This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see.
Longrow Hand-Filled, August 2022 (56.9%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Prickly peat along with savoury/meaty notes—ham brine, bacon fat. Quite a bit of salt on the second sniff along with some damp earth and tobacco. Some smouldering leaves in there as well along with some hot green pepper. The salt expands as it sits but it also gets sweeter (a mix of toffee and that damp earth). With more time there’s some milky cocoa in there too. Ah yes, a few drops of water and suddenly there’s preserved lemon all over the place—in fact, it’s like “white” lime pickle with coriander seed and fennel.
Palate: Slightly sweet arrival before all the stuff from the nose comes pouring in with some lemon behind it. More smoke here (cigarette ash). Approachable enough at full strength with decent texture. The sweeter notes emerge more fully on subsequent sips even as the smoke picks up more char. With more time it gets quite salty and then an oaky sourness develops that I can’t say I love—a bit of pencil lead in there too. Okay, let’s see if water gets things back on track. Yes! Water pushes the sour oak and the pencil lead back and brings out preserved lemon here as well.
Finish: Long. The ashy notes expand as the salt fades. A bit of sherry separation. Develops as on the palate. With water it gets more peppery here but the preserved lemon is in the lead.
Comments: Yeah, I’m confident there’s a fair bit of sherry in here and at first it holds it back a bit. Neat, I thought this was a few points behind the Hazelburn and Springbank but with water it came charging back. Not all the way back but close. But the main thing I am taking away from this week of Springbank hand-fills—other than the fact that Springbank makes great whisky—is that the line between Hazelburn, Springbank and Longrow can be very fuzzy indeed.
Rating: 87 points.