Thanks again to my reader Florin for sending me a sample of this whisky.
I tried Longrow CV earlier this year. The robust peatiness took a little while to warm up to, but eventually I crowned it the winner among Springbank's CV range. With that under my belt, I was really interested to try one of the age-dated Longrows.
Longrow is the second style of Springbank's whiskies, with production beginning in 1973. It is a heavily peated (~55 PPM in the malted barley), doubled-distilled whisky. Those characteristics mean that it shares much in common with the whiskies made on the island of Islay, a bit northwest of the Kintyre peninsula where Springbank is located. This is entirely intentional, as the chairman of Springbank at the time wanted to see if it was possible to produce an Islay-style whisky outside of the island. It took several more decades until Longrow became a regular part of their production in the early 1990s, but it now has a fairly regular range of age-dated expressions. However, Longrow is still a niche even within Springbank, taking up ~10% of their production. Like Hazelburn, Springbank's other style, Longrow is named after a now-shuttered distillery in Campbeltown.
Nose: very delicate, vegetal peat - almost like incense, a hint of pine, slightly sour, citrus, vanilla, malty, toffee, bread-y salt, a few fruity/sherry notes, fairly dry, chocolate. After adding a few drops of water, the nose becomes even more mild, the peat becomes greener and almost grassy, and the toffee becomes more present.
Taste: sour citrus and berries (makes me think of Oregon-grape), malty sweetness, toffee, chocolate, a touch of pepper, and mild peat at the back. After adding a few drops of water, the sourness become more recognizably lemony.
Finish: toffee, chocolate, light peat and pepper.
The first time I took a sniff of this whisky, all I could think was "Where did the peat go?". Longrow 10 is made from ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask whiskies that are aged only a few years more than most of what goes into Longrow CV (there is some teenaged whisky in that expression, but probably not too much). Sure, there is also probably some 11-13 year old whisky in the 10 year old as well, but it's still not a huge difference in age. Yet the peat reek had been almost entirely washed away. In a lot of ways I think this actually makes it a more pleasant sipper - the peat is an accent on the malty flavors of toffee and chocolate. However, I did find myself wishing for something a bit more assertive. Admittedly, this may be a side-effect of tasting a sample rather than a fresh bottle, but other reviews suggest that Longrows quickly head in that direction as they get older - the 14 year old is supposed to be even more diminished (I'll find out for myself soon enough) and the 18 year old is downright tame. This is really, really surprising, both because of the heavy peat character in the CV expression and because the phenol concentration in the Longrow malt is about 50% higher than that of the malt used to make very peaty whiskies like Caol Ila and Lagavulin. There's something about the way Springbank ages their whiskies that causes the peat reek to diminish exponentially with time. It's not precisely a bad thing, but you have to properly calibrate your expectations. If you're looking for something Islay-style, this is going to be more of a Bowmore than a Laphroaig or Port Charlotte.
Wonjo Agujjim (Seoul, March 2023)
3 hours ago
Great review! Of the Longrows that I've tried, CV does have the biggest peat punch. I found some nice farmy peat in the 14yr though. I'm looking to do a proper Longrow mini-vertical in the new year...ReplyDelete
On a similar note, I've found Laphroaig 18yr's peat to be so quiet and polite that I wind up preferring their younger range. I've been wondering if it's just me.
To a degree I think that's just how peat works, though it definitely varies brand to brand. Lagavulin 16 is almost as old, but there's plenty of peat left there.Delete
Just goes to prove you can't copy the essence of Islay - it's like the French word terroir - everything about the localeDelete
Jordan, I agree that the peat notes are not Islay-caliber, or even dominant in this whisky, but I really really liked it! To me it did not taste different from Springbank - it was like a really good, slightly peaty Springbank. If I had the choice, I'd have my Springbank peaty rather than sherried. It sits at the top of my list together with the Springbank Cask Strength. You say "sour" a lot in your review, and I didn't get any of that - I should send you another sample, maybe something happened during the trip north. I haven't tasted it head-to-head with the Longrow CV yet. I'll definitely buy another bottle! I'm curious about your experience with the 14yo.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a winner to me - I think the peat "sweet spot" is below the Islay heavy-hitters but above most everything else. I read an interesting article in the last Whisky magazine, which said that peatiness of the whisky is heavily dependent on the distillation process - at least as important as the phenol level in the malt. Perhaps this different distillation is why Longrow is less peaty than the Islay whiskies.ReplyDelete
Ryan, if I hadn't tried Longrow CV first, that would have been my guess. But the younger whisky is an absolute peat-bomb, so I know plenty of those phenolics are making their way from the malt to the whisky. One of my local bars has a couple of vintage ('92 and '96) Longrow 10 YO whiskies as well as the 7 YO Gaja Wood Longrow, so I'll have to do some more investigating about the peat level in Longrow.Delete