Longmorn coming

The Speyside malt whisky that has been a cult hero among blenders, independent bottlers and connoisseurs is set to gain wider recognition with new 22YO and 18YO expressions and announcement that the latter will be the youngest in their range

Food and Drink 28 Mar 2024

Longmorn landscape

Longmorn landscape

Single-malt Scotch distillery Longmorn has a special place in the history of a great whisky nation. It’s just that the nation is Japan. In 1920, a young man from Hiroshima called Masataka Taketsuru began his whisky education as an apprentice there. He later returned home to found Nikka and become known as the father of Japanese whisky.

There are other Longmorn fans closer to home though. For many years, Longmorn single malt has been the secret passion of connoisseurs – not to mention a favourite of blenders. Independent bottlers such as Gordon & MacPhail – based in Elgin, not far from Longmorn’s home – often release Longmorns that are in demand. Kevin Balmforth, the blending manager for Chivas Regal and Royal Salute says, ‘Blending over the years, we use our own 13 distilleries, but we bring in liquid from other distilleries too. So I’ve visited a lot of single malt distilleries over the years. I can say, honestly, that Longmorn is hands-down the most consistently high-quality.’

Longmorn's new 18- (£220) and 22-year-olds (£350) presented in stylish contemporary packaging
Longmorn’s new 18- (£220) and 22-year-olds (£350) presented in stylish contemporary packaging

What Longmorn has not had in the contemporary age of single malts, however, is recognition to match stablemates such as The Glenlivet or Aberlour. That may well change, however, thanks to a luxury makeover and a relaunch with new 18- (£220) and 22-year-olds (£350) presented in some of the most stylish contemporary packaging. The 18-year-old is now to be the distillery’s youngest whisky – no eight, 12 or 15YO entry points; straight in at voting age.

Longmorn 22 Year Old Single Batch Single Malt Whisky
Longmorn 22 Year Old Single Batch Single Malt Whisky

It’s a limited annual-batch production, so there will be slight variations from year to year to keep the connoisseurs interested, but it is one of the most accessible of single malts, which will offer broad appeal. The Speyside distillery produces classic regional fruitiness, but Balmforth says that even before ageing in oak, it has a creamy toffee sweetness. That is highlighted by maturation predominantly in American oak, which envelops baked apple and poached pear flavours in sweet vanilla fudge and chocolate notes.

‘For the first releases, we’ve gone quite balanced, and then we can play around with that in future releases. We’ve got flex to go a little bit richer, maybe a slightly drier finish, or we can go really, really sweet,’ he grins.

Despite the image whisky brands would like to convey, not every bottle on the off-licence shelf has been nosed in person by a blender when being disgorged from the barrel – often the master blender or distiller is based in Edinburgh or Glasgow, not on site. At Chivas Brothers, according to Balmforth, everything over the age of 18 does get the hands-on treatment. ‘We’re quite traditional blenders. Even though we have selected and sampled every cask earlier on, at least one of us will return to check every single cask before it’s emptied – as a double check.’

Both the quality and exclusivity of these Longmorn releases is reflected in rich and elegant packaging. The purple and gold Art Deco-style design is eye-catching and inspired by a steam railway and the station in the grounds of the distillery which first distributed Longmorn to the wider world in the 19th century. In the 21st, it’s available online.