Longrow 14yo 2003/2018 (57.8%, OB, Limited Edition, Refill Oloroso Sherry, 9.000 bottles)

At the moment I have two Longrows open on my lectern. One is the 1992 Vintage, which, I have to admit, is damn fine, really very good, so it is a favourite and I don’t think it’ll be around for long. The second one is this, limited to 9.000 bottles only, edition of Longrow. This particular Longrow was fully matured in refill Oloroso Sherry casks. I really like the output of the Springbank Distillery, so I expect a lot for each and every Whisky of theirs I can afford to buy and review. This time a bottling that has fully matured in Oloroso cask, so not a finish and not a blend with Bourbon casks, like many standard expressions are. The 12yo cask strength version for instance is usually blended from 70% Sherry casks and 30% Bourbon casks. The link, by the way, will lead you to my review of batch 8 from 2014. Now let’s have a look at this 14yo Longrow. Yes please!

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Spicy, with slightly rotting banana’s, some muddy sulphur and fruity Sherry. Fatty peat (not a lot) and some soft wood. Freshly ground coffee and lots of fresh coastal air. Some licorice and somewhat more sulphur. Toasted wood. Big bonfire and more aroma’s from being in the woods at night (with a bonfire burning close by). Night air, with a smelly pond (yes, sulphur again) and a sweeter bit close to creamy raisins. As I’m smelling this a lot, this raisiny bit has the staying power and not the sulphury bits mentioned earlier, but since its part of the DNA of this Whisky, I wouldn’t be surprised if it returns. More creamy bits emerge. Vanilla, Sherry casks made of American oak? Probably. Sweetness from the Sherry and the oak as well, so yes, American oak, if you ask me. Raspberry hard candy adds a tad of more fruit to it. Dries out a bit over time with more burnt notes coming forward. By now I’m again struggling to find peat on the nose of an aged Longrow. Did I already mention raisins? I did? Alright then!

Taste: Wood first, then sweet fruits, sulphur, ashes, and even some more wood. they present themselves in this order. Ashtray, and candied red fruits come next. After this first sip the nose gets bigger instantaneously. Still, not a lot of peat, but more on the smoky (sharper than peat) and ashtray side, and don’t forget about the slightly bitter wood. Maybe it’s not the wood that’s bitter, but the sulphur. Hint of burn plastic. Warming honey. Second sip reveals more of good old Oloroso, we know from the past. Red fruits and coal. Burnt rubber, and aroma’s, I tasted last in Rhum Agricole. The aromas of cold ashtray never leaves the palate. It is an integral part of this Whisky and pretty dominant. Sure, some sulphur is here as well, but it seems to be mixed in with the ashtray notes. Cigarette ashes in the aftertaste accompanied by some woody bitterness, which is not a problem in a profile like this.

Definitely not an easy Whisky, and probably not for everyone. I can imagine a lot of drinkers of Whisky and even fans of Springbank and Longrow, consider this to be somewhat flawed. Sulphur (the devil) has been detected. Sure it is here, and maybe even plenty of it. But for me it’s not the harsh and sharp kind you sometimes get, I can forgive its flaws to a degree, but one has to decide for oneself if one can. As I said, maybe not for everyone, although I believe most Longrow’s do end up on connoisseurs shelves anyway. It’s probably a wee bit to expensive as well for a casual pick at your dealer of choice. Nope, most of the people of this particular Longrow are already members of the Springbank Society. A show of hands please?

I mentioned the Vintage 1992? Well, in that one, one could easily taste what a Longrow is. It shines with distillery character. This Oloroso expression is as opposite to the 1992 Vintage, as the flat earth society is to the dead poets society. Oh, my, I hope I haven’t offended anyone. A show of hands please? Here the Sherry overpowered the Longrow, and pushed it out of sight altogether. Considering this and the overall profile of this Whisky I can’t score it as high as I did the ‘1992″. Still good though, but definitely not as good as the “1992” or the Springbank 17yo Sherry Wood, which also matured fully on Sherry casks, for even longer than this Longrow has.

Points: 86

Lagavulin 8yo (48%, OB, Refill American Oak, Limited Edition, 20.000 bottles, 2016)

Here at Master Quill, we love Lagavulin. In fact if you like your peated Whiskies, then it is really hard to find a bad Lagavulin. It has always been a Single Malt of very high quality and rather rare to encounter as an independent bottling, although there are quite a few out there. Another amazing fact is that the “regular” 16yo is still very, very good, and very, very, affordable. Well done Diageo. For now, because when they start tinkering with Lagavulin 16yo, or delete the Talisker 10yo, well, that wouldn’t be so good now would it.

We all know, the Whisky marked changed quite a bit the last few years, it the demand! It’s therefore harder to put out well aged Malts for a price, older Whisky drinkers are used to. In come the NAS (No Age Statement) bottlings with funny names. Like for instance Talisker Skye (the island it hails from), Talisker (Dark) Storm (it is windy on the Isle of Skye), Talisker Port Ruighe (Pronounced as Port Ree, as in Portree, the largest town on Skye), Talisker 57 North (the location on the map) and Talisker Neist Point (a local lighthouse).

