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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Longrow Red Pinot Noir Cask Whisky Review!

I've had the pleasure of tasting two of the four expressions in Longrow's 'Red' series, and they've been excellent. Thanks to a sample swap, this will be my third. But will it follow suit?

Longrow is the double-distilled, heavily peated spirit produced at Springbank distillery. Their 'Red' series is/was a line of whiskies which were either finished or fully matured in red wine casks. All are around 11 years old, bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and naturally coloured. The two I've tasted were finished in Australian Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon casks respectively, while the third expression was fully matured in a Port cask, which I'm yet to try but apparently is excellent. 

This fourth and apparently final release in the series has been matured for 11 years in ex-bourbon casks, and finished for another year in first-fill ex-Pinot Noir casks, sourced from New Zealand. Which means this one a is a year older than the previous releases, and also means it has spent the least amount of time in wine casks. It was bottled at a cask strength of 52.9%, and like all Springbank whiskies is non-chill filtered and naturally coloured.

On a slightly sour note, I wish Springbank would put a little more effort into some of their packaging. I know they're an independent distillery and they probably aren't overly concerned with such things, but less expensive Springbank expressions have fully enclosed boxes, so why shouldn't these? You may think I'm just being shallow, and that it doesn't matter, but I'm not talking about aesthetics here. When you have a box with a big hole in the front (which is also pretty flimsy as a result), and the bottle inside is exposed and is made from clear glass, there's absolutely no protection from sunlight, which can adversely affect the whisky itself over time, as well as the label. And quite a few bottlings from Springbank use this same box design / style. Yes whisky should be stored out of direct sunlight anyway, but this isn't always possible, so I'd rather a fully-enclosed box. Anyway, end rant. 

Personally, I've had a couple of red wine-finished whiskies which I've really enjoyed and a few which I haven't; at least not to the same extent. I'm not a big red wine fan in general, which probably has something to do with it. But seeing as this one has had a relatively short finish in the pinot casks, and is heavily peated, and based on my experiences with the previous Longrow Reds, I'm not too worried. Let's give it a shot...
Longrow 'Red' Pinot Noir Cask Finish, 12 years old, 52.9%. Campbeltown, Scotland.
Matured for 11 years in ex-bourbon casks, finished for 1 year in first-fill ex-pinot noir casks, sourced from New Zealand. Non-chill filtered, natural colour, cask strength. 9000 bottles, released 2015.

Colour: Amber.

Nose: Surprisingly malty, plus red fruits and spice, as you'd expect. Strawberry and red apple, some malty golden syrup, hint of that trademark Longrow peat, earthy & dirty. Sweet and musty red grapes, a little acetone. 

Texture: Medium-weight, bold and warming. Not harsh or rough though. 

Taste: More red apple and red berry sauce, spicy oak, buttery pastry, like Danish pastries. Still surprisingly malty, plus a big pinch of pepper and a little of that acetone. Not getting any peat here really, maybe a little burnt matches. 

Finish: Falls over a little here, unfortunately. Decent medium-length, but quite soft. The pepper and acetone sticks around for a little while, along with more of the red apple, and strawberries, but served in custard this time. The earthy peat does return down the track, and hangs on 'til the end. 

Score: 3 out of 5.

Notes: Not unpleasant, but not really doing it for me. Not on the level of the Cab Sauv release in my opinion, and I'd assume not as good as the Port cask either, judging by other reviews, so a little disappointing. Nonetheless, it's definitely something different, something a little unusual and quite interesting, as you'd expect from Springbank, those wonderful folks in Campbeltown aren't at all afraid of being different. More power to them!  

To date, my favourite Longrow is definitely the Rundlets & Kilderkins, which was matured in the namesake smaller casks and was seriously good. Plenty of that earthy, dirty peat in that one, which was toned down considerably in this Pinot Noir finished expression. What I would've loved to see in the 'Red' series is a fully Oloroso sherry-matured Longrow, or perhaps even a PX finish. But hey, every release in the series sold out in short order, so who am I to make that call.