It’s taken me a while to write this review, largely as I’ve been (a) lazy and (b) I was hoping to make this into part of an interview with the folks at Langatun. But at the moment, a few emails are still stuck in the ether – and, perhaps unsurprisingly to myself, I find that I am not, in fact, the centre of the universe.
So you shall have some bog standard reviews instead. Well, I say bog standard, but it is worth noting that our favourite Swiss distillery (actually, I’ll extend that a bit more widely to one of my favourite distilleries in Europe) has become ten years old.
Now we all know that age doesn’t really matter if you good spirit, which is something I shall touch on briefly: make it well, put it in good wood, and it’s good to go at even three years (as the folks at the Cotswolds have shown us). Poorly made spirit in poor casks used several times over, you can age it well into thirty-odd years and you still have a shit whisky, albeit an old shit whisky.
But ten years is a milestone and it ought to be celebrated. That’s exactly what Langatun have done this year as they release their first 10 year old whisky. In fact, they’ve also celebrated with a brand new website, which you should most definitely rummage around, especially since the last one was so old it had been hosted within GeoCities. (At the time of writing, their new website doesn’t actually work, which I assume is something to do with Brexit and everything to do with GeoCities having been retired a long time ago.)
Swiss law had restricted distillation of barley for a century or thereabouts, and the ban was lifted in only in 1999, which means the Swiss distilling scene is very young – although they are old dogs at brewing, which is two-thirds of distillation after all. I am not usually this assiduous, but I note that in a previous review I had commented that the distillery had started distilling in 2007, and the whisky I have first up for review was distilled in 2008. This suggests the first few months were either experimental, the whisky wasn’t quite up to scratch (it can take a while for a distillery to fine-tune its spirit – perhaps explaining why Phil wasn’t too impressed with this). Or that I have my numbers completely wrong, which is very possible.
One of the reasons I like Langatun is because, well, it is good. Reliably good. What makes them good? Because I like flavour in my whisky. And what contributes to flavour? Crazy long fermentation times – six bloody days, which eclipses almost any Scotch distillery I can think of – and a good wood policy (high-quality casks) to name but two things. I would indeed like to know more about Langatun and I hope I can get a wonkish interview in the future. I also like the fact that their branding is a little old school, because it puts off Macallan drinkers, who would find much to enjoy in Langatun.
The three whiskies I have to review are not just the positively ancient ten year old, but two young whippersnappers that have been finished in two different wine casks. One is Cardeira, which is a winery in Portugal, another is ex-Port; if I remember correctly, Langatun has connections to the wine trade, which enables them to get their hands on some indecent things like Châteauneuf-du-Pape barrels. Expect to pay between £75-£105 for each of these, depending on where you look.
Langatun 10 Year Old – 2008 Single Cask 4 – Chardonnay
On the nose: nutty and robust; sourdough. Pairs nicely with high end, minty, fennel notes. Give it time in the glass and that gives way to luscious dried fruits, apricots, sultanas, then tropical notes, lime and mango. Another ten minutes: Tiramisu, golden syrup, sponge cake. Walnuts. Plenty going on.
In the mouth: very silky, though not especially forthcoming. Mouthfilling, cloying, slightly dry as it delivers blackcurrants, cranberries, a little tartness there. Wholemeal bread, slightly doughy, merges with that nutty quality. An olive meatiness, grapefruit tartness, hints of those tropical fruits from the nose, but then the flavours fade a little too quickly.
Langatun Cardeira Cask Finish – 49.12%
Colour: Burnished gold.
On the nose: gorgeous perfume to this one. Honey and green tea, with jasmine. Digestive biscuits. Black Tea – Assam. Slightly earthy, vegetative; perhaps industrial in that Cambletown way. Beyond that are red fruits, cranberries. Nutmeg. Sultans and dried oranges – quite Christmassy.
In the mouth: trademark Langatun character here: thick, luscious mouthfeel, wonderfully cloying. The oils bring a malty heft. Seville orange marmalade, with just a hint of bitterness to balance. Black coffee. This is very Langatun, whatever that character is. Sultanas and dried apricots. Slight spice, cloves on the oily, lingering finish. Fantastic sweetness and maltiness combine here, with a slight earthiness that complements. It’s really very good indeed.
Langatun Port Cask Finish – 49.12%
Colour: deep copper.
On the nose: obviously more Port-y: blackberries, elderberries, with rich heather honey, raisins – maybe leading into maple syrup. Still a sweet maltiness underneath, with Tiramisu and apricot jam. Dark chocolate and cherries. Once the fruits fade, that Digestive, robust tea-like maltiness is allowed to shine.
In the mouth: still viscous, but not as thick as the Cardeira cask: and it echoes the nose very much, with black fruits, perhaps morello cherries now and elderberries. Golden syrup. Quite a lot of stem ginger heat, coriander, black pepper in touches, but the warmth is subtle.
The 10 year old is not necessarily the one I might have gone out the door with on my 10th anniversary, but then perhaps these were more youthful, experimental days, where a distillery was searching for the best methods. Indeed, earlier reviews of their whiskies from yesteryear, on other sites, suggest that might have been the case. Perhaps this just goes to show the influence of fine-tuning during the early days of distillation?
Oh, and buy the Cardeira Cask Finish, it’s marvellous.
Note: samples from the UK distributor, image of the single bottle via Master of Malt.