I hold great affection in my heart for Longrow – or rather the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, where Longrow is distilled. Many years ago, I visited Springbank on what was my very first distillery tour, and it was here that I truly started the path to whisky geekdom. Springbank is a pretty small place as distilleries go. It produces three types of spirit: Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn, each of which have different levels of peat. Longrow is the more heavily peated of their whiskies.
So when I was mooching around my local whisky shop, Gauntleys of Nottingham, I spotted a wine-cask finished Longrow. I am a fan of wine finished whiskies. I am a fan of Longrow. Buying this was not a difficult decision to make. I’d also tried – a while a go now – the Hazelburn 8 Year Old, which was finished in Sauternes wine casks. That was delicious, so I wondered just how this distillery got on when peat met wine. The Longrow 14 year old ‘Burgundy Wood’ was aged 11 years in re-fill Bourbon casks, before being finished for 3 years in fresh Burgundy casks. Production was limited to 7800 bottles only. Would the marriage of peated whisky and Burgundy work?
Colour: blood, basically.
On the nose: a punch in the face from red fruit – cherries, strawberries, raspberries – all mixed with truly complex, salt-tinged layers peat. Smokey jam. It’s actually one of the most intense whiskies I’ve nosed in a long while, with a lot of alcohol. Yet when those strong aromas fade, there’s some wonderful herb and grassy notes that can be found.
In the mouth: Christ almighty that’s intense. And it works. Tannins battle it out for control of the flavour at first, and a touch of salt and dryness edging into the palette. But all of those flavours in the nose come through eventually in the mouth as well. Yes, there’s the red fruit from the wine casks, which for my money expresses itself more than the peat at first. The smokiness is in the background, framing the whisky but by no means being the centre of what this is about. Coastal. Jammy. Bracing. When you come back to it, the peat is almost an afterthought. It’s all about a wonderful light molasses and plum jam sensation, yet there’s just a touch of dryness that stops this from being stunning.
I’ll be up-front: though I loved it, this is not going to be everyone’s favourite whisky. I can see a lot of people hating it. Yet… I quite like whiskies that are not your everyday dram, and this one certainly is unusual. The harmony of the peat and Burgundy influence doesn’t quite reach perfection, yet there’s beauty to be found it its rugged charms. If you found yourself in the depths of winter, this whisky is basically a glass of fine red wine by a wood-burning stove.
I bought this for £60. In my opinion, I think that’s good value, if you can find a bottle. I really enjoyed it. You might not… Either way, I definitely think you should pay attention to this little distillery if you haven’t already.