Longmorn is an overlooked gem of a distillery with many enthusiasts partial to its whisky. Established in 1894 on the outskirts of the town of Elgin on the site for a former chapel, by John Duff & Company in 1893, this firm was also responsible for the building of the nearby Glenlossie in 1876. John himself was already well versed in whisky having been a manager at the Bon Accord and GlenDronach distilleries before starting out on his own.
Glenlossie was soon joined by Longmorn and in 1897, Benriach followed as a next-door neighbour having been originally called Longmorn no.2. It was around this time that John bought out the remaining partners and became a sole owner. Unfortunately, his timing was far from ideal as in December 1898, the Pattison Crisis took a firm grip of the whisky industry. John managed to keep things going until 1908 when he was forced to declare bankruptcy. John Grant from the nearby Glen Grant distillery took over, as Longmorn was prized by blenders for its character and used in a variety of popular whiskies including VAT 69.
Change was very slow in arriving at Longmorn which was not blighted by closures seen elsewhere or devastating fires or accidents. The distillery consistently produced a high-quality whisky using its traditional methods and its floor maltings were in existence until 1970 and the stills directly fired until as recently as 1994. The arrival of the 1970’s heralded a new venture for Longmorn as it merged with the Glenlivet to create the Glenlivet Distillers Limited. This prompted investment at the distillery with a sizeable refurbishment between 1972 and 1974 that effectively doubled its production, with the number of stills rising to 8 in total. Just a couple of years later in 1977, Longmorn was acquired by the Seagram group, which was then purchased by Pernod Ricard in 2001 and where it resides to this day. Further extensive work is carried out on site in 2012 as the number of washbacks are increased and a new modern mashtun along the lines of that seen at Glen Keith is installed. The result of these changes was a third more annual capacity, which rose to 4.5 million litres and provided more stock to the Chivas range of blends.
In 2007, the classic 16-year-old is released and soon establishes itself as a firm favourite with many until 2017 when it was discontinued. In its place Pernod Ricard decided to launch a new range to showcase one of its most enduring distilleries. Comprising of a trio of whiskies, the range is designed to highlight what Longmorn can offer with a no age statement called the Distiller’s Choice, a replacement 16-year-old and top of the tree a 23-year-old expression. Unfortunately, the news was met with widespread criticism when the accompanying prices were confirmed, with the 23 retailing for nearly £1200 and the replacement 16-year-old reaching over £200. It’s a trend we’ve seen from other companies most notable Diageo with its premiumisation of Mortlach that wasn’t a rip-roaring success. Only time will tell what the future holds for the Longmorn official range however it still retains strong support from the independent bottlers and if you look hard enough you can still find a bottle of the original 16-year-old.