Back once again, with more whisky in tow. This month has a rather short list of bottles coming in to the LCBO, but there are a few interesting items (some good, some not so good) that are on the shelves that will get posted in a separate review. So without further adieu, let's get down to brass tacks.
August 04/2012 Release:
Well this is more of a 'we had nothing new to get out yet, so here is something we found on ours shelves' release. The LCBO proudly re-releases Longrow CV. This is a heavily peated version of Springbank's distillate (we're not talking Islay smokey heavy here folks, more like manageable amounts of peat). Springbank Distillery has a very fond place in my heart as they are one of the few distilleries that still do it all by hand. I mean all of it: there are no computers, no complex machinery in the production line, and nothing to get between you and the final spirit. Longrow came about as an experiment in making an Islay style whisky on the mainland. It was so successful that by 1992 the distillation became a regular part of the Springbank family, and adopted the now silent distillery name of Longrow (c. 1824). The double distillation process used is true to it's name and the distillery itself is a true relic, resurrected from the ashes of many years of neglect. Now, it might seem a little worrisome in regards to quality control issues to not have any machinery or intense scrutiny of the distillate, however there is actually very intense scrutiny, from the senior production staff. They are quite frequently nosing and tasting the distillate to monitor the quality and changes. Think of it this way: this is based on an agricultural product which will change with the seasons, ambient conditions and even the soil quality it's grown in. This makes it a challenge to continually make the same flavour profile, which requires blending single malts into a 'super-malt'... I'm looking in your direction Macallan & Glenfiddich. It's not the the quality that changes (in fact Springbank is one of the best quality whiskies on the market IMO), in fact the spirit itself changes ever so slightly. Batch variations are the subtle differences that make it so good. It shows that if Joe on the production line cuts the tails coming into the spirit safe a little early on one day to catch a football match, and later then next day to avoid cutting early 2 days in a row, the changes in the final product produce subtle variances. That aside, this is a great whisky and an excellent intro to Campbeltown region whiskies (there's only about 4 of them... Hazelburn, Springbank & Longrow in one distillery and Glen Scotia being the other). The CV variation (curriculum vitae), is exactly that: a resumé of sorts showcasing what Longrow is all about in a single bottle. It's a blend of Longrow finished in a variation of casks (including Port, Sherry, Bourbon and Rum), giving this malt a fantastic creamy nose and slow developing peat. On the nose you'll find things like vanilla marshmallows, subtle wood fires, heather, sweet spice cake, minerals chalk or ground limestone, subtle brine and hints of medicinal iodine, with peat being ever present throughout. In the mouth, spice and peat right upfront. Notes of dried tobacco, candied lemon peel, smoked fish, sweet grains and vanilla (like oatmeal and vanilla pudding together), dried cocoa powder (the regular, not dutch process... which is less acidic) and sweet oak. The finish is long and slow, bringing waves of peat, limestone, brine, oak and caramel all over the place. It seems sort of unorganized but also incredibly complex akin to a brilliant scientist's notebook. There are notes in the margins, notes written in other languages, newspaper articles glued in, pictures stapled onto pages and such. In the whole sense of things it seems like a notebook of random jottings, but really it's a window into the scientist's head and their inner workings. This is a great starter to get into the peats, and also into Springbank's large collection of malts. This comes highly recommended, and at only $82.95/bottle for a unchillfiltered, no colour added premium mega-blend.... this is a great deal. Check your local LBCO <HERE> for your bottle today.
August 18/2012 Release:
Up next is... wait, what? You thought there was more? No, sadly that's all they gave us that round, and only another single bottle for this round too. Isle of Arran Amarone Cask Finish makes a glorious re-appearance at the LCBO for this release. This beautiful pink whisky (like seriously Rosé pink), is a fragrant and richly finished Arran whisky. Jim Murray called it 'pehaps the best Arran nose of all time' (which is the Madeira finished CS IMO), and awarded it a 96. Jim Murray is an over-reference whisky writer in my opinion. He has both a great nose and palate, but just because he's toted as the next Michael Jackson doesn't make his word law (Editor's note: expressions are my personal opinion so feel free to take this with a grain or three of salt; especially should you actually be Jim Murray). That being said, I do love the Arran malts and I really love this finish! This one is a trifecta of excellence: Served at 50% ABV (this is an old school drinkers preference referred to as The Golden Strength by die hard Scotch fanatics), 100% natural colour, and no chill filtration takes place on any Arran malts (See ref: HERE). These are the things that get me excited (yeah, as I write that I realize my life may need more excitement), and get my mouth watering. In the glass, it's a gorgeous pink colour. On the nose the whisky is quite subtle to start. Notes of rose petals, toasted almond cakes, sweet chewy candies, chocolate covered orange peel, hints of subtle floral notes, cranberry, dark cocoa and dried cherries all intermix creating a fantastic breath. Then you put it in your mouth. Holy! This goes from soft an subtle to incredibly complex and deep. This list here is long: Turkish delight candy, dark chocolate covered cherries, toasted almonds, cooked fruits, honeydew melon, brine, butterscotch like a salted caramel, dark plums (very ripe and fruity), a dash of cinnamon and a twist of nutmeg make for something other-worldly in the mouth. The finish is medium in length, but rich and rewarding. The cooked fruit, almond and cherry, and brine go on and mix with worked oak, subtle wood smoke and more dark fruits but also don't detract from the whisky at the same time. Great balance, great body and flavour and a great bottle. Check you local LCBO <HERE> soon as these don't last long once someone has tried it. Even at $77/bottle this is a great buy.
So there we go, 2 bottles re-released, and what great bottles at that! I strongly suggest that you look into one or both of them should you be interested in trying real artisan made whisky. The 2 distilleries mentioned above are 2 of just a handful that make astonishingly good spirits among the many that are controlled by the beverage giants. So as usual I wish you happy dramming, and as always: Keep your stick on the ice, and the ice out of our glass.