Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: Longmorn 16 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Ahh the dreaded 'to do' list.  We have them for work, home and well . . . . everything in between.  I seem to be adept, at attracting these paper reminders, and even more skilled at ignoring such mundane papyrus at my peril.

They are a fact of my life.  If I am not facing one drawn up by my assistant at work, I am being handed one, ink not quite dry, by my wife, or peeling it off the fridge as I reach the garage door.

The other evening, I was staring at a yellow one, with neat little lines.  All the tasks were ticked off.  It was late.  Maybe 9pm.  Cold as a witch's tit outside.  Biting winter wind chill outside of about -22 Fahrenheit, as I sat in my black Ford SUV with white road salt licks, in front of a grocery store, in the nearly deserted parking lot, lit by flickering fluorescent street lights.  The night sky twinkled.  Ever notice how brutally cold weather and clear night skies seem to go hand-in-hand?

I got the groceries, dry cleaning, went to the bank machine, and now I actually had a moment with nothing left to do.  A rare moment.  I savored it knowing full well the experience would be fleeting.  In this most pleasant state of calm, I decided to put something new at the top of the yellow lined paper in my hand.  I scrawled in script that might best be described as early Cro-Magnon, one word: "Me."

Yup!  At the top of the To-Do list was me.  My mind wandered, as I surveyed snowbanks and straggler shoppers pushing shopping carts, and I thought it would be nice if Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek had me at the top of their respective to-do lists.  That would be mighty considerate of them.  Really!  The things I think of, when I have a moment for reflection, would raise the blood pressure of any psychiatrist and probably fatten their bank account too.

Anyway, what was I going to do for me?  As of late, I had been a relatively good son, husband, father, compliant/drone civil servant, tax paying automaton to the state, and now I needed a reward.  The world owed me.  What did I do?

I headed directly to the liquor store.

. . .

On the shelf were some left-overs from the recent whisky festival.  One of the bottles was Longmorn 16 years single malt.  Never had any Longmorn.  Matter of fact, didn't know a damn thing about the distillery.  $85.  Not cheap.  Must be good I thought.  The box declared it was non-chill filtered and 48% ABV.  I deserve this handsome whisky I thought to myself.

I opened the box under the suspicious eye of the store clerk and undoubtedly a security camera or two that swiveled to spy on me.  Leather wrapped base of the bottle gave it an air of sophistication.  Like most men, I am visual and many of life's most important decisions are based on looks.  I liked the looks.  I bought it.

. . . .

Back home I got the fireplace going and settled down to my newly acquired malt.

Nose (undiluted)
Apple, pears and vanilla.

Palate (undiluted)
Chocolate, cardamon, orange rind, exotic citrus notes, cloves and honey.

Finish (undiluted)
Grassy, leafy and minty.  Something is off.  Reminiscent of Chai tea (black tea with hints of cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, clove and black pepper -just don't add the milk and you know what I am talking about).  The more I drink of this, the stronger a ginger note is on the finish.

General Impressions
I am disappointed.  This single malt lacks complexity.  The finish is rather strange with the mint and grass notes.  They do not build on a palate that was orange chocolate, honey and cloves.  Hardly any smoke or peat worth mentioning.  That being said, this is not a 'bad' or offensive whisky, just unremarkable other than that peculiar finish.  Kinda like a cliff-hanger ending to a movie.  You walk out of the theater saying to your chum that the movie was okay until the ending.

It is smooth for an ABV of 48%.  However, at the price point it demands, we expect more.  The lack of complexity with an odd finish that is best termed as leafy, will leave you wanting more.

Here is the peculiar aspect to this malt.  Normally at 48% ABV I am thinking that some amount of water is a must.  But, any addition of water fails to improve on the flavor profile.  It becomes easily diluted in taste.  You add less and less water and not seeing any benefit.

There are those malt fans who dogmatically claim a higher ABV and non-chill filtration leads to a great malt. Longmorn is both and it is not a great malt.

If the price point was $20 less, I might be more charitable to this malt.  But, that is not the case.  Accordingly, it will not make the top of my to-do list, just as my name will not appear at the top of Salma's anytime soon.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.  Photo credits: To-Do List photograph taken by Flickr member John Schultz and used here pursuant to a Creative Commons Licence.  Photograph of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz is a promotional photograph for their film Bandida's (2006) widely available on the internet.  The remaining two photographs of Longmorn were taken by me.  Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical/humorous commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.


  1. Ralfy just reviewed a 35 year old Longmorn and he mentioned that he would not be reviewing the standard 16. Instead his recommendation was for the discontinued Longmorn 15.

    1. i guess he does not like the 16. It would be helpful if he would review it anyway, as the Longmorn 15 is discontinued and is quickly if not entirely gone from store shelves.

  2. I used to buy the beige label Longmorn 15 a lot in the late 80s and early 90s because it was available duty free and was among the cheaper single malts with an age statement. It wasn't particularly great, however. I've been curious about these newer (and much more expensive) 16 year old bottlings. They get a lot of respect in the blogosphere. Your tasting notes jibe with my old impressions pretty well though.

    1. Thank you Josh for taking the time to chime in. The fact that my impressions accord with yours means a lot.

      Appreciate it.

  3. Hi Jason! Nice review. I can only speak for myself of course, but I was under the impression that no one is naive enough to think that simply a high strength and non-chillfiltering will yield a great malt. However, what I (we?) think is that it will be BETTER than it would be at 40% and chillfiltered. Do you think that Longmorn would be BETTER if it were bottled diluted and filtered? I doubt it.

    1. Improving Longmorn probably could happen by going back to the drawing board and re-examining the wood management, the sourced barley, water source, changes to distillation, blending, I mean everything.

      Whatever they were doing right with the 15yrs (discontinued), they need to get re-acquainted with pronto!

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Jason, Nice review and interesting too. I'd have figured that the L-16 might have pleased you more, but that's how this hobby is: no universal truths among tasters. Longmorn's 16y has got something I've really enjoyed, that sledgehammer blackberry bush herbaceous note (perhaps minty to some), with wonderful sherry and caramel. Loved it for quite a while, and I have never noticed anything unsound about it. Cheers. JK

    1. Hi Jk! Longmorn just leaves me wanting more of something in this malt. Besides the minty finish that does not seem to compliment the palate for me, again the lack of complexity of flavors given the price point puts me off. I would cut the makers of this malt some slack in regards to the finish if this was being sold for say $25 less. But, the company that owns this brand purposely are trying to market the 16 as a luxury item. Hence, the tougher review.

      Always appreciate your views. Thanks!

  5. Jason I did buy a bottle of Teacher's and the price being low, it is a very nice scotch, I like it. Thanks for the comments on it.

    1. Glad you like it. The nose is a bit petrol like, but the flavour is very good. Lots of peat, smoke, malt, and bacon. Quite complex for the price point. It and Johnnie Black are my "must haves" at all time in the liquor cabinet.

    2. Teacher's had an alcohol taste to it. It's not finished or something. It's on my very short list of yuk scotchs.

    3. Mark, try Teacher's with a teaspoon of water. You might like it better that way.