Longrow 14 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
Every time I write a review of a single malt from Campbeltown town I spend the first few minutes gushing on about how irrationally infatuated I am with this region for no particular reason at all.

But I’m happy to reveal that my fascination is quite justified. Barring a few bad apples (Glen Scotia 18, anyone?) it has largely been a parade of interesting and generally above-average whiskies to come out of this small region.

Specifically Springbank which produces three completely different expressions from basically the same hardware which I think is sheer genius – the Longrow being my favorite with Hazelburn as my least.

This, now sadly discontinued, 14 year old, has been finished off in sherry casks. There’s not a lot of literature to find, unfortunately, and my research didn’t turn up a whole lot. For example I don’t know how long it was finished for or the type of sherry it was.

My guess is three years finishing in Marsala – largely because it has such a dry nose and palate. This particular sample is from an open bottle about a third finished packaged at a nice 46% ABV

Nose: Mild peat. Sweet perfume. Mild chocolate. Salt. Brine. Hint of citrus. Wet bandage. Apple cider. Brown sugar. Banana. Ginger. Starts of quite sweet followed by something coastal before finally settling down to a savory finalé. Lovely nose.

Palate: Medium bodied. Spicy at first. Cinnamon. Oak. Brown honey. Gets fruity mid-palate. Plums. Apple. Citrus. Pineapple strudel. Ginger. Salt. Slightly burnt. Not as good as the nose but good nevertheless. Evenly spreads over your palate. Gets dry towards the end.

Finish: Fairly long. Dry. Cinnamon powder. Wood. Lingers.

An accomplished whisky need not be over the top to tick all the boxes. Nicely controlled elegance.

Rating: 89

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Glen Garioch 1997 Vintage

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Distillery/Brand: Glen Garioch | Region: Highland | ABV: 56.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
My first Glen Garioch (pronounced Geeree By the way – don’t ask me why) was a 1797 Founders Reserve. I thought it was OK. Nothing to really excite me. Pleasant enough without being marvelous and I think that’s fine. I just place far too many expectations on every whisky I try for the first time I feel.

My second Glen Garioch is this 1997 Vintage (bottled 2012) at a lovely cask strength of 56.7%. This is more to my liking. I think the higher strength manages to shift the delicate flavors I remembered from the 1797 Founders Reserve into a higher gear here.

Glen Garioch, like Glenrothes, prefer to put vintages on their whiskies rather than age. I actually prefer that over the age statement (and definitely over the No Age Statement!). Tell me when it was distilled and bottled and let me do the math, thank you very much. The more information you give me the more I will be interested in your product.

This particular expression was distilled in 1997 (sorry, no month mentioned here) and bottled in 2012 and is batch no 12 (I’ll leave you to do the math). A travel retail exclusive at 56.7%.

Nose: Lots of wood. Tropical fruits. Jack fruit. Banana. Yellow pears. Pecan nuts. Reminds me of pancakes. Strawberry jam. Aniseed. Honey. This one is completely unsmoked. I remember the 1797 have a wisp but not this one. Very fruity. Very estery.

Palate: That banana. So strong. Honey. Nuts. White pepper. Soft chocolate caramel. The tropical fruits are back. Soft apricots. Pears. Oak. Confident mouthfeel and I feel the high ABV accentuates all the flavors.

Finish: Long. White pepper. Black licorice. Toffee.

I think this is quite a nice single malt. One of the more fruity ones I have come across of late. I think my interest in this distillery has been piqued.

Rating: 89

Highland Park Thor

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Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Islands | ABV: 52.1% | Color: Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I remember when the Thor came out. I scoffed. I saw the fancy packaging (and believe me when I say fancy I mean Norse boat fancy), the really high price (high for a 16 year old, that is) and I said ‘whatever, dude’.

Another marketing gimmick, I thought to my self. So sick of these distilleries packaging youngish spirit in fancy boxes and selling them for so much. So as a matter of principle I decided not to even bother.

Then I started reading some reviews and they were all good. I mean really good. I relented. I said fine, I’ll get one. But when I tried looking I couldn’t find a single bottle. The only ones I saw were sitting on auction blocks put up by smart investors. And they were more than four times the original price!

Well, now I was definitely not going to bother.

So it was a nice surprise to see an open bottle sitting on a friends’ shelf which I duly took down to see what all the fuss was all about.

The first of four in the Valhalla collection this sherry matured liquid is served up at 52.1% and is one of 23,000 bottles sold worldwide. My sample was from a bottle two-thirds over and would have benefited from some oxidization.

Nose: Clove. Sherry. Mango. A very unusual oak. I think the oxidization may have taken away some of the malty notes. I’ve notice HPs lose their brine/malty aroma after a while. Red berries. Cherry cola. Cinnamon. Red licorice. Touch of iodine. Pinch of salt. A very balanced and unique nose.

Palate: Crisp sherry. Chocolate. Black peppers. Cola. Cherries. Brown sugar. Grapes. Dark citrus. Hint of nuts. A lovely delivery. Very smooth and very confident.

Finish: Long. Oily. Juice with a touch of spice.

Such a lovely expression! Crisp and confident. I’m kicking my self for not picking it up when I had the chance.

Rating: 93

Bunnahabhain 25 Year Old XXV

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Distillery/Brand: Bunnahabhain | Region: Islay | ABV: 46.3% | Color: Old Sauternes
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
Bunnahabhain represent the lighter side of peat on Islay. That’s because the distilleries water is piped down from streams on the Margdale Hills and is considered less peaty than most water used for distilling on Islay.

Bunnahabhain also hold the distinction of being one of the few distilleries founded in the ‘whisky boom’ of the 1920s and to still be around today.

