Longmorn (Pronounced: LONGmorn)
Benriach, Glenlossie, Coleburn, Linkwood
4 Wash stills, 4 Spirit stills
3,500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Pernod Ricard / Chivas Group (since 2001)
Elgin, Morayshire, IV30 3SJ, Scotland
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - Diageo and Pernod Ricard team up to buy Seagram's
before the prey is divided.
The Chivas Group ends up in the portfolio of Pernod Ricard.
2007 - A significantly more expensive 16yo expression replaces the affordable 15yo OB that was bottled at 45%.
The new sixteen years old expression is bottled at 48% ABV.
The Longmorn distillery kept popping in and out of my purely personal
top ten over the past few years. It initially arrived in my Top 10 thanks
to the affordable and very decent 15 years old official bottling that was
available in the 1990's. However, in recent years this 15yo has been
replaced by a far less impressive (but much more expensive) 16yo OB.
The remaining redeeming factor were independent bottlings of older
but still reasonably priced independent bottlings from the early 1970's.
Those old stocks
seem to have dried up some time ago, so Longmorn
has now dropped from my Top 10. The 16yo official bottling is still quite
a decent dram, but at the new price level there are more than enough
alternatives - especially in the 'malty mainstream' segment of malts.
Anyway - let's look at the history of Longmorn now. It was founded in 1895 by John Duff who had founded the Glenlossie distillery two decades earlier. During the first half of the 19th century some illicit distillers and smugglers were still active in Scotland, but in the second half of the 1800's the whisky industry had evolved into a mostly legal business, run by 'proper' businessmen.
While their grandparents might have still seen illicit distillation going on with their own eyes,
John Duff's generation operated in an environment where the whisky industry was a legitimate
business with regular jobs. John Duff actually had such a regular job for a few years (manager
at the Glendronach distillery) before he suddenly decided to run a hotel.
Nevertheless, the whisky world kept pulling on John's heartstrings and in
1876 he founded John Duff & Co. together with a few business partners.
They started work on the Glenlossie distillery near the town of Elgin right
away and managed to get it up and running within a year.
After about a decade at Glenlossie John and his family emigrated to South
Africa with plans to start a new distillery in Transvaal. John invested large
sums of money in what would quite probably been the first malt whisky
distillery on the African continent, but his plans were obstructed by the
South African president Paul Kruger. The president had an aversion
against anything British, so he wasn't supportive of John's plans.
At some point John decided the conditions in Africa were not really
suitable for his entrepreneurial spirit. He left for the United States
of America to try his luck there, but found that it hadn't improved.
In the USA quite a few whiskey distillers were active (some of them illegal) and they were
not waiting for extra competition - especially not somebody that came from the UK, their old
colonial overlords. So, in 1892 John returned to Scotland with his family where he managed
to find another job as distillery manager - this time at Bon Accord distillery in Aberdeen.
When the Bon Accord distillery (later renamed to North of Scotland) was destroyed by a fire
in 1910, John had already moved on to new things - founding Longmorn Distillery Company.
At the very end of the 19th century Scotland experiences a huge 'whisky boom'.
John Duff wanted to take advantage of the surge in demand for whisky, so he partnered up with George Thomson and Charles Shirres to create the Longmorn Distillery Company in 1893. They chose a site on the Rothes road south of Elgin where an old grain mill had been active since circa 1600. Construction of Longmorn distillery started in 1894 and the work was finished before the year was over. If my information is correct production at Longmorn started in December 1894.
In 1897 John Duff bought out his partners and just one year later he built Benriach distillery
(a.k.a. Longmorn #2) right next to Longmorn. However, it's a sign of the volatile times that
John declared bankruptcy in the very same year. The shares were eventually sold to James
R. Grant. This signalled the start of a long and prosperous time for the Longmorn distillery.
The floor maltings at Longmorn were in use until 1970, after which they were converted to
a boiler room for the distillery. The 4 wash stills were directly coal fired until quite recently.
This way of heating stills took a lot of monitoring and good judgement from the stillman. One
of the reasons that this worked for Longmorn was a reconstruction of the still house in 1974.
When they expanded the number of stills from 4 to 8, they removed two spirit stills from the
original still house and replaced them with two new wash stills, bringing the total to four.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring filling store was converted to hold four spirit stills. This allowed each building to provide
the exact amount of heat that was desired in a way that did not require massive amounts of skilled manpower.
The direct coal firing of the stills at the Longmorn distillery ceased in 1994.
