Re: Longmorn - a Jolly Toper tasting, Edinburgh 14th Oct
Here is the review to this tasting:-
Its that time again. Last Thursday's tasting focused on a good look at Longmorn, the somewhat under used Speyside of considerable status within the cognoscenti. For me this was the first whisky where I suddenly appreciated there was something to this lark. It seemed such a perfect dram- classy, tasty, with a style that seemed particular and somehow superior to what I'd come across before. This was in the mid nineties and the 15yo Seagram bottling which I picked up from Oddbins in Peterculter, perhaps as part of the great £10 off when you buy two deal. Mrs Toper tells me she is due the credit through getting me a bottle for some occassion. Whatever hardly any bottlings I've tried since then have dipped below a treat.
The tasting was curiously poorly attended whereas the next one is all but sold out with the line up far from complete or finalised. Perhaps I over-estimated interest in this curiously low profile stalwart.
The first dram was from Duthies, a 19yo at 46%. My previous experience of using a Cadenheads 18yo at the same strength was bafflingly, for me, negative. It must be said sampling both of these to customers in the shop was not particulalry successful either but I persisited, unfortunately. The overall character is low key with the hallmark toffee aspect turning sweeter and lighter. Of the 5 it had to be first although its not a bad idea to start with something crowd pleasing to get the night off to a good start. Hey ho. 122234444445566: an altogether flat 39%. 'Quite a nice dram, not overly intense or indeed soft, enough to let you know you're drinking a good strength Julie', 'a bit of rough', 'a great opener and stood the test of comparison to No.2 and No.3 favourably', 'starts on the nose like strongly pickled beet via pandrops on the palate, glazed sweeties with water', 'Opel (Vauxhall)', 'smooth, great nose', 'raisins', 'nothing wrong good but not very interesting'.
Next up (I think!) was my old buddy the 15yo 45%. Discontinued 3 years ago to groans from the fans, why fix something that wasn't broken? It wasn't the usual problem of gaps in inventory as the replacement was only a year older and even stronger. Whilst setting up the tasting I was struck by just how appealing the nose on every dram was. Perhaps I have an ingrained affinity to Longmorn but certainly the gentle but confident character offers a great deal. No muscle bound cask or kiln driven superficial veneer just a firm while pleasant style that is so easy to drink. Perhaps the generous 45% and the 15 years take us beyond the 40% 12yo typical Speysider. It was always a bit dearer than a lot of it's peers but still mostly better value. A cross between Cragganmore and Glenfarclas? Its a big distillery too. 8 stills and 3.5M litres annual output. Was/is Chivas Regal and the other blends in the Seagram/Pernod empire so successful that stocks from Longmorn have to be ring fenced for blending? Perhaps with a mega brand like Glenlivet they didn't need or want another big player, they might end up steeling their own customers. Who knows but perhaps the gradual evolving of the malt market will see an actual range of Longmorns appear in time. Fingers crossed. I bought in as many of these to the shop as I could justify with our space and the cash flow issue of having something that sells slowly but is a bit of a gem when other shops have run out or are taking the Michael with the price. I swear I'm picking up some unexpected lemonade with this batch!? 13334455555668 a surprisingly low but stil solid 50%. 'Not as fresh as the first one but more palatable, deep, smooth, soft and well round', 'delightful, a bit of afternoon if you know what I mean', 'hint of a mix of sherry and Bourbon casks, a good mix and a nice dram', 'good quality', 'Fiat', 'longer finish than first one', toffee but dry', 'Eros Ramazoth (Italian singer) would drink/listen if I had nothing else'.
Next the 16yo 48%. More lavishly packaged with a curious stitched leather band at it's base and a solid fancy carton. Of course presentation is not unimportant, especially if your target market is the style conscious. Hence a higher price tag. When this was first released I was disappointed to hear reports of dismay. This was the first time I tried it and I can only say the character is much the same as the batch of 15yo we tried but perhaps a little lighter while the finish lasts a bit longer. This is non-chillfiltered and 48%. Call me a loser but both of these drams are giving me middle palate notes I'd be detecting in a blend and putting it down to the grain element. Mind you it's been a long day. Certainly less sherry influence. Whats not to like? 3344555556666 its gathering steam- 54%. 'Lovely, possibly too much sweetness for me', 'a quicky, matinee style, short and sweet like a donkey tale, not the best', 'not as good as 1 or 2 generally good all round but lacking individual character, nose disappeared when water added,disappointingly', 'good quality', 'VW', 'orange', 'good old friend, Eric Clapton'.
