Longrow Red Pinot Noir (4th Edition) 12 Year Old

Longrow_Red_Pinot_Noir_1         Longrow_Red_Pinot_Noir_2

At last! Another Longrow Red released! I am a big fan of the Longrow Red series and I am pleased to see that they are keeping up the good work at Springbank. Longrow is the heavily peated spirit that comes from the Springbank Distillery. Basically Springbank does three core expression lines: Springbank, Hazelburn, and Longrow. Springbank is the most well known and has moderate levels of peat. Hazelburn is unpeated and is named after an old neighboring distillery that Springbank enveloped. Fun fact: Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky, spent a few months at the original Hazelburn learning the craft (this was part of his honeymoon with his new wife Rita). Longrow was Springbank’s response to the peat monsters coming out of Islay. Basically Springbank dedicates certain parts of the year for distilling each type of spirit. No worries, they give the stills a good wash between each.

The Longrow Red series was started in 2012 with the Cabernet Sauvignon.The idea behind the line is to experiment with partial or full maturation of Longrow spirit in various red wine casks (Port is a wine!).

When we went to Campbeltown to visit Springbank Distillery, we were told that Springbank had initially intended to release 4 editions of Longrow Red thus the Pinot Noir should be the last (although the sudden rise popularity may convince Springbank to change their minds).

From looking around on the web, it seems that the first edtion, Cabernet Sauvignon, was not favorably received. The Shiraz seemed to enter the market unnoticed and there were few reviews to indicate the general consensus on it. Then when the Port came out last year, Longrow Red seemed to instantly become a hit. The popularity of the Port meant that there was much anticipation for the Pinot Noir release this year. Even though there were 9000 bottles for each edition, the release of the Pinot Noir saw a shift in attitude amongst retailers, with many retailers limiting sales to one bottle per person.

So far these are the editions of Longrow Red:

1st Edition: Cabernet Sauvignon 11 years 53.7% (7 years ex-bourbon 4 years Cabernet Sauvignon)

2nd Edition: Australian Shiraz 11 years 53.7% (6 years ex-bourbon 5 years Australian Shiraz)

3rd Edition: Port 11 years 51.8% (11 years port)

4th Edition: Pinot Noir 12 years 52.9% (~11 years ex-bourbon ~1 year in New Zealand Pinot Noir)

So it’s interesting to note that this is the first Longrow Red to not be 11 years old. It also has the shortest maturation in a wine cask.

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SMWS 127.42 Port Charlotte Peat Freak Heaven

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This is the second newest bottling of Port Charlotte by SMWS (127.43 is currently the newest) and one of the oldest bottlings of Port Charlotte at the moment. Port Charlotte is the heavily peated whisky produced by the Bruichladdich Distillery. This particular bottling was released just after SMWS started restricting sales of certain whiskies to phone orders at specific times of day. I suspect SMWS has implemented this new sales strategy to prevent people from hoarding whiskies with potential collectors value. Since the Port Charlotte distilling began in 2001, you won’t find much older than this right now.

Bottler: SMWS

Distillery: Bruichladdich (Port Charlotte)

SMWS Name: Peat Freak Heaven

Age: 12 years

Distilled: 2002/6/21

Number of Bottles: 127

Cask: Refill Bourbon

ABV: 63%

Price: £61.30 from SMWS

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Hakushu 12 Years Old

Hakushu_12

Hakushu, the lesser known brother of Yamazaki. Both Yamazaki and Hakushu have many different still shapes to be able to produce a wide range of spirit. While Scottish blenders are able to use whiskies from virtually any of the distilleries in Scotland, Japanese blenders are typically limited to the whiskies produced by their company. Hence, many stills at each distillery for many different kinds of whisky. The big difference between Hakushu and Yamazaki whisky is that Hakushu is peated. It’s not that mega in your face Islay kind of peat but a more reasonable level of smokiness. In general peaty whiskies have not done well in Japan. Some of the earliest Japanese whisky had trouble selling due to the peat levels that were designed to emulate the highland whiskies of the time. But Hakushu brings a bit of smoke to the equation which adds to the complexity of their blends and provides a nice contrast to Yamazaki.

The Hakushu lineup has the same ages as the Yamazaki lineup: NAS, 12,18, and 25. It seems like whatever Yamazaki bottles, Hakushu gets a similar bottling. Although Hakushu may not be as famous as Yamazaki, it is certainly not in any way inferior. It has its own distinct style which I think complements Yamazaki quite well. I guess that was Suntory’s whole point of building the distillery.

It is a bit harder to find Hakushu, but I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Type: Single Malt

Distillery: Hakushu

Age: 12

ABV: 43%

Price: ~£75 (£73.81 from Master of Malt)

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Taketsuru 12 Years Old

Taketsuru_12

The Taketsuru 12 is a blended malt from Nikka comprised of malt whisky from Yoichi and Miyagikyo. It is named after the founder of the Nikka Whisky Company, Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru is known as the father of Japanese whiskies and his story is truly inspiring. I’ll write about that later.

While Nikka have released quite a few “pure malts” in the west, this one is a bit different in that it is completely Japanese. This might come as a shock to some readers but the Pure Malt Series (Red, Black, and White) actually contain whisky from the  Ben Nevis distillery which is owned by Nikka. From what I’ve heard, it is actually cheaper for Nikka to produce spirit at Ben Nevis and ship it over than it is to produce spirit in Japan. Makes sense considering they mostly import their malt from Europe anyway.

Type: Blended Malt

Distillery: Yoichi and Miyagikyo

Age: 12 Years

ABV: 43%

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Hibiki 12 Years Old

Hibiki_12

If you’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation, you have heard of the Hibiki blend. You may recall Bill Murray holding up a glass of whisky saying “For relaxing times, make it Suntory time.” Indeed this blend is created by the biggest Japanese whisky company, Suntory. Suntory has a long history with whisky involving the founder Shinjiro Torii and the Japanese whisky king Masataka Taketsuru. I won’t go too much into it now but I’ll write a post on Japanese whisky history later.

The Hibiki line consists of the 12, 17, 21, 30, and the new no age statement Hibiki. The 12 used to be the entry level whisky to the line up but I guess with whisky prices moving on up, Suntory felt it was necessary to introduce something that would take the place of the 12 in price range.

Recent price hikes have been implemented in Japan for Suntory whiskies. See Nonjatta. While prices in the west have soared due to the increased interest in Japanese whiskies after Jim Murray’s proclamations.

Whisky economics aside, the Hibiki 12 is an interesting blend. The word on the street is that part of the whisky going into the blend was aged in plum wine casks. As far as I know this was only done in the 12 year old expression. I really wish they would release a single malt exclusively from plum wine casks but alas they do not seem keen on it.

If you ever see a bottle of Hibiki in the shop, you’ll notice it’s excellent bottle. Some people aren’t as fascinated by it as I am but I think it looks rather smart. It reminds me of something out of an old detective movie. The bottle has 24 facets which supposedly represents the Japanese calendar with some people saying 24 seasons or months. I am not sure which but it is beautiful.

The malt in this blend comes from Yamazaki and Hakushu, while the grain comes from Chita.

Origin: Japan

Type: Blend

ABV: 43%

Price: ~£55 (£50.80 from Master of Malt)

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