I think the Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show is coming up soon. I say annual but they obviously skipped it last year (this year’s show is in person again, I think). Anyway, I didn’t mean this review of a Longmorn 18 released 10 years ago at the 2011 edition of the Whisky Show to come close to coinciding with it—I’ve actually had this bottle open for some months now but have just not gotten around to reviewing it. Now that it has dipped below the half-full line it is time.
Speaking of the Whisky Exchange, you may have come across the recent news that they have been purchased by Pernod Ricard. Given how much difficulty I’ve had with keeping track of all of the Whisky Exchange properties, affiliates and spin-off concerns over the years, I don’t actually know what this means for the various whisky releases their various bottling concerns put out. Will this mean greater access to malts from the group’s distilleries? Less attention to malts from competitors? (Longmorn, of course, is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio.) The most important question is whether the new corporate masters will approve of Billy Abbott’s beard. Only time will tell. Continue reading →
As you may recall, in 2013 the Dutch bottler van Wees released a large parcel of Longmorn 17, 1996s, all matured to a dark mahogany hue in sherry casks. As I noted, just under two years ago, when I reviewed another of these casks, these went for just about $65 at the far less attractive exchange rate of the time. I shudder to think of how much would be charged for similar bottles now. In that previous review—of cask 72324, purchased by my friends Clara and Rob at the same time I purchased this bottle—I also noted that if I liked it I would open this a month later. Well, I did like it and here I am, only a little behind schedule, with the review of my bottle. I actually opened this bottle at the end of May. When first opened I found it to be somewhat imbalanced. Though 57.5% is not crazy high as stupid abv goes, the combination of the alcohol and the oak seemed to me to overpower everything else in the whisky. After a few pours I set the bottle aside for a few weeks and when I came back to it the whisky had mellowed a fair bit. This review is taken from one of the later pours (the bottle is now past the halfway mark) and, as you will see, time in the glass and water are still very good to it. Anyway, here are some more detailed notes. Continue reading →
Okay, let’s close out the month with another teenaged malt from a Speyside distillery. Unlike Monday’s Cragganmore, however, this has no wine involvement. This is a straight-up bourbon cask whisky, a Longmorn issued in Chivas’s old Cask Strength Edition series that was originally available only at their distilleries. Every whisky I’ve had in this series has been very good at the least. I’m not sure if the series is still on the go though. I’d hoped to find some releases when I visited Strathisla, Aberlour and Scapa in 2018 but didn’t see any. Anyway, I’m looking forward to this one. All the excitement about Longmorn is about older vintages from the ’60s and ’70s and contemporary Longmorn doesn’t have much of an identity—and not very much of it shows up from the indies anymore either. The few I’ve had suggest that the modern distillate could also produce real greatness if allowed to age up to 30 years or more. Of course, if any such modern Longmorns are ever released in the next few years, I won’t be able to afford them… Continue reading →
Earlier in the month I had a review of a dark sherry cask 17 yo Longmorn released in 2013. I liked it quite a lot but didn’t find anything very distinctive about it. Today’s Longmorn was also released in 2013 but is more than twice as old and is from a bourbon cask. As you may know, older Longmorns from the late ’60s and early ’70s have a very strong reputation for an intensely fruity character. It will be interesting to see if this is manifested in this malt distilled in 1976. Certainly, some of those who have left notes for it on Whiskybase mention tropical fruit. However, the other 1976 Longmorn I’ve had, a 34 yo also bottled by Malts of Scotland, was no fruit bomb—and nor, for that matter, was the 31 yo from 1978 bottled by the Whisky Exchange. And so my expectations for fruit are in check—it may be the case that production process changes had happened by the mid-70s that reduced that aspect of the malt’s character. That said, if this is as good as that Whisky Exchange bottle, a happy mix of fruit, oak and malt, I’ll be very pleased. Let’s see. Continue reading →
In 2013’ish van Wees bottled a number of sherry casks of Longmorn 1996. We didn’t know it then but that was right at the end of the era of reasonable prices for teenaged whiskies. Even with the higher Euro/USD exchange rate of the time these casks went for about $65. That’s for 17 year old sherry cask whisky. Can you imagine such a thing now? Anyway, these casks were very popular—all have very high scores on Whiskybase—but because the whisky world had not gone crazy yet they didn’t all sell out immediately. I purchased a bottle from cask 72315 and my friends Rob and Clara purchased a bottle from cask 72324. They opened theirs right away. I got a sample from their bottle and promptly forgot all about it and my own bottle. Here now more than five years after we purchased our bottles, and in a far less innocent time, is my review of the sample from their bottle. If I like it a lot, as I am expecting to do, I will open my own bottle next month. Continue reading →
Continuing with my run (more of a jog really) of older malts, here is a Longmorn from the mid-1970s. Longmorns of this era have a very strong reputation, especially on account of their intensely fruity quality. As that fruity profile—especially from ex-bourbon casks—is perhaps currently my favourite, I have high hopes of this sample which I received in a transcontinental swap some years ago.
