The second of our quarter finals matches the well-heeled Speyside charms of Longmorn 16 against the highly rated Island character of Highland Park 18.
Longmorn 16 - 48% ABV, £48.75
Longmorn 16 very narrowly defeated AnCnoc 16 in a slightly uninspiring match between two unsherried Speysides that I found to be very similar. I described Longmorn as ‘a drinkable summery malt with a good bit of spice … tingly, peppery, oaky … a soft, malty, cereally, shreddies-y kind of a sense .’ But found that perhaps the most interesting thing about it was its over-the-top presentation, with magnetised box, leather foot on the bottle and metal tab proclaiming it ‘SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY’ in case you were in any doubt.
Highland Park 18 won one of our most toughly contested first round matches against fellow Island giant Talisker 18. On first tasting I considered describing it as half seawater, half dishwater, but found it grew on me fast. I ended up describing it as “Savoury, almost herbal. Leafy, grassy. Deeply complicated. Beautifully poised. Lots going on. A long and smoky ending, but heather camp-fire rather than roaring furnace. A respected academic, suede patches on the elbows, lounging cross-legged in his leather wing chair, considering the arguments of his hapless students and then, steeple-fingered, demolishing them with an off-hand line … Pour me another you suede-patched mastermind.”
Comparing these two is interesting. Being up against something so similar in the AnCnoc didn’t necessarily give the Longmorn the chance to shine. Now that soft, cereal maltiness really comes through, barley sugar sweetness, followed by the big spice, firm in the mouth. Lots of authority in that 48% bottling. It’s a real nice whisky, actually. A cereal killer. A ho ho. By contrast, comparison with volcanic, bruising Talisker really brought out the subtleties in the Highland Park. Against Longmorn it’s the salty, smoky island character that you first notice, but then those savoury, grassy, herbal stylings make their way through. So balanced, so much going on. A real mastermind of a whisky. Longmorn looks a lot better this time around. But even with the stronger bottling and the cheaper price, not quite good enough…
The Winner - HIGHLAND PARK 18