With Lagavulin, Diageo didn’t really venture into NAS territory, instead they released this 8yo. Sure still young like many other NAS bottlings, but this time we, the consumer, get to know its age. For one we now know there isn’t any three year old Whisky in this expression, because all the others must have it. No, this time we are not being conned and we are now more than happy to pay for a relatively young Whisky and feel quite good with it. Yup, put on an age statement, even if its 5yo (Benromach) or this 8yo, and everybody’s happy. I’m sure this Lagavulin got a break from the drinking public, whereas the Taliskers mentioned above were criticized to the bone. I for one like age statements, but do not necesseraly dislike NAS bottlings. However, not knowing whats in it, makes me more hesitant in buying them without tasting it first. With an 8yo, you somehow know what to expect…

Lagavulin 8yoColor: Pale straw. Very light.

Nose: Sweetish laid-back peat. Nice spicy feel to it, in part made up of burnt wood, or even better, burning wood. Usually young peated Whiskies tend to be quite heavy on the phenols, but this one smells quite nice and almost elegant. Ashes and candy. Slow development. Hints of rubber, crushed apples turning brown and some distant cigarette smoke. It also has a slightly acidic fruity note. Unripe pineapple and green apple skins. Fresh wood and fern, with mocha tones. Milk chocolate and . It wants to be warming but hardly is. It is a Lagavulin alright, in many ways a lighter version of the 12yo cask strength expression. Sure some might say it’s lighter in style, maybe slightly under-developed, or less complex, but when you spend some time with it, smelling it, it actually is wonderful stuff. Well balanced. Love it.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. To sweet and fruity? Bubblegum, well didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect it to taste like this after thát nose. Very nutty. Almonds and hazelnuts ground to a pulp. Where is the peat? Ahh there it is. Well definitely not a heavy hitting high phenol young peated Whisky. Nope. We can call this very fruity by Lagavulin standards. With some air I get hints of new make spirit. Not the spirity part, but the barley part of it. This one really doesn’t improve giving it a lot of time to aireate in the glass. It shows more imperfections that way, showing, it isn’t really finished yet or even some exposing flaws in the “design”. The finish is medium at best, but shorter than it should have been. How did it get so light, friendly and simple? High drinkability, but in this case even at 48% ABV isn’t enough. It is a very nice one to drink, but the weakness lets it down a bit, or is it too simple, and maybe that lets it down a bit. Maybe both, the truth often lies in the middle, or were my expectations a bit to high.

Beforehand I wanted to compare this one with the 1995 European oak version, but I think it’s better compared to the Wilson and Morgan Caol Ila, also a young peated Whisky.  Smelling the Caol Ila right after the Lagavulin, it seems to have some exhaust fume notes and clay. Garage, new car. Notes I didn’t pick up on when reviewing it. An unusual and very interesting note, just like the petrol taste in good Rieslings. I now love this Caol Ila even more. Smelling the Lagavulin after the Caol Ila, the Lagavulin shows more barley, bread and cocoa, and definitely more youth. I guess lots of the casks weren’t very active anymore. The Lagavulin is even lighter in colour than the Caol Ila. Although the Lagavulin is slightly higher in ABV the difference is noticeable. The Caol Ila is slightly nuttier with nice fruity notes. It tastes well matured and a bit beyond the 9yo it has under its belt. In this direct comparison, I like the Caol Ila better.

I have bought a few of these Lagavulin 8yo’s on good faith and even though I’m a bit surprised how it turned out, I’m not altogether unhappy with it. It still is pretty decent, but it’s not what I expected it to be, and it may still have to find its place in the bigger scheme of things, but let me say this, the 1995 I mentioned above is way better!

Points: 84

Heartfelt thanks go out to Nico for letting me have a sample.

Four Roses 12yo “Single Barrel” (52.8%, OB, 2012 Limited Edition, SN 81-2R, 174 bottles)

Four Roses seems to be a very transparent producer of Bourbon. First of all they let you know everything about the ten recipes they make and how they are used in their expressions. For those of you who don’t know, There are 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains, giving ten recipes. Apart from the ten recipes, the portfolio seems rather logical too. Starting off with the Four Roses “Yellow”. It is their entry-level Bourbon and is made in large quantities. Next comes a small batch and after that only single barrel expressions, the first of which is reduced to 50% ABV and the rest bottled at cask strength.

As I wrote in the last review of the “Yellow”, they can use all of the ten recipes to get the consistency you want for a bulk product, although most of it is OBSK and OESK, where B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and E is 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. The “K” Yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body.

It gets really interesting when you have one of the Single Barrel expressions at hand since they can be made with only one of the ten recipes. Earlier I already reviewed the 50% ABV single barrel version which is a OBSV, where the “V” yeast strain gives light fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel and creamy notes, and “B” is the high Rye mashbill.

