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Produced at Springbank distillery, Longrow is a famously heavily peated variant of Springbank. While the classic Springbank is distilled two and half times Longrow is only distilled twice and is peated to around 40-45 parts per million phenol. It was designed to replicate the old Campbeltown style of malt whisky and as such is a very distinctive spirit, unlike Islay or other peated aminland whiskies, it retains a true individuality and has many devout fans.
1973/1974: The first years.
Oddly enough Longrow was distilled in 73 and 74 but then not again until 1987. This makes for some quite distinctive differences between the two eras of distillation. Longrows produced in 73/74 were produced more slowly and are notably more old school in style. These Longrows show massive, oily phenols, tar, seaweed, peat and delicate stone fruits. There are some aged official expressions, notably a sixteen and a twenty five year old, which are both beautiful. The finest expressions from these years are undoubtedly the Italian bottlings done by Samaroli, in particular the 16yo single casks from 1974, both bourbon and dark sherry expression exist and they are all out of this world. In a league of their own, up there with the best of the world's peated malts. The 73's are excellent as well and are perhaps drier with more coastal, smoky, citrusy character. For most people they are incredible but not as mind expanding as the 74s. The only problem with any Longrow from these years is the price, they are incredibly desirable and you will never find one cheap. If you get a chance to taste one of them you'll understand why.
1987-Present: Continuous production.
Longrow has been made as a continuous spirit since 1987. It is a different spirit from the 73's and 74's, however it is still a fantastic and individual whisky. The style that has been developed since 87 is a very fresh and coastal spirit, full of bonfire, seashore, citrus and smoke characters, often with slightly dirty peat notes and some nutty, fruity qualities. The spirit produced in 87 was some of the finest and was all purchased by Samaroli in Italy who has since offered many fine bottlings from this year, they are the most expensive of the modern Longrows that you will find. There have been regular bottlings of 10yo Longrow since the late nineties and in recent years very fine expressions of 14 and 18yo Longrow have appeared. The 18yo in particular was excellent, showing an unusual delicacy and wonderful complexity. Various independent single casks have appeared in recent years as well, notably at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and last year some stunning casks were available from Berry Brothers and Rudd. Longrow remains one of the most individual spirits in Scotland and retains a very refreshing old school minerality and coastal dryness to its profile, long may it continue.