Chieftain’s 1994 Longmorn 17 Year Old – Review

*Thanks to the good folks at Impex Beverages for the sample.

Let’s say (for the sake of relating something to something else in order to create some kind of post) that you wanted to heat up some kind of liquid; there are basically two ways of applying this heat, directly or indirectly. If you want to heat up something directly, you could build a fire under it and keep throwing logs on until you reach the desired hotness. Easy, right? Well, kind of, except this method is so direct, it can be a little hard to regulate, especially if you’re heating up, oh…I don’t know, a fermented solution of malted barley called a “wash”. That direct heat can burn the bejesus out of a wash if you don’t make sure to carefully monitor the heat and agitate the liquid during the proceedings. Heating things up indirectly, in comparison, means instead of putting fire right under a pot, you’re superheating something else, somewhere else, and then using that superheated something to heat up your something. Using our handy fermented wash example, instead of a wood or even coal-fueled fire right underneath a still, you’d instead superheat water and send the resulting steam to heat the base of the still. In the whisky world, the stills were traditionally heated directly, but as health regulations and increased automation grew, so did the use of indirect firing. Many distilleries were reluctant (and a scant few continue to be) to switch to indirect firing because, as much of a pain as it is to directly fire a still, it is thought that the process also adds flavor due to a slight increase in caramelization of the wash.

I mention this because Speyside’s Longmorn was one of the last direct fire hold-outs. The Pernod-Ricard owned distillery switched to indirect firing of their four wash stills and four spirit stills in…you guessed it, 1994. I have no idea whether or not this independent bottling of Longmorn came from direct-fired or indirect-fired stills. There might not really be a good way of knowing and it might not make any difference anyway, but it is an interesting bit of trivia and timing to consider. This 17 year old expression from Ian Macleod’s Chieftain’s range was matured in a ex-bourbon hogshead.

The Nose:  A sweet and malty nose with cinnamon-tinged caramel and poached apples. Lesser fruit notes of peach, candied lemon, and juicy raisins are tucked in a bit further back. Soft polished oak, mellow spice, and hints of toasted bread help to balance the sweet fruit.

The Palate:  Light yet very creamy mouthfeel, with caramel and more baked fruit to start with the spicy oak getting involved pretty early. There’s a nice progression of spices here, cinnamon, clove, candied ginger, cardamom, and white pepper with just a touch of roasted, salted nuttiness coming through towards the end.

The Finish:  Nicely long with lots of continued woody spice and that roasty, nutty quality lingering.

Thoughts:  Not the most mind-blowing malt out there, but a very pleasant, rainy spring evening dram and I should know because it was raining like hell when I tasted it and this fruit-tinged oak-y spice essay is proved to be a darn good choice. Nice balance on the nose between the wood and the sweeter elements. The palate is perhaps a little spice heavy, but with a nice complex progression that keeps it interesting.

Chieftain’s 1994 Longmorn 17 Year Old, Speyside

46% ABV

Score:  84


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