Taste Test: This Underrated Scotch Distillery Just Dropped a Fantastic New 18-Year-Old Whisky

In the world of single malt scotch whisky you got your top-tier, instantly recognizable names like The Glenlivet, The Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Laphroaig. Then there are the hidden gems from under-the-radar distilleries that have been cranking out excellent whisky for a century or more without much of a spotlight: The Glendronach, Aultmore, and Tamdhu are a few that come to mind. Add Longmorn to that list, but there’s a good chance this might change with the relaunch of a new 18-year-old single malt that is truly a fantastic whisky.

Longmorn is owned by parent company Pernod Ricard, which also owns better known distilleries like The Glenlivet and Aberlour. The distillery has been around since 1893, and like many others it has gone through several changes of ownership over the years. Although there have been some previous single malt releases since the 1990s, Longmorn has just never achieved the name recognition of some of its contemporaries—perhaps due in part to the whisky being a key component of Chivas Brothers blends. Interestingly, Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Japanese distillery Nikka, worked there for short spell in 1920 to learn the whisky-making trade, and is said to have modeled his distilleries’ stills after Longmorn’s.

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Now Longmorn is getting a refresh with the launch of two new expressions that are aimed at the luxury market: 18- and 22-year-old whiskies anchoring the lineup instead of your typical 10- or 12-year-old. Both are very good, but the 18-year-old really hits the sweet spot of maturation. It’s aged in American oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads, it’s non-chill filtered (which many believe enhances the flavor), and it’s bottled at cask strength of 57.6 percent ABV. Rich notes of honey and vanilla greet you on the nose, with a hint of cherry syrup and orange, and very little burn despite its high proof. According to Chivas Brothers cask expert Kevin Balmforth, toffee is the signature note of all of Longmorn whiskies. Balmforth has been working with Chivas (now Pernod) distilleries for a quarter of a century, and was involved with the actual distillation of the whisky in the 18-year-old, so it occupies a very special place for him. The toffee note he describes is certainly present here, along with hot honey, mulled cider, salted caramel, butterscotch, and pear flavors.

The 22-year-old is also very good, with those extra four years adding a bit more spice to the palate, but the 18-year-old is really where it’s at. According to Balmforth, these will be ongoing releases in different batches every year, so the makeup of the casks used could vary for future releases—which is something to look forward to based on this inaugural whisky. Longmorn 18 is a fantastic introduction to the distillery for those who are unfamiliar, and will be a welcome refresh of the core lineup for those already in the know. No cask finishing or other whisky gimmicks were used, just the careful selection and blending of some of the distillery’s best barrels resulting in yet another bottle for scotch fans to hunt down.

Score: 95

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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