1) The name 'Longmorn' actually evolved from the name of a missionary named Maernanog who died in 625 A.D.
He was the one who supposedly brought Christianity to the area around Moray. After his death a small church was built in his honor. The church was named "The church of St. Marnoch" - later Anglicised to Longmorn.
2) Longmorn distillery has a workable steam engine and a disused waterwheel which was used to power the rummagers in the wash stills in the past.
3) The peat for the Longmorn malt whisky comes from mosses on the Mannoch Hill.
4) Building Longmorn required an investment of 20.000 pounds. John Duff considered this a bargain given the perfect location of the distillery; close to a railroad with plenty of sources for water, barley and peat nearby.
5) The malt whisky that was produced at Longmorn quickly became popular with blenders. The National Guardian wrote in 1897: 'Longmorn jumped into favour with buyers from the earliest day on which it was offered.'
6) Longmorn is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
7) Longmorn was one of the last distilleries that switched from direct coal heating to steam heating in 1994.
Longmorn 16yo (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Malty with the faintest hint of smoke. Fragrant but subtle with light fruits and spices. Mostly malty...
Something vaguely 'veggy' and other 'green' aroma's. Some 'definition', but not a lot of development over time.
Taste: Malty. Evolved fruits. Dries out in the centre and slightly herbal finish. Dried apple? A hint of soap?
A cool, gentle burn. Hints of coffee and menthol. Not terribly expressive, but I'd cautiously recommend it.
Score: 81 points - the style of the malty profile remains quite close to that of the old 15yo OB at 45% ABV.
Longmorn 17yo 1992/2010 (53.9%, Adelphi, Cask #48430, 186 Bts.)
Nose: Light and fruity. Leaning in a flowery direction, but not too much. Hints of clay, meat and smoke.
Taste: Sweet and quite powerful start. Grows grittier in the malty centre. Malty, medium dry finish. Menthol?
Score: 82 points - a very decent malt whisky which would have earned more points with some extra complexity.
Longmorn 1964/2010 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail Licenced bottling for LMDW, 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead, C#1034)
Nose: Sherried, rich, smoky and spicy. A style of whisky that I enjoy a lot with heaps of complexity. Wonderful!
Tea. Could it be that in the days of direct coal heating, more different carbohydrates were formed in the whisky?
Taste: Woody and dry start, followed by loads of subtle fruits. Bonfires. An excellent chewy mouth feel.
Score: 92 points - One of many brilliant casks of Longmorn that G&M had lying around in their warehouse.
Longmorn 30yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Big and sherried with a fair dose of wood and fruits. Tomato? Pepper. Parsley. Cinnamon.
Great balance. Not a lot of development over time, although the wood gradually grows more dominant.
Taste: A classic profile. Sweet start, quickly growing woodier. Like the nose, the balance is near perfect.
Hint of beer? Excellent tannins in the smoky finish, once again at just about the perfect level for me.
Score: 88 points - which is especially respectable if you look at the relatively modest ABV.
Longmorn 30yo 1978/2008 (58.1%, The Whisky Exchange Masterpieces)
Nose: Hint of pine. Something dusty. An odd profile. Slowly opens up.
It grows more and more complex. Hint of aniseed. Really needs time to open up.
Taste: Smooth start, followed by a big, fruity centre. Great mouth feel. Lovely fruits in the finish.
Score: 89 points - I gave a provisional score of 90 points, but the harsh wood pulls the score down.
Longmorn 1964/2007 (50%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask #1538)
Nose: Tea leaves. Tight profile; quite some depth within a narrow spectrum. More complexity after a while.
Taste: Tea and wood. Some smoke in the finish. Lapsang Souchong tea tannins.
My kind of profile, although it's perhaps not quite as complex as some earlier ones.
Score: 87 points - but tea lovers could very well enjoy it even more than I did...
Longmorn 1973/2006 (54%, Gordon & MacPhail Cask, Cask #3650, First fill sherry butt)
Nose: Dark and fruity - but not as expressive as the last few at first.
Opens up nicely with some spices & organics though. Definitely needs time.
Taste: LOVELY palate; soft and complex fruits. Gordon & MacPhail has some great old casks in store!
Really excellent; lifts a malt with an upper 80's nose straight into the 90's.
Score: 92 points - this came in as my personal #4 favourite whisky at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2007.
Longmorn 1972/2006 (45%, Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky, C#1088, 607 Bts.)
Nose: Rich, woody, sherried and fruity. Hint of smoke? Now that's more like it…
Taste: Beautifully composed on the palate as well; a delicate balance between wood and fruits.
