This is an 18-year-old Longmorn single malt, part of the Speyside distillery’s core range. The whisky was matured in a combination of American oak barrels and hogsheads. This expression appears to have also won several awards from international tasting competitions, including a Gold Medal from the International Spirits Challenge 2021.
The distillery was built around 1894 by the enterprising John Duff, who also founded the Benriach Distillery next door. Although John Duff did not have great business sense, his malt whisky was prized by blenders who it in a variety of blended scotch including VAT69 and Dewar’s.
Longmorn Distillery’s malting chimneys (Image Source: ScotchWhisky.com)
After losing too much money, Duff was forced to sell the distillery. Ownership was passed amongst several different parties until it is now part of the Chivas Brothers group and owned by Pernod Ricard today.
Longmorn Distillery’s story includes a list of familiar names from the annals of whisky history. Masataka Taketsuru, the founding father of the well-known Nikka Whisky Co., apprenticed at Longmorn Distillery to learn all about whisky making before returning to Japan and creating history. The copper stills at Nikka’s two distilleries are said to have been modelled after Longmorn’s stills.
Perhaps Longmorn’s influence on Taketsuru was a factor in building a cult following for Longmorn in Japan today.
Masataka Taketsuru’s life in Scotland unfolded like a romance film. There, he met and married his Scottish wife, Rita. The adventures of Masataka Taketsuru and his wife Rita in founding Nikka Whisky as adapted into the hit TV-drama series, Massan (2014).
Although Longmorn served blenders for most of its history, it eventually became available as a single malt in 1993 as a 15-year-old. The house style of Longmorn is rich and weighty and frequently has distinctive notes of grapefruit. The weight of the new make also allows it to withstand prolonged ageing in either ex-sherry or ex-bourbon casks.
With that bit of history out of the way, let’s dive into the bottle today!
Colour: In the glass, the whisky is deep gold copper colour.
Nose: The aroma is curiously shy and gentle on first nosing. There are relatively sweet hints of cinnamon, toffee and slight notes of florals but the notes frankly are not forthcoming on the nose.
Adding several drops of water is highly recommended. This is after-all 48% abv so there is no risk of turning this into wine. And water did help tremendously. The fruits become much more forthcoming, with cinnamon, bananas and sweet dried mangoes.
A bit of swirling brings out more fruits, but this is of a more orangey note. Develops into orange zest, vanilla creme brûlée and a deliciously light caramel note of Hong Kong-nese steamed cake (ma lai gao / 马来糕).
Palate: Medium-heavy bodied. Much more forthcoming in flavour than the nose, with a surprising level of heat. There are big notes of caramel, nougat and sultanas at a low-moderate level of sweetness. There is some fruitiness but rather than fresh and bright notes, this is more of the dried fruit style of fruitiness.
There’s quite a bit of spiciness with anise seed and pepper. It also feels like the cask has been quite active. There’s quite a bit of dark notes of wood which develops from a vanilla note to more resinous texture of tobacco, oak and some roasted walnuts.
Once again, adding some water eases up the spice and unlocks much more flavour. Several drops is enough to intensify the brightness and sweetness. Notes of caramelised apples and some maltiness begin to arise- and with the heat from the alcohol it’s almost like having a hot pocket of McDonald’s apple pie.
(Image Source: Secret Restaurant Recipes)
Finish: The finish is long, oaky and dry. Fading notes of spice, a moderate dryness and a slightly malty note of digestive biscuits.
This is unlike a typical Longmorn which tends to exhibit more sweetness and bright fruits.
What’s great is that it is big on dried fruits and oak with plenty of depth. However, I would venture that this is best enjoyed with a bit of water on the side to open up the palate and ease up on the spice.
I personally would have preferred if the cask was a little less active, and if the dried fruits were a little sweeter and more prominent. I was initially a little concerned as the notes felt a little too muddled for my palate. However, adding some water improved my enjoyment tremendously as it unlocked the complexity in the spirit, revealed relatively well-integrated notes of spice, oak and dried fruit, and allowed the spirit to shine better.
Great depth with intense notes of dried fruits - quite unlike the typical Longmorn. This would be a hit with folks looking to enjoy darker flavours rather than brighter fruitier ones. Definitely add some water to this for it to really shine.