When I think of dearly departed expressions, Longmorn 15 year old is always near the top of my list. It’s excellent whisky, which is, of course, the main reason its absence is felt more keenly – but it’s not the only reason – what happened after Chivas discontinued this bottling still never fails but to piss me off. The 15 year old was replaced in 2007 with a 16 year old expression – one year older and with a slightly different marriage of casks, but still perfectly decent enough. Fast forward to 2016 and any semblance of sanity was about to be thrown out the window.
Longmorn is not a well-known whisky outside of enthusiast circles, but, similarly to Mortlach, Chivas decided that the brand was in need of some serious premiumisation – I.E. lesser quality whisky in new glassware and, importantly with much higher price tags. Hoping that they could transform Longmorn into a Veblen good (where the higher the price of the product, the more demand there is – people being inherently stupid, or at least companies believe this to be the case), a new Longmorn range was launched in the autumn of 2016. Longmorn Distiller’s Choice became the entry point of the range. A new 16 year old (replacing the 2007 version) followed with a price point of double the previous edition at £90. To top it all off, a 23 year old with an initial suggested RRP of (wait for it, wait for it) – nearly £800! A price so utterly ludicrous that even the retailers ignored it and pitched the product closer to £400.
I’m not sure how successful Chivas has been with this relaunch, certainly the new 16 year old is not a patch on its predecessor (we’ll bring you a review in a future). However, I would argue that this type of opportunistic cash-grab, masked under a veil of ‘relaunching’ and ‘premiumisation’ is something that every whisky enthusiast needs to be both aware of, and also highly resistant to. I for one don’t particularly like the sound of a whisky world where a very average 16 year old whisky costs £90. This can’t be allowed to happen. We all need to talk with our feet.
Anyhow, rant over, let’s get back to the job in hand – reviewing the older 15 year old. Much happier times.
Nose: Honey, herbs and flowers. Lively and grassy to start, this offers a bouquet of garden-fresh aromas – heather honey, cut grass, nettles and flax – alongside some appealing fruit notes - ripe red apples and apple turnovers, peaches, gooseberries and grapes. There’s quite a look going on here behind the fresh and fruitiness – polish, marzipan, resinous sappy oak and some mild salinity. Water brings out some citrus notes and also reveals some cask influence in the form of ginger spicing.
Taste: A solid arrive offers a textural mouthfeel which has a certain oiliness. Dried spiced apples, orange and lemon peels meet very generous cinnamon and pepper spicing. Underlying maltiness shines through and is supported by grainy cereals, freshly toasted bread and brass polish. Woodiness is quite high, but again, quite sappy rather than old and tired. The addition of water softens the fruits and spices, but loses some of pleasant oompth they provide. Personally, I’d just go in at 45% on this one.
Finish: Quite long and quite spicy with ginger and pepper in the back of the palate. Slight bitter and tannic in places.
Longmorn 15 year old is exceedingly good, which makes its retirement all the more saddening. The nose is delicate but defined, the palate much more complex and powerful. Full-bodied, spicy and well worth seeking out if you find a bar with a bottle hidden amongst its shelves. Things were simpler then.