Mar 142017
 

Longrow 18 y.o. (2015?)

46% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Consistently one of my favorite whiskies going – and certainly one of the best 18s out there (especially in light of the tragic fall of Highland Park 18) – it’s always a treat to revisit Longrow 18.  I think I’ve shared notes on two previous versions of this classic from Cambeltown.

The heel of this austere and elegant single malt from the Springbank family was shared my way by a good mate of mine, Danny (last name withheld for legal reasons…he’s wanted in most states and provinces).  He and I went back and forth a couple of times trying to figure out whether this 18 is the 2014 or 2015 version and haven’t really reached a conclusion.  It was bought in 2016 in a place that flips inventory fairly regularly, so let’s assume it’s a 2015.  Either way…newish.

Ultimately, as if often the case with good whisky, there’s less to talk about here than with bad whisky.  Suffice it to say that this batch has been held to the same uniformly high standards as all previous editions I’ve tried so far.  It’s refreshing to see a distillery keeping their standards high and endears me even more to one of the best in the biz.

I wish prices were lower, but hey…Springbank has always had a fairly high price point (the nature of doing it all yourself and in a craft style with lots of employees).  At least they’re delivering the goods, but it’s hard to talk about value for money here, when discussing sub-twenty year old single malts at nearly $200.  Such is.  This would seem to be the new norm.  Anyway…the quality is high enough here that I don’t cringe nearly as bad at the price tag as I should.  (Having said that, no…I didn’t buy this.)

Thanks again for the chance to try this one, Danny.  You’re the man, cool guy.

Nose:  Soft white fruits.  Chewy candy notes.  A faint hint of latex (older barrels in here somewhere?).  Red jujubes.  Apple pie with light cinnamon notes.  Pear.  Melon.  Suede.  Gentle peat.  Noses older than 18.  Love it.

Palate:  Very tangy.  Some orange and leather.  The peat has a great ebb and longer to it.  Soft spices.  White baked dessert notes.  White fudge.  Beautiful mix of fruit and peat.

Thoughts:  Lovely old school style.  Expensive (at about $200 a bottle), but rather exceptional.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:35 am
Jul 052014
 

Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins075

57.1% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

This Longrow was the second in Springbank’s run of ‘Rundlets & Kilderkins’ releases, following on the heels of the Springbank, and preceding the Hazelburn.  All, of course, produced at Campbeltown’s Springbank distillery.

Rundlets & Kilderkins, for those of you out there who may have been as ignorant as I was when this came out, are barrel sizes for both wine and beer, respectively.  These are smaller type casks used primarily for accelerated maturation, much in the vein of the quarter cask line of thinking, wherein a smaller barrel elicits greater spirit to wood contact.

I had already assumed the whisky would be good…hey, this is Springbank, after all…so I guess the only real surprise for me is that this is not over-oaked, assuming the spirit spent its entire life in said wee barrels.  At 11 years old, this is a sassy drink.  Well-executed.  Sadly limited to a mere 9,000 bottles.  Hopefully this will be a recurring release.

Nose:  Lots of peat, pepper and smoke.  This is an old school and beautifully aggressive nose.  Like a charming old pugilist with a busted up nose and cauliflower ears.  Love it!  Leather and camphor.  Synthetic fruits a la chewy candies (not gummy, mind, but more like Ju-Jubes or something).  Bird’s custard.  A touch of caramelized grilled pineapple.  Quite an old fashioned malt with some very farm-like notes.

Palate:  Great peaty and smoky arrival.  Sweet and thick, and more…creamy, if you believe that?!  Slightly tannic.  Farmy straw notes again.  Sweet artificial fruitiness again.  Licorice, but not the black variety most will think of.  More like chewing on licorice root.  Into some dry grassy notes.  Good rollercoaster development.  Long finish.

Thoughts:  Longrow is a whisky that is almost sublime at 18 years or so, but still manages to shine in its rollicking youth.  Case in point in the R&K.  Odd age to bottle at, yes, but the whisky don’t lie.  Hoping, hoping, hoping for a second edition.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:27 pm
Mar 102013
 

Longrow 18 (2011)013

46% abv

Score:  92/100

 

A beautiful Longrow that falls right in my wheelhouse.  18 years (give or take) is pretty much the perfect time for seeing the true coming-of-age of mature peated whisky.  It is that place in time where the peat is fading from the forefront to become just another nuance.

When you can finally take the palate and nose blistering effects of fiery young peat (and generally Longrow is peated to a whopping 50-55 ppm) out of the equation, you can actually see the true character of the spirit and cask quality.  A magic time in a whisky’s life cycle.

