Longrow 18 is double distilled and peated to 50ppm like an Islay malt. Campbelltown is a maritime location not too far from Islay and Longrow famously uses traditional malting, mashing, and distilling methods. This could be very Islay-like indeed. It is aged in refill sherry casks. Based on these descriptive parameters I was expecting something in the vein of Lagavulin DE or maybe Bowmore Darkest. That is not at all what showed up in the box of samples from http://whiskysamples.flyingcart.com/
|Pale like pinot grigio|
Longrow 18 46% OB 2011
Color: straw yellow - pale like white wine. Pinot Grigio, maybe. This is shocking color for a whisky from a sherry cask of this mature age. Obviously they chose a set of well used multiply refilled casks - deliberately.
Nose: Very closed at first with indistinct sweet spirity aromas but with 10-15 minutes of air a flower garden blooms: dusky rose, lilies, honeysuckle, and white pear. Perfumer's notes of lanolin and faint ambergris, butter and salt (but a clean mineral salt - not ocean spray) follow and then a clear and pervasive backdrop of chalk mineral. With much extended time some sour wine aromas begin to show so 10-45 minutes is the sweet spot. During this window the nose is absolutely glorious. As close to perfume as any malt in my experience. That the window closes and sourness intrudes makes this seem even more like a delicate hothouse flower that must be enjoyed while fresh.
Entry picks up the perfumed Highland/Spey fruit basket with a delicate off-dry entry that turns sweet with vividly floral honeysuckle flavors and green apple, and white pear fruits at midpalate. The sweetness doesn't seem like actual tongue hit of wood sugars - but more of an olfactory effect of the perfume floral sweetness interacting with more slight sweetness on the tongue. The mouth feel is light as a feather, but not watery or thin. Gentle heat shows up at the turn to the finish - a slight peppery glow. The finish is remarkably long for such a finely dressed slender pale white lady with honeyed grain mash and subtle furniture oak and gentle musk. There is very little tannin influence for a dram of this age.
A few drops of water releases musky notes in the nose and puts a bit of citrus in with the pear aromas. On the tongue there's a bit more honey sweet and some malt and grain flavors and a bit more spicy heat but the focused floral quality has become less distinct. I'd skip the water on this one unless you have extra time for integration. (The focus returns over hours of marrying time). More than a few drops threatens to turn "delicate" into "thin and weak".
So where is all that peat? 50ppm is close to Port Charlotte range. This could be a fire breather - but instead it's a great delicate lady in pearls and perfume in a magnificent white size 00 gown. Where is the sherry? Tasted blind I would guess this might be a great Speyside or Northern Highland malt. This is a brilliant deceiver - a deft act of distillitory legerdemain. As such I'm puzzled, mystified, and delighted. It's certainly delicious, but risks being a bit too delicate for my tastes - particularly at this price. Longrow 18 is a rarity that commands between $170-$200. That being said I'm very glad I had the opportunity to taste it.