Longrow is a single malt whisky that is produced by the Springbank distillery. Springbank is located in the town of Campbeltown, which is found on a narrow spit of land that is on the west Highland coast of Scotland. It is Scotland's oldest distillery that has been continuously owned by the same family, the Mitchell's, although it was set up in 1828 by the Reid family (who were related to the Mitchell's by marriage). Springbank has a small capacity with a maximum production capacity of 750,000 litres per year and is one of the few distilleries to do all parts of production on their own site including malting the barley, distillation and bottling.
Longrow takes its name from a former Campbeltown distillery that was next to Springbank but this closed in 1896. Part of that distillery remains and has been converted into Springbank's bottling plant. Springbank produce three different whiskies at the distillery. The first, released under the Springbank name, is lightly peated (around 15ppm) and is distilled two and a half times (this means that the spirit is distilled twice but some of it is allowed to drain back in to the still and is therefore distilled for a third time). The second takes the name Longrow and is heavily peated (about 55ppm) and is distilled twice. The third is called Hazelburn and is completely unpeated (0ppm), distilled three times and is the rarest of the three. The production is split throughout the year with 80% of the time going to Springbank, 10% to Longrow and 10% to Hazelburn.
This Longrow 10 years old is golden in colour with a nose that makes you want to sit an take in the aromas for hours. There is a lovely sweetness that combines malty barley grains with vanilla, some citrus fruit elements (think of lemon and orange zest) and smoky earthy peat (imagine compost soil and damp moss). The smokiness has a slight bitter edge (imagine iodine or antiseptic) but balances well with the other elements. This balance is replicated on the palate where the vanilla and barley mix well with the fresh earthy peat smoke, some caramel, a distinct salty tang and a hint of spiciness (think of black peppercorns). It feels thick in the mouth and rounded with the saltiness giving it a refreshing lighter edge. The finish is very long, smooth and smoky (this feels more like bonfire smoke or ash now). The combination of vanilla, peat and saltiness gives complexity to this very enjoyable finish, with the salty tang leaving your mouth watering and wanting more!
Since Longrow first appeared on the market in 1985, it has been gaining increasing recognition and on this evidence is a serious competitor to the more well known smoky whiskies produced on the neighbouring island of Islay. It is easy to drink and balanced and this would make it a good choice to introduce someone to the smoky whisky style or as an alternative to some of the bigger Islay brands. Longrow 10 years old has a complex mix of characteristics and the smokiness seems less pungent than Islay whiskies of the same or similar peat level. A bottle should cost £35-40 from specialist retailers. A very good whisky.