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. Continue reading
Let’s make it two weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. This also rounds out a week of reviews with terrifically low utility. On Wednesday I reviewed a Caol Ila sold exclusively at the distillery in 2017; on Monday I reviewed a Port Ellen released in 2011. Today I have a Longrow 14 that was released in 2010. The last Longrow 14 I reviewed was from the 2011 release, so I appear to be going backwards in time. Someday I hope to review one released less than nine years ago (I don’t seem to have any in the stash). If you’ve had a more recent release perhaps you can tell me if my notes on the 2010 and 2011 releases track with what the 14 yo is like now. Okay, on to the review!
Longrow 14, 2010 Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: The usual Longrow goodness. That is to say, sweet, mineral peat along with a bit of coal smoke and below all of that lemon and salt. The lemon gets more preserved as it sits and there’s some savoury gunpowder. A few drops of water brightens the lemon up a bit. Continue reading
In early May I reviewed a Longrow 13, 2003 from a single first-fill sherry cask. I found that one to be marred by a little too much sulphur but not irredeemably so. Here now is a sherried 14 yo Longrow from the same year but this one is from refill casks and a whole bunch of them: the total release of this whisky comprised 9000 bottles (not an unusual number for Springbank). So probably about 18 or 19 butts. That should theoretically allow for an averaging that guards against any major flaws. Let’s see if that turns out to be so.
Longrow 14, 2003 (57.8%; refill oloroso sherry cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Uh oh, a mix of rubber and sour, yeasty notes. Some more pleasant sherry aromas lurk beneath (toffee, orange peel) but are completely dominated. Gets quite salty quite quickly. As it sits the sulphurous notes subside a bit. A few drops of water knock them back further and pulls out more salt along with cocoa and roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds). Continue reading
Here is the last of four reviews of recent releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading
Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well). Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading
This is the US edition of the Longrow 10, 100 Proof. That means it was bottled at 50% rather than the 57% of the 100 Proof editions sold in the UK and Europe. There were a number of those UK and Europe releases; I’m not sure, however, if there was more than one in the US. I got this from Binny’s in the summer of 2013, and I think it might have been released a year or so previous—if you know better, please write in below. Part of the reason it has taken me so long to open the bottle is that about two years ago Michael K. and Jordan D. published negative reviews of it. As our palates usually align more than they don’t, I figured I wouldn’t care for it either and kept pushing off opening it. And then last month I was putting together a tasting for my local group featuring different flavours of peat and there was finally a reason to open it. And wouldn’t you know it, I quite liked it, as did most members of the group (who all tasted it blind). Here now are my formal notes. If you’ve tried it as well, do write in below. Continue reading
Longrow, as you probably know, is the name of Springbank’s heavily peated malt (it’s also more conventionally double distilled, unlike Springbank which goes through a complicated “two and a half” distillation and Hazelburn which is triple-distilled). Just as there have been a number of wine cask Springbank releases in the last decade, a number of wine cask Longrows have also been appearing from time to time. Of these I’ve previously reviewed a 14 yo Burgundy cask, which I found to be too heavily sulphured to my taste. As a result I’ve stayed away from the Longrow Red series, which has featured a number of red wine finishes/double maturations—a new kind each year. The first (I believe) was double matured in cabernet sauvignon casks (7 years in bourbon + 4 in the wine casks) and the second in shiraz casks (6+5). The current release is closer to a finish, having spent only one year in New Zealand pinot noir casks after 11 in bourbon. This 2014 release, however, appears to have been matured full-term in fresh port casks (if I am wrong about this, please write in below). In general I have had better experiences with port cask-matured or finished whiskies than with those from other types of wine casks, especially peated whiskies (like this Ballechin, for example) and so I’m hopeful about this one. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
I’ve previously reviewed a Longrow 18 released in 2011. This one, released in 2008, was the first of the Longrow 18s, and along with the Longrow CV, which was also first released in 2008, filled out the range of Springbank’s double-distilled, heavily-peated malt (the 10 yo and 14 yo had already been released in prior years). It was very well received on release; this is my first time drinking it and I’m very interested to see what its like.