Let’s see if those hopes will be borne out.
Longmorn 34, 1976 (51.5%; Malts of Scotland; bourbon hogshead #5892; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Toasted oak and caramel at first with some candied orange peel behind. As it sits there are richer notes of brandied raisins and apricot jam. As it sits rich notes of pastry crust develop and the oak moves in the direction of wood glue. A drop of water pulls out some mothballs and some bready notes. Continue reading →
I am back in Minnesota. Our two weeks in Scotland were great, as were the 10 days that followed in London. I’ll have a number of reports on distilleries (and food) soon. But first, let me wind up my month of reviews of malts from Speyside and Highland distilleries. I’m sorry to say that few of the Speyside whiskies I reviewed in this series this month turned out to be appropriate for my commemorative purpose. Other than a Dailuaine and a Longmorn, it’s been a steady stream of mediocrity. Accordingly, I am going to end the series with a heavy hitter, the oldest single malt I’ve yet reviewed: a 46 yo Longmorn distilled in 1964 and bottled in 2011 as part of Gordon & MacPhail’s now legendary quintet of very old sherry cask Longmorns for van Wees in the Netherlands. The 1969 in this series is the best whisky I’ve ever had and the 1972 and 1968 were no slouches either. Only the 1966 showed some signs of extreme age. Will this one—two years older still—be even more over-oaked? Let’s see. Continue reading →
After three less than whelming whiskies to start the month, and also to start my run of reviews of malts from the Speyside and the Highlands this month, here is one that I know is very good. This is a Longmorn bottled by the Single Malts of Scotland label of Speciality Drinks (now Elixir Distillers, I think) a few years ago. I opened it for my local group’s February tasting and it went down very well with the group. Here now are my notes.
Longmorn 24, 1990 (53.7%; Single Malts of Scotland; hogshead #191954; from my own bottle)
Nose: Tart apple, lemon peel, dried leaves, grass, toasted oak. The lemon peel expands as it sits, getting oilier and zestier. Softer and maltier with water. Continue reading →
This is the fourth of the five ancient Longmorns bottled by Gordon and MacPhail for van Wees in 2011. I’ve previously reviewed the 1972, the 1969 and the 1968. All were excellent, and the 1969, in particular, I thought was magical (I’ll probably review the 1964 next month). I have very little to add to what I’ve already said in my preambles to those reviews (and I really want to duck the question of the financial irresponsibility and likely decadence of buying such expensive whisky, even in the form of a four-way split) and so let’s get right to the notes.
Longmorn 44, 1966 (44.3%; Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees; first fill sherry cask 5063; from a bottle split with friends)
This was released for The Whisky Exchange’s annual Whisky Show back in 2010 under their “Masterpieces” label. I had the opportunity to purchase it then but felt it was too expensive: I believe the price was £120 ex. vat. Those were the days. Anyway, I’ve never had a late-1970s Longmorn before (not that I can remember anyway—I do have two small children). This is from a bourbon cask (many of the older ones I’ve had have been from sherry casks). As to whether this will reach the fruity heights of its storied stablemates from earlier in the decade, I don’t know, but can only hope.
Only 135 bottles were released by TWE (presumably from a single cask). If this is because they split a cask with someone else or because Sukhinder Singh (the proprietor and avowed Longmorn fan) kept the rest for himself, I don’t know, but let’s get to it. Continue reading →
This is the third oldest of the five ancient Longmorns bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2011 for van Wees in the Netherlands. I have previously reviewed the 1972 (outstanding) and the 1969 (which I gave the highest score I’ve yet handed out). While I purchased full bottles of the 1969 and 1972, the 1964, 1966 and this 1968 I only have 6 ounces each of, having split them with three fellow Minnesota whisky geeks (the 1972 was also originally part of this split—I purchased a bottle after tasting it). The prices of the remaining stock all but doubled shortly after this purchase and so this is all I have and all I will ever have; and as it’s highly unlikely that 1960s/early 1970s whisky of this quality will be available again any time soon for the prices we paid this is almost certainly the first and last time that I will get to taste such a stellar lineup of whiskies. Each pour is thus very special. For this reason I have avoided getting into my shares of the three that I do not have full bottles of in the wings, waiting for special occasions.
Well, I suppose Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday is as good a time as any.
This is the whisky that caused me to abandon my better judgement and buy an entire parcel of K&L’s exclusive selections for 2013. I’m a sucker for older Longmorn and when I saw a 21 yo Longmorn from a sherry cask offered for less than $100 I didn’t ask myself if it might possibly be too good to be true and ordered it. And then, because I am weak, I ordered a bunch of other whiskies to go with it. Some turned out to be good (this heavily peated Jura), some were okay (this Imperial), some were boring (this Bunnahabhain) and some were not good (this Bowmore). You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but no: I bought a few more of their exclusives this Spring (those turned out much better, by the way—more on those next month).
