Earlier in the year, Highland distillery Wolfburn added its third permanent expression to its range in the form of the peated Morven. Now, as we head into the Autumn months, the Thurso distillery is back with a fourth entry – Langskip. The whisky is the distillery’s highest strength general release to date, clocking in at 58% ABV – considerably more pokey than the 46% utilised for the core range Northland, Aurora and Morven releases.
Langskip is named after one of the two primary types of Viking era vessels (Knorrs – merchant ships, and Langskips - 55ft longships utilised for raiding). It’s drawn from a marriage of 1st fill bourbon barrels from 2013 (the distillery’s first production year) and 2014. I’ve only seen it for sale at one UK outlet so far (at a price considerably higher than can be found outside the UK – and supposedly that’s at a discount too!), but the European price sticker seems to be around €45-50, so given the poor £/€ exchange rate, I’d expect a similar proposition when this starts appearing at major retailers shortly.
This would put Langskip within the same price bracket as the three other Wolfburn core range products. In this day and age, when many distilleries think that £100+ is a reasonable ask for a 3/4 year old whisky at standard strength - Wolfburn should be commended for sticking to their market proposition. Over time, this will engender much more brand loyalty than the overpriced and overpacked inaugural/early editions that many younger distilleries are foisting onto the market. Wolfburn are playing the longer game - and I'm sure in doing so, they'll have more people along for the duration of the journey.
Nose: Soft butterscotch is greeted with delicate toffee apple, vanilla custard and lemon meringue pie. A slight coppery aroma hints at the youthfulness of the spirt, but also more or less passes after a few minutes in the glass. In the background, sponge cake, peanut brittle and slight salted caramel alongside a pleasant zestiness – lime margaritas. The addition of water expresses maltiness – barley water – as well as coconut shavings and buttered toast.
Taste: Oily and thick on arrival with plenty of texture. Eminently drinkable, even at 58% ABV. Vanilla toffee leads off, bolstered by a building pepperiness – more white pepper, but still with plenty of spicy kick leading to a sense of chilli pepper in the mid-palate. Softening this peppy delivery is soft peak meringue, white chocolate (think Milky Bars) and a slight cakey biscuitiness that sits with a dash of citrus – Key Lime Pie. In the back palate, tartness continues, playing off against the cask influence spicing – grapefruit and freshly pressed grape juice. Reduction once again brings out the underlying maltiness of the Wolfburn spirit – breakfast cereals and oatmeal. It’s also joined by an interesting metallic note – not copper, more steely.
Finish: Medium to long, pleasantly drying and with tingling white pepper, chilli flakes and a touch of lime.
Langskip is a welcome addition to Wolfburn’s developing repertoire. As with many of the already released expressions, Langskip is spirit-forward – and that’s just what I want, and admire about this distillery. Rather than following the pack and relying primarily on the flavours imparted by 1st fill bourbon, this young whisky stands on the merits of the quality of its distillate. The result is fresh and crisp with a punchy ABV that really helps with the delivery of defined aromas and flavours. Interestingly, despite the high ABV, whilst there’s youth, there’s no overt rawness here – everything has been well married. For fans of the distillery and newcomers alike, this longship is certainly worth taking a cruise on.