I’ve had a few Bunnas in my time (the 12, 18, Darch Ur, Toiteach and now the 25) and find that they carry a similar thread in both the nose and palate. Must be those consistently good sherry casks they employ.

This 25-year-old release runs to just 400 bottles and comes presented in an Alder wooden box lined with Hessian and closed with solid brass fittings.

Nose: Robust sherry. Quite dry on the nose. Chocolate fudge. Moist dates. Sandalwood. Dark honey. Nice oak. Wisp of smoke. Salty Nuts. An absolutely gorgeous nose that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Palate: Medium bodied. Orange fudge. Ginger. Cinnamon. Butterscotch toffees. The oak dries a touch mid-palate. Nougat. And the moist dates are back. I expected it to be a lot more creamier, though.

Finish: Satisfyingly long. Cinnamon. Chocolate.

There’s a lovely maturity to this spirit and the flavors work seamlessly together. Add to this the great presentation box and you almost don’t mind shelling out 200GBP for it.

Rating: 93

Longrow Red 11 Year Old Fresh Port Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 51.8% | Color: Copper
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
My obsession with Campbeltown continues. And my latest area of interest is the Longrow – the peatiest of the three whiskies produced at Springbank. The other two, of course, being Springbank and Hazelburn.

It started when I pulled out a 14 year old Burgundy Wood Longrow more than two years after opening it. Having not cared much for it earlier it’s transformation had me transfixed. It had become quite magnificent.

I then decided to start looking at these peaty Campbeltowners with a bit more interest. And so far I’ve not really been disappointed.

The Longrow Red series is an annual bottling of 11 year olds matured in casks that previously held a red spirit. The first one was matured in Cabernet Sauvignon, the second one in Australian Shiraz and the one I’m talking about matured for 11 years in port casks.

Quite a reddish / orange hue to this cask strength spirit served at 51.8%

Nose: Quite sweet. Cherries. Red licorice. Cough syrup. Strawberries. Smooth caramel. Sandalwood. Black pepper. Mild peat. Pinch of salt. The nose is quite tart but still decently balanced.

Palate: Red berries. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Oak. Red apples. Maple syrup. Cherry cola. Pomegranate. Quite nice on the palate. The flavors hold quite well. It gets spicier mid-palate.

Finish: Long. Minty. Cinnamon. Oak.

I like the concept behind this range. The whiskies themselves may not be earth shattering but at least someone somewhere is trying to do something interesting. And I respect that.

Rating: 88

Ardbeg Supernova 2010

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 60.1% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 |Rating: 91

Review
Ah, yes! The old school Ardbegs from the great forgotten era of 2010. Back when peat monsters ruled and the world was getting it’s first taste of NAS whiskies.

Second in line after the inaugural 2009 release of the same name this one ups the ante with an extra 1.2% of alcohol.

What is an extra 1.2% you ask? Everything! Just ask my stinging taste buds!

Definitely a youngish whisky (7-9 years if you ask me) with everything cranked up to maximum. Peat levels of upwards of 100ppm (other Ardbegs measure around 50ppm) and a very high strength ABV of 60.1%

I remember having this when it first came out and being suitably blown away. I was young and naive, much like this spirit, and easily overwhelmed. Now it takes a touch more to impress. And I have to admit the spirit does it’s best!

This review is from bottle code L10 070 16:22 6ML

Nose: Reminds me of the Still Young. That same youngish malt with classic Ardbeggian aromas. I know the peat here is cranked up but it still comes across as understated. Sharp lime. Lemon sorbet. Vanilla. Green apples and pears. Honey crust. Sugarcane. Let it breathe and it becomes more sooty. But with an underlying sweetness to it. Now with more herbs. Some cardamom. An essay in balance.

Palate: Lots of black and white peppers. Prickly green chilies. Lemon. Sugarcane. Dry honey. Slightly bitter oak. Melon. Mint leaves. Quite savory belying the nose. Fires up the tastebuds that’s for sure! Made me salivate. But the spices dominate. Is the high strength trying to mask something? Seems like it.

Finish: Oily. Tobacco leaves. Limestone. The same spices. Touch of smoke.

This is a fine dram. Need to sit with it for a while as it evolves. As of this writing I have not had the 2009 version which I’ve heard is off-the-hook. I’d love to make a comparison.

Overall great nose and finish with the palate marginally behind.

Rating: 91

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask #537

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Distillery/Brand: Sullivans Cove | Region: Australia | ABV: 47.5% | Color: Deep Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
I read about Sullivan Cove’s award winning single cask whisky only quite recently after it won some of the top accolades at the World Whisky Awards this year.

I don’t really care much for awards, mind you, but this one truly deserved all the praise it was getting. It was cask #525 which was responsible for taking the whisky world by storm.

I was lucky enough to sample that and was suitably impressed. OK extremely impressed. Here’s a link to that review if you don’t believe me.

Now I was quite curious to see how the other casks would play out. After a bit of hunting I managed to get my hands on Cask 537.

While quite competent it does not hold a candle to the award-winning Cask 525 which, in my opinion, is asking for a lot. And it is precisely the reason why whisky fascinates me so much. The same spirit matured in exactly the same way can yield such contrasting results.

Nose: Clove. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Red plums. Lots of berries. Black peppers. Mocha. Caramel Marchiato. Red grapes. Overwhelming red apple. Sandalwood. It’s a nice unusual offering with the French Oak imparting a lot of spices.

Palate: Not a lot on offer here. Oak. Apples. Brown dates. Chocolate mocha. Cinnamon. And did I mention oak? Doesn’t deliver the same level balance and intensity as 525.

Finish: Medium. Cinnamon. Oak.

While this sample may not have lived up to it’s brothers’ stellar reputation I respect the art of the single cask process. Spirit the way it’s supposed to be.

Rating: 87