As with our Hazelburn description this is a sweet introduction to Longrow, which is a style of spirit produced at the Springbank distillery. It’s best to read the outline below and then head over to Springbank for more information on where it is produced.
The Longrow style of spirit is more heavily peated than the traditional Springbank variety coming in at around 50-55ppm and its also double distilled as opposed to Springbank’s 2.5 distillation. It was first produced in 1973 as an attempt to recreate a style of spirit that would have been produced in Campbeltown during its boom period from the early 1800’s until 1919 when widespread closures brought the good times to an end. This was a period of rapid growth in the number of distilleries and therefore employment that brought considerable wealth to the town. At one stage Campbeltown was the centre of the whisky universe and it statistically harboured the highest per capita income in the United Kingdom.
The name Longrow is therefore unsurprisingly taken from a Campbeltown distillery that existed directly across from Springbank. Established in 1824 by John Ross in the confined area of Well Close, it managed to forge out an existence until 1896 when its ancient equipment and limited space brought distilling to an end. A former Longrow warehouse is now utilised by Springbank for its bottling requirements and the distillery is very proud of its local roots and has a custodian status to observing the whisky heritage of the town.
Campbeltown back in its thriving period was home to a specific style of whisky. Albeit some of these were not entirely well made compared to distilleries out with the region. The region was known for its peated, oily and dense style of spirit. Consumer tastes changed and blenders sought other styles and it was these factors alongside economic conditions that ended this remarkable period. For whatever reason, the Springbank team attempted a heavily peated style in 1973 and repeated it the following year and then abandoned the project. It wasn’t until the results of these experiments were released many years afterwards that opinion began to change. The whiskies were tremendous and have passed into legend whilst capturing the essence of what the old style Campbeltown experience was all about.
Urged on by this success, distillation of Longrow recommenced in 1987 and has been performed annually since with some changes made since the 1973 attempt. On average, the Longrow style of spirit only produces 100 casks each year and demand far outstrips supply with its limited releases such as the Longrow Red proving very divisive and yet popular. The range since 1987 has become a core edition with a standard peated version being the most widely available exponent. Then there is the aforementioned Red instalment, which is generally limited to 9000 bottles and features an inventive red wine cask to finish the whisky or provide double maturation. For the 2017 edition, the whisky was put into Malbec casks for 15 months and the results were excellent. The pinnacle of the range remains the 18-year-old that provides an enjoyable peated depth with earthy notes with gingerbread, chocolate and vanilla. Longrow is an increasingly popular peated whisky given the current level of demand for this style. It’s a different beast to the Islay peated malts and offers a different twist on what many would wrongly deem as a very limited style of whisky.