Next: Bladnoch Forum 12yo 53.4% 264 bottles hogshead bottled 23.03.2010. If this tasting was a gear box we've just dropped to 3rd to overtake. This is me in my element when it comes to lively notes of spirit and cask. The Aultmore that went down badly a few tasting's ago had this attitutude but hardly any of the sweetness. The palate is almost electric but it's not all the higher alcohol. I seem to be adding less water as I go on but I'm beginning to suspect the character of a lot of drams are better defined without dilution. Just take smaller more intense sips. Although the lemonade taste has gone there is still the dry piquant appeal. A cracker. Johan thought he was going to be tasting an 11yo from the Forum and voiced doubt but I expect he could only have been pleased with this. Water calms everything down- it turns what was a mind and body invigorating blast of fresh air into a gentle, pleasing, mild, warmer and slighter breath. There are definetly two sides to this coin- but you win wether its heads or tails. However the ghost of Aultmore is amongst us- 0111344 5.5 6678 a slip back down to a below par (not you Par) 44%. 'Without doubt a very astute whisky, peaked at the end, very spoilt', 'water was better but a bit safe, who wants to be safe?! if you do, wear a hat for this one', 'loud, fresh, clean, delightful whisky', 'plenty of rough edges but plenty of character, a rough diamond for sure', 'Porsche', 'smell better than taste', 'Twiggy', 'young and good, very fresh, Amy MacDonald' 'wood+alcohol- not good!'.
This bottling was curiously priced for Raymond's range, of course a great price for the age and strength but given most all other bottlings are even better value using these statistics maybe this ranks as the highest cost year for year.
Finally Gordon & MacPhail's great give away continues: 1971 - 2008 43%. While lining up the drams the colour was an almost text book graduation of tint. This was at one end being a pleasing light walnut hue. On the nose this is also straight out of the lecture theatre- exactly what old whisky should be- deep and inviting, drawing this in requires bigger lung capacity than my feeble frame can accomodate. As old fashioned as the tried and tested label, classy and timeless, I'm eeking every drop out of this one and will be securing a good stash for the inevitable requests for 40th birthday presents come 2011. I could nose this happily for 15 minutes before sipping, I almost feel guilty drinking it- a bit like stealing time. Demerara sugar and oranges there is just so much going on here its ridiculous. The wood is assertive and might have done with half a degree less influence but maybe we got what we did thanks to exactly the right timing. I suppose its okay if you like fantastic whisky. 2(5.5)667888888888: 78%- got there in the end. 'Not for anyone who likes whisky, its easily the worst of the night, £10 a bottle is too steep, not worth the dark colour', 'insest, the mother in law wants it', 'wonderful dram, one to savour amongst friends', 'go down well with a fat Cuban 'Stoggie' on a Summer evening 'en plein air'', 'Aston Martin', 'not worth price', 'refined', 'REM, classic, the highest level', 'classic'.
Well I can't say the average response was particularly favourable, if Longmorn fans turned up to the tasting I wonder if they were pleased or not, if people who just came to a whisky tasting I would they think Longmorn was special? I can't help feeling the choice of drams fell some what shortf showing what a fine malt Longmorn can be but maybe it just suits me more than most. Maybe in the years to come we can re-visit the distillery while so many others need our attention (Clynelish, Ben Nevis, Arran, Bladnoch, Tomintoul, etc) I think that will be a while away.
Next tasting Thursday 28th October- Cadenheads Banff 34yo, Cadenheads Laphroaig 16yo, a mystery sherry dram, Cadenheads Glenkeith 13yo and another £20/17- nearly sold out.