2019, should be an exciting year for whisky and other reasons besides. Here at Malt, we’re growing. Whether it is in terms of reach or god forbid that abused term; influence. Now, the temptation with such popularity is to cash in and make a few quid or compensate all the time we spend on this project. That’d be the easy way out, which some may have taken I’m sure.
When I started Whisky Rover back in 2010, whisky blogs seemed to be all about positivity and the next freebie. Anyone could jump on the bandwagon and before too long, the internet was cluttered with diatribes about how great everything was. There’s been a cull of those blogs in recent times, some have moved into the industry and others have lost their appetite for whisky, or life has stepped in. Instagram and YouTube are now the new breeding ground of overly positive reviews. I acknowledge that my views don’t always resonate with everyone; such as my recent scoring of the James Eadie Caol Ila, but most reasonable onlookers understand it remains my opinion and how I feel.
We’re faced with a trio of Langatun releases that were kindly sent to me by the distillery. Mark previously covered another trio last month and we put together an informative interview with the co-owner of the distillery. Go read both of these and please return.
As such I don’t feel the need to go back into all things Langatun. I’m a fan of the distillery, as much as most of the team are of this Swiss outpost. A small-scale operation they are delivering flavour and an experience that is slowly gaining appreciation from enthusiasts across the world.
In 2018, my London whisky tasting featured the Langatun Jacob’s dram, which went down rather well with attendees. As someone who has spent most of his life in Scotland, I am torn when pouring these foreign upstarts at a whisky tasting. I want to showcase the best of Scotland and take a certain pride in doing so. However, finding such gems amidst an avalanche of releases is verging on impossible. I keep saying that single malt doesn’t necessarily mean good, with many residing in inept casks, or blitzkrieg fermentation and distillate shenanigans. The end result is one of disappointment or a degree of averageness.
If you’ve read the Langatun interview, then you’ll know that they are starting to move more into social media. As such they actually approached me via my own Whisky Rover Instagram channel and offered to send over a few examples of their wares. There were no conditions or demands, just as always that I write/photograph these as and when I could find the time. Refreshingly, the team were on hand if I had any questions. This is the way I like to do ‘business’ for want of a better word. Open, candid and transparent.
The seedy underbelly of whisky promotion was underlined today when I received an email from an agency representing a major whisky producer. The title of the email simply read PAID OPPORTUNITY – CHIVAS REGAL WHISKY. This is the other side of the coin with #ad and influencer positivity. Dispatched by an Outreach Executive (whatever that this), I’d have to allow advertising access to unlock whatever they were looking to pay. Part of me was tempted to actually find out what the gig was, but I’ll leave the paid for posts to the Single Malt Dailies of this world. Despite Chivas Regal featuring a slice of Tormore within the blend, I just wasn’t interested.
Langatun surprisingly sent over 3 releases in their standard 50cl release form. A very generous gesture and completed with a couple of branded Glencairns; I’m sure Mark is glowing with envy as I review these. I’ll share the remnants with friends and colleagues including the Tweedlord next time we meet.
Langatun Old Woodpecker – review
Distilled in May 2011, bottled in August 2018 at 7 years of age. From a Chardonnay cask #167, featuring an organic single malt.
Colour: Buffed gold.
On the nose: very honeyed and syrup as well. Oily, with some fleeting memories of the Glen Moray Chardonnay cask. A touch of soot? Apricot jam most certainly, Lucozade and sandpaper. Almonds as well alongside nutmeg, caramel, a worn wooden panel and cinnamon. Adding water reveals orange peel, chocolate and a sweet & sour sauce from your local Chinese Takeaway, or at least mine in Rosyth. A touch of rubber towards the end, which I enjoy.
In the mouth: Dryness initially before the honey and apricots arrive. Caramel, lemon and an approachable and refreshing feel. A gentle texture, elements of clay, syrup and clootie dumplings. Water removes the dryness, allow the fruits to come through alongside toffee.
Langatun Old Bear Smoky Cask Proof – review
This smoked single malt was distilled in February 2014, before being bottled in January 2019 at 4 years of age. Matured solely in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape cask and bottled at 63% strength. The Whisky Exchange has a different batch on sale for £66.75.
On the nose: Honey again, spent smoke with a light vibe and maltiness. Jaffa cakes and I know my food mannerisms can cause confusion so this means vanilla sponge, dark chocolate and orange peel. A touch of brine. Kindling and hazelnuts. With water, there are Parma violets? An unusual note with the childhood nightmare of tinned hamburgers revived. Corned beef, tin foil, lemon and elements of lemon. Water reveals more apples and almond biscotti.
In the mouth: An oily gloopy texture showcases more of the smokey aspect and ham hock. More oranges, pomegranate and a certain flatness. Water reveals more nutty characteristics, cardboard and chocolate. A touch of citrus fizz brings life, dried cranberries and more maltiness with the smoke coming through on the finish. This is more Bagpuss than bear. I preferred it without water.
Langatun Swiss Bourbon Whiskey – review
Distilled on 17th August 2015 using 51% corn, bottled 3rd December 2018. Bottled at 45.6% from a Private Cask ‘Devil’s Cut’ #326.
Colour: A hint of rose.
On the nose: Popcorn, buttered Scotch pancakes, a light vanilla vibe and HobNobs. White chocolate, an orange aspect moving into cherrywood. A gentle ginger root, honey and peanut butter. Water doesn’t promote a radical change merely more emphasis and a touch of oil.
In the mouth: A burst of sweetness initially, followed by caramel, vanilla and cherrywood. Meringues and a leisurely, approachable nature lacking that forceful wood dynamic of many young bourbons. On the finish a nuttiness from almonds. A hybrid of sorts? Time in the glass reveals more fruitiness. With water a better mouthful and a hint of alcohol on the edges. More time reveals a creamy coconut nature.
A surprising trio from Langatun. Nothing that reaches the heights of what we’ve seen before but arguably more interesting. Hinting at possibilities elsewhere beyond a mere exceptional sherry or wine cask. The bourbon isn’t quite a bourbon to many. I suppose it is like the English making Champagne, which in reality they can except as sparkling wine. Eventually, through practice, the English are showing the French how to do it. Much like the foreign whiskies are sticking two fingers up to the Scots. Shape up, or ship out. A name or trademark can only protect you for so long.
Not that I’m saying a Swiss bourbon is da bomb. There are possibilities and if America is keeping the best stuff for herself. Why not try and make your own variation? Success breeds imitation and eventually, the imposters become quite adept at their craft.
Elsewhere the Old Bear improves with time and patience. It has a bit more depth than just a smoky whisky, with the wine cask coming through to interesting effect. It does need that cask proof level I feel to show its claws. Whereas the Old Woodpecker is more immediate, approachable and engaging. In summary, I liked them all, but not enough to think Scotch is under threat right now.
Our thanks to Langatun for sending us these whiskies to try. As you can see, this never influences our opinion and there is a commission link in this review.