Anyway, as you can probably guess, I did not end up being crazy about this Longmorn, but I am happy to say that it was not a disaster either. Continue reading →
In December I reviewed an ancient Longmorn bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees in the Netherlands. I gave that one, a 42 yo distilled in 1969, 95 points, my highest score yet. That one was from a series of single first fill sherry casks which also included one from 1964, one from 1966, one from 1968 and one from 1972—all bottled together in 2011.
Somehow these bottles have stuck around for almost four years. How this came to be I don’t quite understand, but as of now word seems to be fully out on them and the few stores that still have bottles have raised the prices dramatically. This increase has apparently come down from van Wees, who seem to be belatedly trying to make money on a series they had trouble selling out at the initial lower prices (that or they held some stock back in the hopes that they’d eventually be able to charge a lot more). Continue reading →
My last review of a Longmorn saw me give out my highest score yet. That was for the staggeringly good 1969-2011 bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for van Wees in the Netherlands. Later this month I will have a review of another bottle from that series (thr 1972-2011) and I may also get around to a 31, 1978 bottled for the Whisky Exchange a couple of years ago. And so I am in the decadent position of feeling like this 26 yo from 1987 bottled by Cadenhead’s is not that old and not that special. Excuse me while I slap myself.
Okay, I’m back. This is from the recent(ish) release of cask strength dumpy bottles by Cadenhead’s, a part of their general makeover. I’ve reviewed a large number of the bottles that came to the US in late 2013 and liked all of those—some a lot. That’s one reason I’m hopeful that this will also be very good (this one was released in Europe). The other reason is that if it turns out to be the case that old Longmorn from any era can exhibit the qualities of the 60s and 70s distillate then we can all mourn a little bit less the passing of bottles from those decades. Continue reading →
This is the the oldest Longmorn I’ve yet tasted. I referred to it in my review of the 1968-2004 from Scott’s Selection as probably the last Longmorn of this age and era that I will get to taste. This one is from Gordon & Macphail and was bottled for van Wees in the Netherlands. I couldn’t spring for a full bottle but also couldn’t resist paying for two 20 ml samples when the good people of Whiskybase made them available. As the samples were not themselves cheap I hope this one will live up to the standards of the other ancient Longmorns I’ve had.
I think this one might be different though from the others of its age/era that I’ve tasted in that it’s from a first fill sherry butt. I don’t believe the G&M 40, 1971 (the previous oldest Longmorn I’ve had) was from first fill sherry, and I don’t believe any of the Scott’s bottles are either (Scott’s Selection, of course, very rarely specified the type of cask their releases were from). Continue reading →
At the risk of being accused of lapsing into decadence, here is another ancient Longmorn from Scott’s Selection. This one is the 1968-2004 release which, like the 1968-2003, is at a very high abv compared to the two 1967’s released around the same time (both of those were in the low 50%s; see here for the 1967-2004). This is the only one I have not previously tried of the five Scott’s Longmorn-Glenlivet bottlings released in the mid-2000s and so I am really looking forward to it. It’s also the only one I never actually saw in the wild myself so I can’t kick myself for not picking up a bottle.
I have another sample of a different ancient Longmorn from this period on my shelf (that one’s from Gordon & Macphail) and once I’m done with that one I’m probably done with getting to taste ancient Longmorns. Prices are now through the roof. An end of an era? Hopefully, Longmorns from later decades will be as good with as long aging but they will not, I am pretty sure, be as (relatively) affordable as these whiskies once were. Oh well.
Here is another of the excellent old Longmorns released by Scott’s Selection in the early-mid 2000s. I’ve previously reviewed the great 1968-2003 and now here is one distilled a year earlier and bottled a year later. Until a couple of years ago these bottles could be found relatively easily at reasonable prices, but now they seem to be mostly gone, and what’s left seems to have largely had its price hiked. So it goes.
I opened this bottle for the gathering for my friend Rich’s birthday in September, the one that yielded the samples of the Clynelish Manager’s Dram and the Talisker 30s (plus some others yet to be reviewed). And it was as good as I remember it being from the one previous occasion that I’d got to taste it.
Old Longmorn (especially from the late 1960s and early 1970s) is usually utterly brilliant stuff—see here and here, for example—but I’ve not had quite as much luck with more recent/younger Longmorn, whether official or independent—see here and here (and here for an exception). As to whether this is just the luck of the draw or whether Longmorn’s spirit reaches its peak at a much later age, or if there was something crucially different about that earlier period, I don’t know. I do know that this 11 yo from the German bottler Alambic Classique does not lift the average of recent/young Longmorns.
I bought it a while ago and opened it a couple of months ago for one of our local group’s tastings—and while no one hated it, it didn’t really ring anyone’s bells either. For that reason, mostly, I’ve been putting off returning to review it despite having listed it in my “Coming Soon…” forecasts for quite some time now. But here I am now. Continue reading →