Longrow 18, 2008 Release (46%; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Lemon and minerally, ashy peat. Other fruit as well below the lemon: makrut lime peel, some kiwi, some grapefruit and also some tart-sweet apple. Quite a bit of salt too along with expanding iodine and olive brine. The classic Springbank leathery/wet sackcloth note is here too. Just lovely. Gets sweeter as it sits with some vanilla popping out as well to join the ever more fragrant citrus. With a lot more time there’s an almondy note as well. Let’s see if water bring out anything new. Well, if anything it seems to intensify that nutty note. Continue reading
This is another of Springbank’s double matured wine cask releases, albeit for their Longrow line of peated malts.I’m usually a little wary of red wine finished whiskies but, as is usually the case at Springbank, this is closer to a double matured whisky: it was distilled in 1997 and spent eleven years in refill bourbon casks and then a further three years in fresh Burgundy casks. That and the fact that Springbank’s distillate is by its nature robust emboldened me to purchase it after release. I opened this bottle quite some time ago for one of my local group’s tastings and my notes say I liked aspects of it but found it a bit clouded by sulphurous notes. Since then it’s sort of got lost in a corner of my whisky lair and despite having planned to review it a long time ago (hence the picture taken in a different season) I’ve never actually gotten around to it. Well, here I am now and I hope those sulphurous notes have abated a bit, as sometimes happens.
The “CV” was the NAS entry-level Longrow (Springbank’s peated line) until recently when it was discontinued in favour of the new “Peated”. The CV was much beloved and there was the requisite gnashing of teeth at the news. It is not very clear to me though if more than the name has changed (I am clear though that I have not bothered to check–if you know one way or the other, please write in). It’s entirely possible that in a market where peat is king, Springbank felt the need to more clearly signal to the masses that they make a heavily peated whisky (after all, all Longrow is peated, so that description is not particularly unique to this release). Then again there may actually be a difference. Luckily, the price is not very different.
At any rate, I had saved a large’ish reference sample from my last bottle of the CV and having recently acquired a sample of the Peated the time is right to taste them head-to-head and see if I can make out any differences worth remarking. I’ve since found (and purchased) an old bottle of the CV at the original price at a store in the area and so unless the Peated knocks my socks off I’m in no hurry to run out and get a bottle. Continue reading
The Longrow 18, like the Longrow 14, boasts the legend “Heavily Peated” on its label, but, as with the younger sibling, it’s not quite what you might expect from a heavily peated malt. For my general views on recent Longrows (and I don’t mean to give the impression that I have had any from earlier eras) see the older review. For now, let’s dive into this one, which is from the 2011 release:
Longrow 18 (46%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Austere, briny, flinty. Whiffs of gunpowder, and also something sweet and organic (farmy). Not so very different from the 14 yo. Gets more minerally with time. With more time the farmy/peaty note gets rounder and comes to the front. There’s some apple peels in there too now. A drop of water brings out some lemon/citronella, and some menthol too. Later there’s some sweeter fruit in there too, but I’m having trouble picking what it is–oranges dipped in salt, maybe (do anyone other than Indians eat oranges with salt? I’m sure they must).
Longrow is the name of the “heavily peated” whisky produced at the Springbank distillery (Hazelburn is the unpeated and triple-distilled whisky produced there). I put “heavily peated” in quotes because even though those words are on the labels, I’ve not found the 14 yo or the 18 yo I have tried to be particularly heavily peated, and the same is true of the few sherry/wine cask Longrows I’ve tried; of all the (not very many) Longrows I’ve tried the now-defunct CV was the smokiest–I have no idea if its replacement (the “Peated”) is as smoky or more/less.
Or, it may be the case that the flavours and aromas I associate with high levels of peat are the pungent phenolic and smoky notes of the peated Islays whereas the peat used at Springbank may impart other kinds of qualities. Be that as it may, this Longrow 14 seems to me to have far more in common with peatier Clynelishes and even some Highland Parks and Taliskers than it does with peated Islay whiskies, or even peated Highland/Speyside malts like those made at Ardmore, Benromach or Edradour (Ballechin) whose smokiness I find to have a barny/farmyardy quality (also true of Ledaig from Mull). This particular bottle is from the 2011 release and was opened in August of 2011. It got to the halfway mark a couple of months ago. I included it in a tasting I hosted for some friends last night and it was quite popular. My notes here are a blend of the abbreviated notes I took last night (when I did not add any water), and those recorded tonight as I finished off the bottle and paid a little closer attention (and added a little water at the end). Continue reading