points.