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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Single Malt Report: Longrow 11 year old 2001 Rundlets and Kilderkins

Though I did say I was going to drop some more Springbank on ya, here's some Longrow......which is technically from Springbank Distillery, so I wasn't totally lying.  And!  And it's a whisky that was released this year!  I'm so on top of things.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Longrow
Age: minimum 11 years (11/2001 to 1/2013)
Maturation: Rundlet and Kilderkin casks
Region: Campbeltown
Alcohol by Volume: 51.7%
Limited Release: 9000 bottles

I reported on the Springbank version of the Rundlets and Kilderkins last June.  Released at the beginning of 2012, Springbank's R&K was a thick desserty malt that I enjoyed quite a bit.  Now it has almost vanished from the market.  Early this year they released the Longrow Rundlets and Kilderkins.  And, according to Billy from The Whisky Exchange blog, the Hazelburn Rundlets and Kilderkins may hit the markets early next year.

If you're wondering what the whole "Rundlets and Kilderkins" name is all about, this should help:

Approximate Cask sizes:
Tun - 955 litres
Port pipe - 528 litres
Sherry Butt - 491 litres
Hogshead - 250 litres
Bourbon barrel - 200 litres
Quarter Cask - 125 litres
Kilderkin - 80 litres
Rundlet - 60 litres
(more information about cask sizes can be found here)

The theory is: the smaller the cask, the more contact the spirit has with the oak, which in turn matures the whisky quicker.  But this not only oversimplifies maturation, it's also not entirely true.  Storage temperature and humidity can have as great or greater an impact on the maturation process than the cask size, as I've discovered in my own spirit maturation experiments.  In addition to climate, char levels and cooperage quality can affect the maturation as well.  So just because you put distillate into small barrels for three years, it doesn't mean your three year old whisky will taste like it's ten years old.

That being said, I'm a big fan of the quarter cask whiskies released by Beam's distilleries, Laphroaig and Ardmore.  I don't think the stuff tastes older, but I do like the taste → → → which is the important part.  I also like the Springbank Rundlets & Kilderkins, so let's see how the Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins ("R&K" for lazy shorthand) fares.

From a sample purchased at Master of Malt -- consumed neatly from a Glencairn glass:

The color is a dark gold.  A mess of hay in a barn in the summertime, so begins the nose.  Then there's coffee with a lot of cream and sugar.  Hospital hallways (disinfectant, gowns, and gauze).  It's a lot maltier and less woody than I'd expected.  Though there are rivers of caramel running through those hospital hallways.  Never mind, goofy descriptor.  How about a handful of caramel candies?  There's also brown sugar, pie crust, and lemon zest.  Overall it's an intense, sugared, Islay-style experience.  Charred steak leads the palate.  A healthy volley of peat strikes stronger here than in the nose.  But it also has that horse farm thing going on.  Again, not as oaky as expected.  Some bitter tea with buttery toast.  Peated vanilla simple syrup, if that was a thing.  Meanwhile the sweetness is balanced by a little bitterness and some tartness.  In the finish, the charred meat note leads again, along with some black pepper and brown sauce to season it.  Goes from savory to sweet.  Then comes the peat, bitter tea, and cigarette ash.

Enjoyable!  So much so I got too far into my sample to accurately add water.  I did like the Springbank version slightly better, due to its dense barrel-strength-rye-like (or high-rye bourbon-like) spicy sweetness.  But this one also works, especially since the farmy and ashy notes aren't overwhelmed by the baby barrels.

To me, quality-wise, it is comparable to Kilchoman's Machir Bay, if you swap out the Bay's cigars and sugar cookies for R&K's steak and tea.  Of course, Machir Bay sells for half of R&K's price in The States.  The Longrow is older and a more limited release, which can account for some of the difference.  If price wasn't an issue, it would be tough to choose between the two as far as quality goes.  But price is an issue for most of us.  This is very good stuff, again, from Springbank Distillery's peated brand, but the expense proves too much of a burden for my pockets.

Availability - Maybe a dozen retailers in the US; many more retailers in Europe
Pricing - $115-$125 (US); $100-$120 (UK, w/o VAT, w/shipping)
Rating - 87