Today we’ll have a look at a limited edition single barrel expression bottled at cask strength and made with the OESK recipe. E is the low Rye mashbill, so I expect it to be sweeter than a “B” and the “K” yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body. So it should be a full-bodied, sweeter, more classic Bourbon than the 50% ABV expression.

Four Roses Single Barrel 2012Color: Dark gold copper, marginally darker than the 50% ABV expression.

Nose: Creamy and sweetish, already less woody and strict than the 50% ABV expression. It starts off with notes of hay and dry grass. Wax with a hint of leather. An old, well maintained saddle maybe? Hints of dried yellow fruits. Apricots I would say. Quite some honey after breathing, but soon after that more dry and dusty (and slightly acidic). Bad morning breath, wow.

Taste: Starts with toffee sweetness, but like the nose, the sweetness soon steps aside to let the wood through. Quite spicy and wood. The wood gives it spice, but also a more nutty and slightly acidic profile. At 12 years old this Bourbon had a lot of time to interact with the wood. The wood leaves, vanilla cinnamon and a hint of honey, but also a slightly soapy and slightly bitter finish. The finish itself starts as an attack, is long, but stays with the woody notes. Even the sweet mashbill can’t do nothing about that. Besides this, I also feel the end of the, somewhat simple, body, and the especially the finish lack a bit of balance. It’s not completely harmonious. I guess this one may have been in the cask too long. The wood won a battle with the sweetness and obviously won, where there shouldn’t have been a battle in the first place.

By the way, the picture here is of another, similar looking 2012 limited edition. The picture is for the 52.9% ABV version from barrel 81-2A, which is a sister cask of our 81-2R. Both come from the same warehouse: SN.

So what’s the verdict about our super premium limited edition? It’s a nice special edition, and a learning experience for the aficionado. I understand the pick and it most certainly is an interesting experience. So should you try it? Yes, should you buy a bottle and drink it by yourself, not really! This one is for sharing, discussion and comparing the other recipes of Four Roses.

Comparison to the 50% ABV expression is easy. That one is sweeter and more easily likeable. The difference in ABV is small, but the age probably made the difference, making the 12yo more about wood. Both are not very complex, but the 50% ABV is definitely more drinkable and better balanced, but also slightly weaker in taste. The limited edition also brings quite a lot of heat to the table. I’m trying both head to head but none is better than the other, although very different. It’s a tie!

Points: 83

Reisetbauer 12yo (48%, OB, Limited Edition)

Time to take a small trip and have a look around some European distilleries producing Single Malt Whisky. We’ll start our mini trip in Austria to have a look at Hans Reisetbauers flagship Whisky, the 12yo. Earlier I already reviewed the 1998 Reisetbauer 7yo. Hans matures his Whisky in casks that once held Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese, one, a dry and the second a sweet White Wine. Hans doesn’t import barley, but grows four hectares of summer brewing barley himself.

“The barley was crushed and malted at 65° C before being cooled and fermented in stainless-steel tanks for around 70 hours. The fermented mash is then twice distilled in copper pot stills. At this pointed the distillate, which has an alcohol content of around 70 per cent, is aged until fully mature in four casks that the top Austrian wine makers Alois Kracher and Heinz Velich previously used for aging Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese.”

Reisetbauer 12yoColor: Slightly copper gold.

Nose: Plastics and fruit. Orchard fruits. Hints of pear, apples. Ear wax. Extremely duty underneath and for a while the plastics dominate the nose. Some of the plastics are slightly burnt. The plastic note is very close to the waxy aroma, which probably comes from the wine casks used. Given some time to breathe, aroma’s of Grappa emerge. If I would venture a guess (and I can be completely wrong here), I would say the grappa note comes from the Chardonnay casks, and the waxy/plastics come from Trockenbeerenauslese (a sweet White Wine). Next up the woody notes, which are quite soft and slightly spicy. Mocha and Latte. The plastics give way, but the Grappa remains. Very interesting distillate. Nosed blind I wouldn’t have guessed this is a Whisky.

Taste: Plastics again and lots of wax. Polyester!That’s it! Have you ever repaired a polyester boat? WYSIWYG (What You Smell Is What You Get). The Polyester is there immediately, but luckily dissipates quite quickly, to give way to wax wood and a winey note. Coffee in the aftertaste. “Do-a-burp™” after drinking this and it’s all plastics again.

Just reading my note about the nose alone, its pretty obvious this is not a Scottish Malt, and reading it all it hardly seems to be a Whisky at all! In case of the 7yo Reisetbauer I reviewed earlier, I found that it already was dominated by the cask used. The 12yo we have at hand is so dominated by the casks, that it is difficult, if not impossible to detect that this is a Whisky at all! This is a Wine (and polyester) finished Single Malt Grappa. If you want a Whisky, you’re better off with the 7yo. Nevertheless, this distillate has a lot of good sides to it too, so maybe it is unfair to hammer it with its off-notes.

Points: 73