The devil made me do it!

I am not referring to Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, or whatever moniker you prefer for the prince of darkness. Rather, I’m talking about some of the deadly sins that we associate with his infernal highness, which regularly grip those in the thrall of whisky mania. Envy, greed, and gluttony are the three that seem most applicable. Though, not being an ostentatiously libidinous whisky reviewer like someone else, I can’t confess to lusting after this whisky.

I was at a large dinner party recently, and I found myself sitting next to a man I had just met. During the course of our getting-to-know-you chitchat, the topic of whisky came up (why does this always happen to me?). I inquired about what type of whisky he preferred. With a dolorous sigh, he responded, “Springbank…” I knew immediately what he meant to express, and I commiserated with a heartfelt (but inarticulate) expression of my condolences that went something like, “Ah, yeah, well, you know…”

We bonded by kvetching over the disappearance of Springbank from store shelves, the increasing prices at which its expressions are being sold, yadda yadda. All the complaining about this topic that can be done has already been done and re-done ad nauseam, here as elsewhere.

At this point, it feels like the only thing as cool as having a lot of Springbank laying around is having no Springbank whatsoever. If you’re a true Scotch whisky hipster, surely you’d never stoop to overpaying or hunting down bottles from such a consensus favorite distillery. In the way that American whiskey enthusiasts leave overhyped and overpriced bourbon for the “taters,” perhaps Springbank is now strictly for the “tatties?”

If passing on Springbank is cool, then you can consider Mark P. our very own Miles Davis. He (being a better man than me) recently wrote about resisting the siren call of an expensive Springbank bottling. “Yes, good on you, mate!” I thought (in an absolutely ridiculous Australian accent inside my head) as I read his anti-Springbank tasting. “Mark is wise and discerning and handsome, like me,” I went on (still in my head; American accent now), “and he would never debase himself or squander his street cred by throwing away his money chasing Springbank.”

As surely as pride cometh before a fall, my resolve was tested during my very next trip to the liquor store. On a bottom shelf, next to a depleted space earmarked for Kilkerran Heavily Peated, sat a couple bottles of Longrow Peated, with the shelf tag bearing the admonishment that they were limit one per customer.

Have I ever had Longrow before? Yes, years ago I tasted the Longrow Red during a marathon session at a friend’s house. Do I remember what it tasted like? Hardly; it was a long night filled with a lot of high ABV whisky. Did I like it? Umm, yeah, sure… how can you not like Springbank, right? Have I thought about it at all since that night? No, not really. If I didn’t buy this bottle of Longrow in front of me, would I have died that very instant? Impossible to say, but it’s better to err on the side of caution. I bought the bottle.

To make matters worse, I way overpaid, at least in comparison to my compatriots across the pond. This is sold for closer to £47 ($59) by the big online UK whisky merchants. Springbank’s own site for the expression has it listed at £48. I paid $90; this seems to be about where most of the larger US spirits retailers have it priced (though you’ll not be surprised to hear that some are selling it for far more).

Having read the above, you’d be forgiven for thinking less of me. Hell, I think less of me. In my own defense, I considered my purchase… not quite “ironic,” but let’s say “willfully dumb.” See, when you’ve been around the block a few times, you get good at buying whisky. For the purposes of writing reviews here on Malt, you can get a little too good.

What I mean by that is: we try to write for a mass audience. However, we sometimes get sent desirable bottles straight from the distillery, or else have connections that let us procure them, or have generous friends that share their coveted bottles with us. By contrast: most normal folks reading Malt will rely on liquor stores for their whisky purchases. They can go out and find a few reliable standby bottles for affordable prices, plus a lot of junk, plus some whisky that is reasonably tasty, but a poor value.

Unless I take the occasional flier on something I know that either a) I’ll hate or b) I suspect is badly overpriced, given the specifications, I will only be reviewing good and economical bottles. What would be the fun, or use, of that? We’re all in danger of splurging on something that will fail to deliver the goods. My duty to you, dearest readers, is to determine whether this Longrow is overpriced and, if so, how badly. I’m not buying this whisky for me; I’m buying it for you. You’re welcome.