This expression follows a couple years after the brilliant 2008 release of Longrow 18, and though I’ve had both, I have yet to try them tete-a-tete.  Having said that…there was absolutely no question as to quality in either case.  Love this distillery…love this expression.

Nose:  Fruits are peeking out again through the peat at this age…but tart and tight.  A bit of creamy meringue.  Distant pepper (likely a lot more prevalent in its youth, but mellowed by now).  Slight floral note.  Grassy meadow.  Some brilliant ‘old cask’ notes.  peat and smoke are only hinted at.  Not a heavy hitter by any means.

Palate:  Apple and orange marmalade.  A bit of sweet lemon (not tart at all).  Sweet barley and oak.  A really nicely integrated and rather complex spice palette (actually quite tough to dissect).  Now some smoke and deep oiliness.  Almost ethereally earthy.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:32 pm
Mar 102013
 

Longrow CV030

46% abv

Score:  88/100

 

At one time Campbeltown was considered the ‘whisky capital of the world’.  This little slice of Scottish heaven was home to more than 30 operational distilleries.  Throughout the twentieth century factors internal (slipping quality and overproduction, cask policy) and external (the depression, closing of the mines, prohibition) led to closure after closure, until finally only Glen Scotia and Springbank remained in production.

In 2004 the Mitchell family of Springbank purchased, and put into production, neighboring Glengyle distillery.  This step was instrumental in protecting Campbeltown’s status as a whisky distilling region, bringing the region’s sum total distilleries from 2 to 3.

So…while there is now a relative dearth of options when it comes to Campbeltown malts, Sprinbank are doing their damnedest to give we hungry consumers some options at the tills.  This family-run distillery is responsible for producing Hazelburn, Longrow and Springbank.

Here we have Longrow CV.  There are alternate schools of thought as to what the ‘CV’ actually stands for, but most reputable and authoritative voices suggest ‘curriculum vitae’ over ‘chairman’s vatting’.  Either way…stellar young malt from a distillery bent on adhering to the time-honored tradition of ‘DIY’ and ‘quality-first’.

Nose:  Wow.  Very old school style dram.  Meaty and malty.  Smoke and peat, of course.  Ashy.  Figs.  Caramel.  Leather.  Dark and lovely old dunnage warehouse notes.  Smells that bring to mind the aromes at the distillery itself.  Some far off echoes of the new spirit.

Palate:  Perfect correlation of nose and palate.  Smoky.  A bit of an iodine note.  Oily and heavy.  Hefty peat.  Spiced apple.  7-up (lemonade, for our overseas friends).  Some almost industrial notes.

A very classic, traditional style malt.  Brilliant entry level whisky.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:17 pm
Jun 182012
 

Awkward is having your wife catch you with a sassy 18 year old.  Domestic nuclear winter is having her come home and find you messing around with nine 18 year olds at the same time.  Not that anyone would want to be in that situation.  Errr…ummm…

Ok, ok…listen up, boys.  They may be pretty…they may smell good…they may taste good…and they may not even be ‘out of your league’…but no 18 year old will ever give you what a stunning 32 year old can.  I promise.

Though usually I’d give you a few paragraphs of preamble before jumping in to the nitty gritty, this time let’s leave it up to the imagination…

Let me tell you a little about how this one goes.  First there was a fair-haired lass from Speyside…

 

Glenfiddich 18

43% abv

Nose:  Heather and gooey honey.  Big ol’ baskets of fruit and armfuls of flowers.  Creamy vanilla ice cream, drizzled in creme caramel.  Red apple.  Berries in cream.  Pancakes and syrup.  Oaky, but young and vibrant for 18 years.

Palate:  Smooth and unchallengingly sweet.  Creamy vanillins dance with dried fruit and crunchy apple.  Lovely really.  Almost refreshing.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s familiar and you can’t help but sneak a second peek.  Cute and red-apple-rosy-cheeked.  Probably dated the quarterback.  Do you have a chance?  Maybe.  Is she worth it?  Hmmmm…time will tell.

 

GlenDronach 18

46% abv 

Nose:  Heavy sherry, rich and sweet…could only be Oloroso.  Cherry and cocoa.  Cinnamon and gingerbread.  Vanilla.  Slight yeastiness.  Fruitcake, mild cigar leaf and deep plumminess.

Palate:  Slight bitterness, almost tannic.  Heavy raisin bread and rummy fruitcake.  Drying.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Bubbly and fresh, but…there’s a little more of a dark side here.  This is not vanilla sex.  This is jeans and cardigans by day…handcuffs by night.  There’s a sensibility and maturity here that tells you no one will ever know about this dark side but you.

