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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Longrow 14 Burgundy Wood Whisky Review!

Longrow. Not a label everyone's familiar with, and not an easy label to find on the shelves. It is essentially a heavily peated version of Springbank, everyone's favourite Campbeltown distillery! So how about a 14 year old, cask strength, wine finished Longrow? Yes please...

Springbank distillery produces three different whiskies under the one roof: Hazelburn, which is un-peated and triple distilled, Springbank, which is lightly peated and distilled 2.5 times, and Longrow, which is heavily peated and double distilled. The peating level is altered by varying the amount of time that the malted barley is dried/smoked over peat, as opposed to hot air, ranging from zero to over 48 hours, depending on the desired character.

While I'm yet to try any Hazelburn bottling's, both Springbank and Longrow brands are excellent single malts, and are well worth sourcing. The Longrow and Hazelburn names are actually homage to two long-dead distilleries which were also located in Campbeltown. Once home to over 30 distilleries, it's now down to just 3, Springbank, Glen Scotia and Glengyle (sold as Kilkerran) and those two have only been revived relatively recently.

Springbank's whiskies are generally very good quality, and are quite complex. This totally independently-owned distillery does not chill filter or add any colouring to their whisky, and carries out the entire production process on site. This includes floor malting and milling their locally-sourced barley, as well as full-term maturation and bottling on-site. They're a very traditional distillery as well, in that they employ wooden wash-backs, a direct-fired wash still, and everything is done by hand.

This is in fact the first Longrow I've reviewed, although I have tried quite a few different bottling's. The 'Rundlets and Kilderkins' bottling in particular was fantastic, and of course is now impossible to find. For that matter, while I personally find red-wine finished whiskies to be a bit hit & miss, the two (of four) Longrow 'Red' whiskies I've tasted, all of which are finished or even fully matured in wine casks, have been excellent.

This Burgundy Wood bottling is slightly older than the reds, at 14 years of age, and is also an older bottling, being released back in 2011. It was also a limited release at the time, with a relatively small 7800 bottles making it onto the shelves.

There are quite a few of these different wood expression bottling's around, across the three different labels, and at cask strength they all represent quite good value. While they're readily available, at least. This one is pretty tough to find these days.

This one was aged in refill (second-fill) ex-bourbon casks for 11 years, and finished in fresh (first-fill) Burgundy red wine casks (of unknown variety) for 3 years. It was then bottled at a very respectable cask strength of 56.1%, and naturally (pun intended) it was bottled without any chill filtration or added colouring. So let's see how it goes!
Longrow 14yo Burgundy Wood, 56.1%. Campbeltown, Scotland.
Springbank distillery. Matured in second-fill bourbon casks for 11 years, finished in first-fill Burgundy red wine casks for 3 years. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 

Colour: Dark reddish-copper.

Nose: Surprisingly sweet. Raspberry jam, juicy cherries, fresh doughy bread. Citrus rind, sweet caramel. Hints of soft earthiness, floral perfume and varnish.

Texture: Gorgeous. Thick, velvety and warm.

Taste: There's the peat! Earthy and dry peat, and a little dry, ashy smoke. Strawberry syrup, stewed stone fruit, malt biscuits, and a decent dab of (pleasant) chilli heat. 

Finish: Long and quite spicy & hot, then sweet berries and biscuit-y malt. Hints of dry smoke and earth. 

Score: 3.5 out of 5. 

Notes: Nice and enjoyable, and good quality (like all Springbank's), but not my favourite wine-finished Longrow so far. That title actually goes to the Cabernet Sauvignon version of Longrow Red. I wasn't expecting the sweetness I got from this Burgundy wood expression, but I'm also thankful the wine finish hasn't had too much influence. It's quite well balanced, actually. I was expecting a little more peat influence too, and I suspect it's been softened by the wine finishing. It's important to note that Springbank is a mainland distillery, so we shouldn't expect an Islay or island-style peat, but there's still a decent-sized mainland peaty punch to be found. Usually. 

So, another very good example of Springbank distillery's ability and diversity! They do brilliant work, and they aren't afraid to try something different using their traditional methods. If you're yet to try one of their whiskies, don't hesitate, get on it! You won't regret it. But if you do, feel free to send me what's left!