Longmorn has unveiled two new single malt whiskies bottled under the distillery's own name, the 18 Years Old and 22 Years Old, as it celebrates its 130th year of production.
The distillery near Elgin was founded in 1894 by entrepreneur John Duff. Its malt whisky has long been a desired component for blends, renowned for its rich, warming profile. In 1919, Japanese whisky's founding father Masataka Taketsuru undertook an apprenticeship at the distillery. In 1970, it became a founding member of The Glenlivet Distillers along with The Glenlivet and Glen Grant. The company was bought by Chivas Brothers in 1978, which in turn was bought by French spirits giant Pernod Ricard in 2001.
Pernod Ricard uses Longmorn whisky as a component in its Scottish blended whisky portfolio and also bottles Longmorn single malts as part of its Secret Speyside range. Other independent bottlers, notably Gordon & MacPhail, have also showcased its whiskies, but these are the first single malts to be bottled by the distillery itself in a number of years.
The Longmorn 18 and 22 Years Old will be small-batch annual releases, all bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and with natural colour. The single malt spirit is primarily matured in American oak, which Kevin Balmforth, cask expert at Chivas Brothers, says complements Longmorn’s characteristic creamy toffee notes. “The American oak adds honey and vanilla, all those sweet flavours, it is really easy drinking,” he says.
“I have been blending at Longmorn for 25 years, since I started with Chivas Brothers, and hands down it is the most consistent high-quality distillery that we have and that I know,” Balmforth continues. “It has been really well known within the industry for a long time and is somewhat coveted.”
Jayne Murphy, global marketing director for Chivas Brothers, says, “Over the years Longmorn has had a lot of one-off special releases, it has always been part of the Secret Speyside portfolio, and over that time it has built a bit of a fan base. Longmorn has a unique history and story, it has been ceaselessly distilling whisky for 130 years, it seems like a great time to relaunch the range and bring out some new additions. Also, the desire for single malt has definitely increased – consumers are looking for more choices, more variations.”
The increasing popularity of single malt whiskies, and particularly Scotch, around the world is a key driver in the timing of these Longmorn releases. (The global launch event for the whiskies took place in Los Angeles, California on 30 January, the USA being a rapidly growing market for Chivas.) Murphy mentions the company’s big-name single malts – The Glenlivet and Aberlour in Speyside and Scapa in Orkney – which all have “dedicated fan bases”, and mentions that some of its other small-scale malt distilleries will continue to be profiled by the Secret Speyside range.
“The appetite for single malts is massively growing. We have huge consumer bases in the US and Asia, with single malts being a relatively new category in places like China,” she says. “We are always looking to push things and try things and look for innovative ways to finish our single malt whisky.
She adds that the higher age statements on the Longmorn single malts (the annual releases will never be under 18 years of age) give Longmorn a unique positioning. “Age is seen as quality and that is why we wanted to bring Longmorn out as an 18-year-old. The blenders thought this was the optimal age… but consumers are hungry for knowledge, that is what ultimately brings them into the single malt category.”
There are some quirks in Longmorn’s set-up – its wash still and spirit still are located in different rooms, and it is one of few Scotch whisky distilleries (along with others such as The Dalmore) to have its condensers outside – but, as Balmforth says, “the proof is in the pudding”.
The Longmorn 18 Years Old and 22 Years Old are available from the Whisky Exchange, priced at 250€ (£210) and 400€ (£340) respectively.