What of the whisky? Longrow is the heavily peated label from Springbank. Being a relative newcomer to the Springbank portfolio of brands – I’ll confess to having a hard time keeping the peat levels and number of distillations straight – I found this description from Springbank educational: “Longrow was first produced in 1973 to provide a peaty, oily, and robust component to a blend being created at the time. More heavily peated and double distilled, it has been a staple in the production calendar since the 1990s.”

Peated is the entry level expression in a range that includes the annual “Red” release (matured in red wine casks), as well as 18- and 21-year-old expressions. As noted above and below, I paid $90 for this bottle, though that’s likely due to the impact of transportation costs and tariffs, as it is more economically priced in its country of origin.

Longrow Peated – Review

“Matured in Bourbon and Sherry Casks,” per Springbank. 46% ABV. $90 locally. £46 from Master of Malt. £48 from The Whisky Exchange.

Color: A bright and cheery gold.

On the nose: Heavily peated, indeed! This has a hefty dollop of smoke and iodine that wallops the nose as soon as the bottle is opened. However, pouring off a few drams (including one shared with aforementioned acquaintance) and leaving the bottle to rest allowed a miraculous transformation to occur. After a few days, the peat notes were balanced out by emergent floral and fruity notes. I get a pleasant whiff of fresh cut spring flowers, as well as sliced lime wedges. The combination of smoke and citrus is reminiscent of a margarita made with mezcal, a personal favorite of mine. Lingering over this, a most delightful rich and sweet note of peaches and cream became apparent. A very enticing nose, one that begs for the first sip…

In the mouth: In comparison to the initial olfactory impression, the peat is relatively subdued through the mouth. Starts with a subtle flavor of saline and iodine, before quieting down as it progresses toward the middle of the mouth. There’s a bit of orchard fruit at midpalate, the airy sweetness of confectioners’ sugar, and even a subtle winey-ness to this that recalls more fruit-forward white wines. A nutty note meets with a drying minerality as this moves through the finish, where the peat elements have a gentle, warming reprise. This leaves a stony and salty aftertaste as the whisky blooms again with a radiant, gently mouth-tingling heat after the last swallow.

Conclusions:

Though this seemed one note at first, I was very encouraged by the aromatic results once I let this open up a bit. The palate, while good, falls a little short by comparison. Nothing wrong with this whisky, even at the price, so I’m giving it a score above the midpoint of the range.

Score: 6/10

In my recent review of a quartet from Caol Ila, I characterized the drams as “a good crash course for someone toward the end of the beginning of their whisky journey.” I feel the same about this Longrow. If someone has gotten a dozen reps in with mainstay Scotch whisky expressions and is looking to branch out, this might be a good introduction to a few concepts: Springbank, Campbeltown, peated malt, and a heavier style of distillate, to name a few. It’s not a peat bomb, though it’s certainly got enough peaty character to be noticed. The reasonable ABV makes it approachable without being weak. Those niche peat enthusiasts accustomed to Octomore and the like will probably find this a bit innocuous, but for a more general audience it hits the mark.

Speaking of Mark: though the likes of him – and all the other more principled and equanimous whisky enthusiasts out there – may continue to pass on the overpriced Springbank bottlings that come their way, I fear I’ll always be tempted. The distillery produces reliably good whisky, which cannot be said for all the other comparably regarded distilleries in Scotland. If only to continue sharing with all the neophytes who want to learn what all the fuss is about, I suspect I’ll continue to keep a bottle of Campbeltown’s finest open on my home bar.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Welsh Toro says:

    I like this one Taylor but it’s a max at £50. It’s the most available bottle in the Springbank range and I think it on a par with Springbank and Hazelburn 10.It’s good but that’s it. If it lands on your lap, fair enough, but don’t overpay.

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