Longrow would be in my Top Five distilleries if it was its own distillery, but it's not. It is one of three single malts currently being produced at the Springbank Distillery. Longrow is like their Islay malt. Distilled twice and peated at 50ppm (at time of malting), it can quite easily take on and surpass many of the whiskies made on that nearby whisky island. On a curious note, the actual bottled Longrow peat experience is not as much of a blunderbuss as that of Ardbeg, Kilchoman, or Port Charlotte. With some age on it (14-18 years), it can be surprisingly mellow or even floral.
For about a decade -- The Aughts -- Longrow had a 10 year old whisky. Sometimes it was "Sherrywood", sometimes it was ex-bourbon, usually it was a mix of the two. On a couple of occasions they released a 100 Proof version. 100 Proof in the UK = 57.1%abv. In the US it's 50%abv. So, technically the UK and US versions are two different whiskies. When I reviewed the UK version I was promptly stunned by how little I liked it. It was by far the least of the Longrows I'd tried up to that point. Was it an issue of a bad sample from Master of Malt? Or was it a subpar whisky? We may never know, but it's been six years since they released a batch, and there's no sign of them doing it again.
Now I'm going to take a look at the US version, which I've only seen sold at a handful of stores. Jordan picked up a bottle from The Party Source back in those golden years when TPS shipped things. He included 2oz of it in one of our whisky sample swaps.
Type: Single Malt
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
A good old amber waves of grain color.
And those amber waves of grain (read: barley after it's been malted) are right up front in the nose. Some wood smoke, dried leaves, and mossy peat. The Longrow lemon note is in the distance. Burlap, lavender, and a little earthy molasses. It's quite nude.
Big medicinal peat on the palate. A slight Dove soap note at first. Small tropical fruit note. It picks up a good sweetness with a few minutes of air with hints of violets joining in. It gets big on lemons after 20+ minutes, though the soap note also expands.
In the mildly sweet finish there are caramel chews, lemon candies, and lemon zest. Red pepper flakes, violets, and soap.
WITH WATER (~46%abv)
A straightforward nose. Lemons, spearmint, peat moss, and some caramel sauce.
Lemon, sugar, and black pepper in the palate. Some tart sharpness. More violets and soap.
Sweets, flowers, pepper, and soap in the finish.
At this point, having finished half the sample, I was left with a conundrum. While the nose was very good, the soap notes were cloaking the better parts of the palate and finish. There really aren't very many online reviews of the US version of this whisky, so I was left wondering if there was a flaw in my approach.
So on the following day, I used a different freshly cleaned (hot water, no soap) glass. I sat in a different room, at a different time of day, and had a second whisky to try alongside it. Would there still be soap?
The nose is sort of reminiscent of bourbon cask Kilkerran with its leaves and soft moss, though with more cinnamon. But yeah, it's all barley. Salty, seaweed, hint of mezcal.
The soap seems to have retreated slightly in the palate at first and then it ramps again with time. More sweets and pepper. Some white fruit. Lemons and violets.
Sweet and tangy finish with bigger peat notes than the palate. Soap, pepper......probably same as Round 1.
WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The notes for the nose nearly match Round 1.
On the palate the soap turns bitter. Lemons and violets.
It finishes with lemon zest, pepper, and soap.
Different day, different glass, different room, different time, different tasting setup, same soap. Perhaps it was a lighter when neat, but it was heavier when hydrated. Soap aside, there are some good elements present. Though with the violets thrown in, it may scare some FWPhobes. Meanwhile the nose is bang on. No off notes and really decent stuff if you like naked malts. Overall, I do like this one better than the UK version, but the soap in the palate is a bit too much as it distracts and I don't recommend adding water at all.
UPDATE! Coincidentally, Jordan (the provider of the sample) posted his review of this whisky today as well. Though he found different individual notes, he wasn't the biggest fan of this whisky either.
Availability - Scarce
Pricing - $100+, though Binny's usually has it for less
Rating - 78 (neat only)