This is one of my only experiences with Longmorn aside from trying the old OB 15 Year at a tasting with Ralfy when I was in Glasgow. I didn't find that one particularly compelling, but given the strong reputation that the distillery has, I've been wanting to try more ever since then. So when an old single cask went on sale in Oregon last September, I jumped on it. Not every day you can get single malt over the quarter century mark for a little over $100. Well, not unless you're patient and live here.
This whisky was distilled in 1985, filled into a (probably refill) ex-bourbon cask, then bottled in 2013 at 52.5% without coloring or chill filtration.
First Editions Longmorn 27 Year 1985/2013
Nose: rather closed - malt, oak, and honey with hints of orange peel. After adding a few drops of water it remains nearly the same, but the oak becomes stronger and some berries emerge.
Taste: strong malt sweetness up front, thick berries and fresh apples in the middle, fading into slightly tannic oak at the back with a bit of savory incense. After dilution it remains largely the same but with more sweetness up front and stronger alcohol near the back.
Finish: savory oak, incense, clean malt, graham crackers, some alcohol heat
This is... kind of boring. The alcohol has too strong of a grip on the other components, so it reads as a pretty generic single malt, albeit without out any rough edges after nearly three decades in the cask. Let's see what happens when we add even more water.
Diluted to 50%
Nose: a little closed - balanced malt and dusty oak, pine, fresh apples, citrus peel, raisins
Taste: thick, syrupy sweetness from the front to middle, citrus/raisin overtones throughout, berries in the middle, balanced with mild oak tannins towards the back with a hint of something savory
Finish: lingering malt and polished oak, savory, incense/smoke/burned citrus peel
This seems to be about ideal as a drinking strength because the sweetness of the palate makes it more engaging, even if the nose and finish are somewhat less complex than when it is diluted down even further. The raisin notes I kept finding also might have tricked me into thinking that this was a refill sherry cask if I was tasting it blind, but I think that's just something that happens when American oak breaks down in the right way.
Diluted to 45%
Nose: dusty incense and oak, citrus peel (orange/lemon/lime), sweet malt, a hint of floral pink bubblegum, background raisins
Taste: sweet malt and oak up front, berry overtones with orange creamsicle in the middle, slightly tannic towards the back with a savory twist at the end, rather simple overall
Finish: long and basically like the nose - citrus peel, dusty incense, polished/savory oak, raisins, slightly tannic
This is pretty weird in that the nose and finish are both significantly better than they were at higher strengths, but there still isn't much in the middle besides a sort of generic bourbon cask malt. Overall I would say that 50% is probably best for the palate, but I'd happy buy this at 46% because it's so much more complex and engaging overall.