 

 

Macallan 18

43% abv

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry…but very soft.  Nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Nearly faultless nose.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This one is a princess.  She’s not in your bed ‘cause she wants to be.  She’s there ‘cause she’s slumming and looking for an experience.  Don’t get too settled…don’t fall in love.  You can’t afford the upkeep on this one.

 

Highland Park 18

43% abv

Nose:  Creamy honey and rich peat smoke.  Dusty, spicy vanilla.  Mild cigar.  Rich sweet butter.  A bouquet of soft fruit and barely seen floral notes.  Hint of dill.

Palate:  The delivery is unbelievably smooth and calculated. Rich wood smoke teases, then mellows out with sweet caramel notes

Thoughts & Impressions:  Messy-haired and ready for a pillow fight.  She’s not leaving till sun-up.  And that’s not ‘cause she wants to sleep.

 

 

Bunnahabhain 18

46.3% abv 

Nose:  Smoke and sherry.  Ashy peat.  Pear and sweet banana cream.  Some sort of orchard fruit.  Honey and vanilla.  Stunning interplay at work here.

Palate:  Gooey, chewy malt full of smoke.  Sherried honey oak and a complex tapestry of spritely fruits.   This is maturity and youthful zest in perfect harmony.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Just a down-home small town girl that everyone underestimates.  The thing is…she’s bloody brilliant at everything she does and no one who meets her can resist her.  This is a keeper, if only you were looking to settle down.

 

Talisker 18

45.8% abv 

Nose:  Yeah, baby…there’s the Talisker pepper!  Salt.  A peaty backbone.  Cinnamon and ginger.  Some kinda soft orange fruit.  Toblerone.  Warm leather.  An absolute classic on the nose alone.

Palate:  Pepper.  Surprisingly sweet and fruity.  Swirling ribbons of smoke.  Peat.  Faint notes of old sherry.  Such a phenomenal linger smoked green apple.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Yow!  She’s a spicy one.  Blonde and bold.  Fiery-tempered.  Full of personality.  Highly possible she’s also the love of your life.

 

 

Longrow 18

46% abv

Nose:  Prickly and peppery.  Hint o’ mint maybe.  Smoke and caramel.  Licorice.  Some salt and thick cream over blueberries.  Wee bit o’ peat, but not near what I’d generally expect from a Longrow.

Palate:  There’s the peat I expected on the nose.  Comes through with some spiced apples and smoke.  Lindt chocolate with chili.  Long, long finish.

Thoughts & Impressions:  The dark-haired younger sister of your girlfriend.  Sassier and miles more charming.  No, you’re not wrong…she is trying to seduce you.

 

Caol Ila 18

43% abv 

Nose:  Slightly ‘green’.  Honeydew melon.  Aloe.  Mild citrus.  Fruits are starting to come forward.  Salt.  Very light smoke.

Palate:  A little more smoke than on the nose.  Great green fruit delivery.  Lovely and uplifting.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She comes from the biggest house on the street.  Her parents have lots of money and drive brilliant cars. She’s the one everyone wants but are afraid to approach.  Shame, really.  She’s also a sweetheart, and easy to love.

 

 

Laphroaig 18

48% abv 

Nose:  Orange and chocolate.  Cedar.  Fruity.  Heavy vanilla and black licorice flavored jujubes.  Pear drops.  Sambuca and fruit bowl with dominant bananas.

Palate:  Poached and caramelized white fruits.  Floral smoke.  Some dark chocolate and Werther’s Originals.  Drying with tobacco and clean smoke.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This is a mysterious one.  Redolent of exotic and foreign perfumes.  Dark and alluring.  This is the Dashiel Hammett heroine seen through a haze in a dark and smoky bar.  You love her.  But can you handle her?

 

 

But…

After a romp like that I promise you you’ll still be left wondering ‘what if?’  And further, that empty feeling won’t be sated until you finally spend a little time with the one that should have had your attention all along…

 

Springbank 32

46% abv

Nose:  Smoke and wax.  Coconut milk and soft pineapple juice.  Marmalade.  Vanilla and oak.  Some tame spices.  Becomes fruitier and fruitier over time.

Palate:  There’s the maturity.  Waxy…smoky and oaky.  Dried fruit…apricot maybe.  Creosote.  Gorgeous, gorgeous oak.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s what you’ve waited for.  Vibrant and sweet.  The older she gets, the more you love her.  Age has taken all of her best and given it just a little more brilliance by imparting a mature knowing.

 

barry's place pics 014

How can you possibly top her?  Simple…you can’t.  I’ll take my beautiful 32 year old over any 18 year old…any day.

Happy birthday, babe.  Love you.  Always have.

 

– Tasting notes and write-up:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt (except Caol Ila, courtesy of Pat)

 Posted by at 10:50 pm