‘Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.’¹
How do we define success? Or more importantly, how do you define success? Is it a swelling bank balance, a loving family or the respect of others? For distilleries, seemingly the majority base success upon the simple measure of sales. Increasing sales equal larger profits and in turn, happy shareholders. But is this really success?
Take here at Malt, for instance. Success could be setting new records and increased views. That’s the tangible factor that many would base their assumption on. Personally, my definition of success is providing an escape and a platform for others to enjoy and appreciate whisky.
The same could apply to this Longrow and that was hammered home during a recent Spirit of Toronto online session, where I was co-hosting the event with Findlay and Nicole of Springbank. The presentation and discussion turned to Longrow, with the confirmation that the production staff really value this style of whisky because it’s more labour intensive than Hazelburn and Springbank. So, when a bottle is opened and enjoyed, that’s the success that the team want to see.
Being honest as always, Longrow is my least favourite of the Springbank distillates in spite of all the effort expelled into creating this whisky. Some of the previous releases suffered at that 46% bottling strength and there wasn’t enough complexity or development on the palate to win me over. That’s understandable in some cases, particularly when the cask recipe isn’t built for complexity and instead just focuses on the peat.
Ah yes, the peat. The great organic leveller of whisky. Just pile it on until any cracks and flaws are doused in the vegetative notes. That’s a trick we’ve seen elsewhere and for the peatheads that’s all they want. Thing is, peat can be a great foundation rather than the whole gig. I’m looking for the whole show, with bells and whistles rather than just one note. And I’ve always felt that Longrow, given its heritage, was capable of much more than some of the mediocre releases that I’ve come across.
So, with these annual releases and the single casks to some extent; I take a backseat. This has been assisted with the growing focus and secondary madness around releases from Springbank in general. It feels as if you’re picking the flesh off the remnants of the carcass in an attempt to gain some satisfaction. In other words, slim pickings and often you take what’s left on the shelf or online. Do you want a choice? Then you have be on the ball and take a punt. At around £100 for this 18 year old today, that’s not too bad when you consider the manual element that goes into its production. But to many reading this article, that’s £100 that could buy several bottles or pay an outstanding bill.
You start hearing the initial reports about the 2020 Longrow bottling. I’m not talking about sites that many frequent or the experts with their rent-a-quotes. No, the greatest tool of all in the form of word of mouth. Especially from those who you value and appreciate when it comes to whisky. This 2020 edition was prompting some delicious commentary, so, fortunately, I managed to get a bottle for a week on my Instagram channel, where we just opened bottles and I sent a few samples off to those who got involved for nothing. The week made me reconsider whisky on many levels. The simple act of giving a sample a whisky that many considered to be premium and out of reach, prompted some heartwarming comments and made me appreciate how fortunate some of us are.
To give you another perspective on this release, I asked the self-proclaimed King of Fife and honcho at Phil’s favourite Facebook group, It’s All About Springbank (IAAS), to offer his thoughts on this Longrow. Funnily enough, Ronnie’s initial commentary on the Longrow was one of the reasons why I picked up a bottle, so it seems apt that he joins us today. This was an edition of 4300 bottles, featuring a recipe of 55% sherry casks, 25% bourbon casks and 20% rum casks, bottled at 46% strength.
Longrow 18 Year Old 2020 – Jason’s review
Colour: bashed copper, a bit like the lead photograph!
On the nose: lots of mulch, baked bread, bronze and toffee. It’s not lacking character or depth. Smoked bacon, almost haddock-like in places, brown sugar, tobacco and nutmeg. Charred, dried orange, cigar smoke and eggshell. Some dark chocolate, golden raisins and a barbeque aspect. Some rums notes over time and raspberry.
In the mouth: quite an array with chocolate, a rich maple syrup, toffee and tobacco. A smokey fudge and peat underpins the whole experience. Sooty, chocolate sponge, more boot polish, cloves and black peppercorns with smoke coming through on the finish.
Needless to say, this Longrow edition is a complete success. I’m torn about reviewing such releases that are quickly snapped up and unavailable. Why review something when it’s gone or a regular feature of the secondary market? That’s a question I’m still debating well into 2021. At least we’ve set a bookmark for the next edition and chances are given the limited production of Longrow, it’ll be scarce at retail when it does land. In the meantime, there’s plenty here to saviour.
Longrow 18 Year Old 2020 – Ronnie’s review
On the nose: Leather breaches, farmers wet muddy boots and seashells. A kind of hospital smell ( pre corona virus) maybe Dettol and some polish. Tinned prunes, Pain aux raisins, lychee( no positive about that), cloves, cinnamon and finally dunnage. Maybe a slight touch of inner tyre tube.
In the mouth: Those chocolate rum liqueurs that I pretended to get pissed on as a kid. Old lemonade, brine and burnt salted toffee. More gentle spice with cinnamon, cloves and walnut. Some figs, raisins moving into seaweed and sea spray. That taste after a beach fire with some olive oil. The Campbeltown loch features with a gentle peat smoke with tree resin and meringues to finish.
There are few releases in the year I look forward to more than the Longrow 18. With a sherry, bourbon and rum mix I was hoping for a complex number. Well, it never disappoints and I’m loving this whisky. I wonder if this has had an extra lockdown vatting to meld those flavours. The 3 casks all make an appearance but are integrated really well. You need this in your life, buy it while you can.
¹ Pele, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, also known as Pelé, Brazilian footballer.
Second image by Ronnie, hence the lack of forestry. There are a couple of commission links within this article to help your search and support Malt.