Two weeks ago, I lined up a three-part Longrow Taste Off. One was from my own bottle, one was from a gifted sample, and one was from a purchased sample. There wasn't a bum in the bunch. But this one packed a bit of a surprise.
The official 10 year old Longrow was released by vintage year starting in 1991 when the Springbank distillery re-started their regular Longrow spirit runs. The quality and content of each year's bottling varied noticeably, as per Serge Valentin (see his reviews here). On the technical side, the vintages from 1991 to 1996 (bottling years 2001 to 2006) have their stated vintage on the label (like the second whisky from my review here). But after that, beginning in bottling year 2007, the vintage year was dropped, which was likely done so in order to give them the flexibility to produce a 10 year old when needed. The 10 year old in today's review is one of these non-vintage bottlings. The sample was poured from Florin's bottle (Thank You, Florin!) on the morning after the birthday booze bash. We couldn't find the usual Springbank bottle code stamp on the bottle, so all I can confirm is that the whisky was distilled between 1997 and 2001. I'm not sure if they've bottled any 10 year olds recently, which might explain its scarcity.
Age: minimum 10 years, distilled sometime between 1997 and 2001
Maturation: primarily ex-bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
The nose is an absolute fruit bomb. Though it starts with whoosh of a modern minty-style absinthe, it goes directly to overripe (maybe even rotting) cherries. Then peaches. Then good fuji apples, grapefruit, and juicy in-season plums. There's some tropical fruit candy and honeyed peat as well. Meanwhile, the palate goes in a different direction, and is more fragile as well. The fruit becomes slightly floral on the tongue. Then there are vanilla beans, soft smoke, soft peat moss, and a slight medicinal quality. With some air, a hint of mango and rosemary shows up. Some ripe fruits come back in the finish. Peach, mango, and sweet clementine juice. There's a peep of bitterness in there, along with some salt. The smoke remains in the background.
To my considerable surprise, this nosed like an old ex-bourbon-cask Highlander. Gorgeous, but huh? The palate, while limited and subtler, was very focused and mostly Springbank spirit driven; thus positive in its own way.
Here's where things get interesting. Over a year ago, Jordan at Chemistry of the Cocktail reviewed the same whisky from the same bottle but found completely different notes. BUT, the whisky has been opened for more than a year since Jordan's review. Thus oxidation has very much set in and, I believe, has worked some wonders on the whisky's nose.
I'm becoming more and more of a fan of the effect limited oxidation has on a bottle of whisky. The booze at the top of the bottle can be a bit tight or harsh. The booze at the bottom can get soft. But at mid-bottle, it's juuuuuuust right. Of course this isn't true 100% of the time, but it seems to be happening more often than not with my own bottles. And, in my opinion, it has occurred with Florin's bottle of Longrow 10 year old as well.
I score this one highly due to this great experience, but please note, there can be considerable batch variation in Springbank's products. I cannot promise your bottle of Longrow 10 (if you can find it) will kick this much ass. In fact the odds are likely against it, especially since I don't know what year my sample was distilled and bottled. But if you like Longrow and Springbank, this whisky shouldn't disappoint.
Availability - Happy hunting! :)
Pricing - $75-$100 :( (sadly, buying it from the UK won't be much cheaper)
Rating - 91