Touch of leather. Antiquity. Almost like a cognac. I found the wood just a tad too overpowering after a while.
Score: 90 points - one of my favourites at the Malt Maniacs Awards 2006 - but I'm a sherry cask freak.
Longmorn 1990/2006 Demerara Rum Finish (51.7%, Wilson & Morgan)
Nose: Very rich and spicy. A distinctly peppery note as well. Complex enough to reach the upper 80's.
I have to admit I'm usually not too keen on your average rum finish, but here it works remarkably well.
Taste: Sweet and very pleasant. Perhaps the rum influence is just a tad too dominant here for me.
Score: 83 points - I like Longmorn and the rum finish has given this one an unusual twist.
Longmorn 10yo 1994 (46%, Helen Arthur Single Cask, C#38381, Unchill-filtered)
Nose: Quite big, but a little mellower than the OB's I tried. Sweet & creamy. Bubblegum.
A soft fruitiness. Something vagualy sourish - raspberries? It's surprisingly expressive.
I'd say this came from a bourbon cask and it feels rather young - almost like a grain whisky.
It opens up quite nicely, though - it reminds me a lot of the 'Greenore' Irish single grain.
Taste: Oy... A strange chemical sweetness. Pine. Quite big, but it feels a bit unrefined.
Score: 73 points - it's not really my 'type' of malt, but it's really quite expressive.
This Longmorn remarkably similar to a young grain whisky, but has a little more complexity.
Longmorn 13yo 1990/2003 (46%, Murray McDavid, MM 30085, Bourbon)
Nose: Grainy and a bit oily - and it's getting worse... Strangely fruity. A little bourbony.
With time some spices and organics emerge, but it's more interesting than enjoyable.
Taste: Weak start. Turpentine? Rough. Cloying. It feels just like a bourbon - a cool heat.
Sweet. This would do much better in the summetime, I suspect - maybe even with ice...
Score: 71 points - it's certainly not my type of malt, but it does have its qualities. I had it in the upper fifties at first, but it grew on me. It's nothing like any other Longmorn I ever tried, though - much lighter and more transparent.
Longmorn-Glenlivet 15yo 1987/2002 (56.1%, Cadenhead's, June 2002, Bourbon, 312 Bottles)
Nose: Very grainy - a typical example of a bourbon matured malt. A hint of apple? Opens up a bit.
Taste: Feels really nice at cask strength. Apple again. A little bit dull and bitter towards the finish.
Score: 75 points - despite a nice start on the palate it really shows no memorable qualities.
I have to say I'm disappointed - until now most recent Cadenhead's bottlings had character.
Longmorn 15yo (45%, OB, 100cl, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Malty and spirity. No wonder, considering it's bottled at 45%. Later more late fruits and citrus emerge.
Taste: A big burn with lots of development. A deep, satisfying malty sweetness. Great mouth feel at 45% ABV.
Score: 82 points - a very good, well-balanced single malt. The best thing: the friendly price for a big bottle.
Longmorn-Glenlivet 13yo (46%, Cadenhead's Black label, Sherry Wood Matured, Btl. late 1980's, 5cl)
Nose: Whow... Quite unique. A combination of fruits, spices and organics I've never encountered before. Onions?
Pickled herring? It sweetens out over time, growing more 'introspective'. Never boring and quite a challenge.
Taste: Yep, there's antiquity for you. Leather. Hints of smoke & rubber? Excellent mouth feel at 'only' 46%.
Score: 88 points - one of the finest Longmorns I ever tried. Lovely indeed, leaning towards 89 points in fact.
Longmorn 1974/1985 (60.8%, Samaroli, 600 Bottles)
Nose: Sherry. Buttery. 'Dirty'. Organics. Smoke. Rich. Oriental spices. Rubber. Medicinal!
Taste: Lovely antiquity. Smoke. Gunpowder. When I added water I got some pepper and peat.
Score: 90 points - A beautiful single malt that seems much bigger than your average Longmorn.
Longmorn-Glenlivet 12yo (40%, Gordon & MacPhail licensed bottling, 'Pure Malt', 1980's)
Nose: Oooh! It's not quite an 'antique', but the profile definitely shows 'old bottle effect'! Sweet wood.
Taste: Nice, with wood, smoke and quite some tannins. Pinch of salt? Hey, even a layer of subtle peat.
Score: 86 points - I love the coal smoke in the nose, but for me it just lacks some sweetness. Austere.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Longmorn Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Longmorn page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Longmorn expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or