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Longrow is a heavily peated single malt produced by Springbank distillery in Campbeltown. It’s named after one of Campbeltown’s many lost distilleries. The Wee Toon was once dubbed “whisky city” by Victorian journalist, Alfred Barnard, because of the proliferation of its distilleries in a relatively small area. When Barnard visited in 1885 there were 21 plants operational. One of which, was Longrow.
Longrow was founded in 1824 by John Ross, one of the earliest legitimate distilleries in the town. When Barnard visited, he was greeted by an 85-year-old Ross, still running the business he had established many years before. Barnard described him as “most hospitable and courteous, and (we) were highly amused by his wit and racy anecdotes.” Of the distillery, he wrote “To reach it we entered a covered archway under the houses, which opened up into a court yard, round which the Distillery buildings are ranged. They are old fashioned and of various styles of architecture. We first inspected the two barley lofts and three malt barns. They are neat buildings, but the roofs are low pitched. At the end there are two Kilns floored with tiles, wherein the furnaces are heated with peat and blind coal”. He continues “…the Still House is one of the quaintest buildings we have seen, and contains two Pot Stills of the smuggler’s pattern, heated by furnaces, three Receivers and Chargers, a small sampling safe, and a steam engine which grinds the mill.” In those days, Longrow was producing in the region of 40,000 gallons per year.
At the time of Barnard’s visit, Ross was the oldest distiller in Campbeltown. Within a year of the journalist’s visit, however, Ross had passed away. Following his death, the distillery was taken over by William and James Greenlees but they found it a complicated proposition. The local area had built up around the distillery, gradually closing it in. The equipment was antiquated, the site was difficult to access and expansion was impossible. Ten years after the death of John Ross, the distillery closed down. Today there is only a solitary warehouse that remains standing. It is currently being used as a bottling plant by Springbank.
Longrow was only the second distillery to close in Campbeltown in four decades but it would not be the last. A combination of factors, including the closure of the local mine, brought the Wee Toon’s proud distilling industry crashing down. Soon, only two would remain: Glen Scotia and Springbank.
Springbank first botted a double distilled, heavily peated malt in the 1980s. They named it Longrow, in honour of the distillery that once stood next door. The whisky in the bottle is probably about as close as you can get to a true taste of the Victorian style of Campbeltown whisky.
Longrow Peated was first released in 2012. It’s bottled at 46%, without chill-filtering or artificial colouring. It retails for around £50.
I reviewed this whisky back in 2018 but it had been a while since I encountered it on a shelf. When I saw it at Stevie’s Drams at Loch Lomond shores, I decided it would be worth buying again and doing a wee re-review. You can read the original piece here.
Smell: Straight away the nose is full of oily smoke but it’s also very malty and gristy. There’s lots of honey and biscuit. Custard creams. Wee bit of lemon. Vanilla. Breakfast cereal. Charcoal. Coal fires! Tar.
Taste: Very much follows on from the experience of the nose. Arrives with lots of malty, honeyed biscuit notes. Then moves into some peppery heat mid-palate. There’s a wee liquorice note in with the spice. Then comes oak char and tobacco smoke. With water the smoke intensifies and becomes quite dominant. A bit like throwing water on a campfire and being confronted with the rising aroma of damp ash and lingering smoke.
Thoughts: A very spirit-led single malt with only the gentlest influence from the oak casks. It’s all about the malt and the peat fire that kilned it. The smoke is intense but not medicinal like Islay. Reminded me of coal fire smoke rising into the air on a winter’s day. The whisky has a wonderfully old-fashioned feel to it. There’s no fancy cask finishes. No over-eager blending of seven different cask types. No movie or videogame tie-in. No Mogwai songs or accompanying comic books. It’s not polished. It’s not precise. It’s strength lies purely in the quality of the spirit. It’s all about the fine work being done at the distillery – not the skills of a blender in a lab hundreds of miles away.
Price: A young, intensely peated single malt. Perfect for those who like that sort of thing, very likely a non-starter for those who don’t. Well priced, traditionally produced and old-fashioned in the best possible way.
For more on Springbank and Longrow visit https://www.springbank.scot/