The Difference Between Age and Maturity: Chivas Brothers 1993 Longmorn 18yo

Music: Shoji Meguro, “Heaven”

I love independent bottlings and one-offs. There is this excitement that comes with trying something that so few others have tried. While over the pond in London, I came across this Chivas Brothers cask strength series, and as I haven’t had Longmorn since my earliest of Scotch years, I was excited to try it again. Admittedly, this isn’t a true independent bottling, as it is bottled by Chivas, but not as part of the standard Longmorn line. Perhaps more a special edition, then.

Nose: Perfume and polish. A little strange to start. Green apple and malt, much like the Nadurra, in fact.

Palate: Rough around the edges for an 18yo, and best served without much water. It has that bright fruit-first kind of deal, drying out into sweetened malt. Not as complex as I’d hoped. In many ways, it’s like a more straightforward, not-as-successful Nadurra.

Finish: Green apples all day.

Grade: B

Of course, I wanted this one to be a good one, but at the end of the day, it’s a less impressive Glenlivet Nadurra. Shame, really.

“Those long days passing by from that door, like late summer, they slowly fade away”

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Less Than the Sum of Its Parts: A night with Chivas Regal

Music: Alanis Morissette, “Hands Clean”

I was recently a plus one at a much-hyped “Chivas 1801” event, and by the kindness of organizers, found myself with free drams of the middle and top end of the Chivas Regal core range.

Chivas Regal 18yo

Nose: Sweetness and malted barley. Cask wood. A little nippy at the nose, despite the dangerously low ABV. Chocolate and nutmeg.

Palate: Light and watery. Similar nippyness, grainy, sweet and candied. Rather indiscernable sweetness, maybe a little chocolate. This souring end note, that really ruins the experience.

Finish: Medium.

Grade: B-

For $100 at the LCBO, this is one I’d pass up on. It doesn’t give you much to go on, and this sour note is a real turn-off. Almost a good waste of 18yo Longmorn and Strathisla. Probably a serious waste of what ever the “Islay 18yo” is.

Chivas Regal 25yo

Nose: If a nose could ever come on “thick and rich”, this does it. For 25 years in the cask, I’d expect it. It’s a “dark” nose, with nuts and chocolate, malted barley and some orange notes.

Palate:  Mouth-coating and rich at 40%–again, something I’d expect at 25 years. Instead of an “orange cream chocolate”, it’s chocolate with a splash of Cointreau. Not much grain to this one, but not much to write home about, either. Oaky, but again that sour note.

Finish: Long, slightly tart, and sugary.

Grade: B-

Better than the 18yo, but that’s a given. Strangely, not much better. I’m not a blend hater, but this doesn’t give me much to cheer about, and it’s kind of saddening, really, to think that a distillery takes 25yo Longmorn, waters it down to 40%, blends the magic away, and then sells it at $328 per bottle. If someone put this glass in my hand, and didn’t tell me what was in it, I’d peg it at 15-17 years, and say that it was a reasonable dram that I may pay $80 a bottle for. Of course, I have the luxury of reviewing such a whisky for free by the kindness of the marketing team of Chivas, and for that I am grateful. But, by tasting such a dram, free of the bias of wanting to enjoy something you spent over $300 on, the review lends itself to being uniquely honest, in my opinion. Of course, many other reviewers would give a kinder opinion, and the beautiful thing about Scotch is that it leads to this heterogeneity of opinions. Maybe the bottle was corked. Maybe the conditions were wrong. Maybe they watered it down when I wasn’t looking. Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon that loves his single malts, and nothing can be done about it. You never know.

In any case, to check my disbelief, I went home and spent some time the following night with a dram of Highland Park’s new 10yo (also @ 40% ABV). I was astonished what brilliance a 10yo can bring at 40% (a review will follow shortly), and it makes me wonder what they’re doing wrong at Chivas. Of course, their market capitalization would suggest, “nothing at all”.

“If it weren’t for your maturity, none of this would have happened.”

Longmorn 15

Note: The first handful of posts are slightly reminiscent, as I am typing up my notes on whiskies tastes a few years ago. All proper tastings, but just never catalogued online.

The old Longmorn 15 (now Longmorn 16) was the second bottle of decent Single Malt Scotch that I had ever bought. I had tried it at the Kingston Brewing Co. Pub (Kingston, ON) in my fourth year of college, and loved it. Back then, I was easily sold by oily, velvety whisky, and the Longmorn 15 had both by the handful.

Sadly, when I purchased the bottle, it was slightly less thrilling than I’d remembered. It was still good, however. There is a lot of fondness for this whisky around the internet, as people wistfully remember the days of Longmorn 15, before they migrated to the Longmorn 16. Being a much more experienced whisky fan now, part of me wants to try Longmorn again, but hearing the drop in scores (and the doubling in price) for the Longmorn 16 in comparison, I haven’t been able to convince myself to purchase another bottle. Take it in to consideration that this whisky was tasted when I was a whisky “newbie”.

Nose: Sweet, malty, some nuttiness.

Palate: Very oily, syrupy, sweet toffee and malt. A slight fruitiness. And then there is something off, a souring of the palate on the tail end. This is what gets me.

Finish: Long, caramelized nuts, an elegant sweet finish.

Grade: B-

Apart from the turbulence on the palate, this whisky is quite good. If it weren’t for that turbulence, this would be up one notch to a B. Perhaps your experience might be different. Of course, at $100 in Ontario, almost every whisky I have tried that ranks above B- is cheaper than the 16, and you’d be hard pressed to find this one.