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Friday, March 28, 2014

Single Malt Report: Longmorn 15 year old 1992 James MacArthur

Today is the first of five Fridays wherein My Annoying Opinions and Diving for Pearls will post simultaneous reviews of one whisky each week.  Five Fridays, five single malts.  MAO and I split a few bottles, swapped a few samples, and drank a few things, all resulting in this audacious leap forward into the future of whisky blogging.  (And here is MAO's post!)

Today's whisky is a 15 year-old Longmorn bottled by James MacArthur in his/their Old Masters series.  It comes from a single cask that was actually divided into two separate releases (here's its Italian twin on whiskybase).

As per the label, the Longmorn was aged in "Sherry Wood", an oak species called Quercus Lumsdenus, I believe.  The label also carries a quote from the great Scottish poet Robert Burns which reads, "An honest bottle and a good friend." Like most writers, Burns was probably both very lonely and very opinionated, so when he conversed with his whisky he clearly took its silence as a sign of warm approval.

Can you tell that I have nothing else to say about this whisky?  There is a serious shortage of Longmorn on this site, and I have a sad lack of experience with its often prized ex-sherry-cask versions.  So here's the site's first:

Distillery: Longmorn
Independent Bottler: James MacArthur & Co.
Series: Old Masters
Age: 15 years (1992-2007)
Maturation: "Sherry Wood"
Cask number: 62553
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 59.5%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: Probably not

As mentioned, I'm new to sherried Longmorns and wasn't sure what to expect, so I did two separate tastings.  The whisky in the second tasting was slightly oxidized.  I'm going to arrange my notes a little differently this time because there are a lot of them, sorry...

Nose neat - At first, cocoa powder and malt.  There are both Kit Kats and Twix, alternating.  Fresh fruits, too, along the lines of apricots and plums. The high ABV is very present at the start.  But after about 15 minutes, something really nice develops.  The cocoa and malt combine and welcome in a fresh mango.  Then some butterscotch, fried plantains (better than bananas), baked apples with cinnamon, and floral powder.
Nose neat with oxidation - More cinnamon and pepper this time. Caramel apples.  The fruits are bolder, while the chocolate is mellower.  Some mint chip, anise, and toffee shows up.  Unless its my imagination, there's a whiff of both wood smoke and the ocean too.
Nose with water - Grows more floral.  A little tooty too.  The chocolate recedes.  But there's orange peel, toffee, toasty grains, and limes.
Nose with water and oxidation - Soiled hay.  The citrus now smells like lemon zest.  The floral powder note is still there, as are the toasty grains.  Both cherry cordial chocolates and dried cherries.  The mango note arises again.

Palate neat - Lots of chocolate sauce: Hershey's to some folks, Midnight Moo to Trader Joe's customers.  Then there's hay, fruit cocktail, a hint of prunes, and a little salt.  It still packs quite a burn for a 15 year.
Palate neat with oxidation - The salt and hay notes are still here.  The chocolate reads more as cocoa powder than sauce.  Some cayenne pepper thrown in.  Then a progression from fruit juice to black coffee.
Palate with water - The chocolate recedes here too.  More malt and caramel.  Both golden raisins and Raisinets show up.  The sherry gets a little dry.
Palate with water and oxidation - Three or four levels of good bitterness operating simultaneously.  The sherry is dry again.  Malt, tart lemons, and maybe some of the nose's mango.

Finish neat - Chocolate first, then molassesy rum, toasted barley, tobacco, and that prune note.
Finish neat with oxidation - Nice and dark.  Coffee, dark chocolate, black pepper, and menthol.  Just a peep of fruits in the back.
Finish with water - Sweet barley stuff up front, with oak notes in the background, and leathery tobacco in the midground.
Finish with water and oxidation - Sweeter, but the bitterness is still present.  Hints of chocolate, caramel, and tobacco (think Black & Milds).

Okay, I'll summarize:
Fresh out of the bottle the whisky is surprisingly chocolatey.  But with some air, the nose gets more complex and gains fruit and floral notes that remind me of the few much older Longmorns I've tried.  The interplay between the chocolate and fruit is nice.  Both the nose and palate demonstrate that the wine and wood haven't submerged all the good barley underneath.  I'm not sure if its because I haven't had much cask strength whisky lately, but this one seemed very hot right out of the bottle.  I think the palate benefits from some water and air, as it seems a bit tight at the start.  Even then, the nose is the star of the show.

Availability - Sparse
Pricing - probably $100-$120
Rating - 87


  1. MAO and I gave it the same score. Who'd-a thunk it? Where I found chocolate, he has brown butter and roasted malt. We both found some heat in there. And I definitely agree that this was from a refill cask. Though there were some similarities in what we found, I recommend y'alls give his notes a read as our descriptors are a bit different.

  2. I don't believe Robert Burns was that lonely. The man had twelve kids!

    The main issue with Longmorn is that the standard 16 year old is simply too expensive. I've seen it go for $116. If Pernod priced it closer to stablemates Glenlivet and Aberlour (both have cheaper 16 year old expressions too), I'd be happy to buy a bottle.

    1. Twelve children? No wonder he treasured an honest bottle so.

      Yeah, the 16yo OB is priced very strangely. People with more experience than I tend to treasure the old 15yo OB far above the 16. Apparently the 15 was nectar. It could also be due to the fact that old Longmorn is often gorgeous stuff.

    2. Would you believe Burns' last son was born on the same day as his funeral (read that on Wikipedia)? Still that's probably 11 kids he lived to see....

      I really need to open that 20 year old Exclusive Malts Longmorn. LAWS loved that one.

    3. Clearly the man enjoyed writing, drinking, and......making children. A full life indeed.

      Yeah, apparently that Longmorn is grand stuff, possibly even topping the K&L hype!