Back in 2013, my wife and I took a trip to Europe. The original plan was to take a river cruise along the Donau, starting in Prague, going to Vienna, and winding up in Budapest. However, we couldn’t find a cruise that fit our timing, so we just decided to make the trip minus the river cruise part….which is okay because I love taking the trains around Europe (although we both still want to do the cruise at some point in future)!
So why is our trip to Europe worth mentioning, here? Well, it just so happens that one of my “Must See” excursions while in Vienna was to visit a well-known little store named “The Pot Still Whisky Shop.”
Sure, my wife thought I was crazy – which I admit is not always debatable, it just depends on the day! – but I’d heard so much about the shop and its selection that I couldn’t get that close without going there! I’d already missed out on visiting La Maison du Whisky during our Paris trip, so I wasn’t going zero for two! Who knows when I might have another opportunity? And I am very glad that I did!
The Pot Still is known as Austria’s Finest Whisky Store…..and it certainly delivered on the big expectations such a claim sets. But as you can see by the two photos, big expectations was about the only thing big about this quaintly small, specialist whisky shop…….well, the expectations AND THE SELECTION! Let me tell you, walking into The Pot Still, as a whisky fan, is truly a wondrous experience! It takes your mind several minutes to grasp the reality of what is in front of you! While impressive, the photos can’t quite capture the actual impression this tiny store makes on you!
Located at 37 Strozzigasse in Josefstadt, just west of the Rathaus, and sitting behind a rather unassuming façade, is a whisky drinker’s paradise. Inside the shop you will find in the neighborhood of 1,000 different whiskies, with bottles displayed floor-to ceiling, several bottles deep, along every wall. The Pot Still carries a mix of official release and independent bottlings, including a number that aren’t available in the US. Possibly the rarest bottle that I saw on the shelves was a 1953 Glenfarclas…I couldn’t even bring myself to ask the cost…..I might have bought it and then my wife would have likely strangled me on the spot! (After all, her tolerance only goes so far!!)
Okay, so bringing this full-circle, I had gone to The Pot Still with an intention to buy something I knew I wouldn’t be able to buy in the US. I ended up buying two bottles, a Highland Park 14 year-old Carn Mor Park exclusive bottling for The Pot Still – the 20th Anniversary Edition, and the Longmorn 1996 we are reviewing today.
A bit about the Longmorn Distillery Company. Longmorn was founded in 1893 by John Duff, Charles Shirres and George Thomson. Duff was a former manager of the Glendronach Distillery and the Bon Accord Distillery in Aberdeen, was the founder of the Glenlossie Distillery, and was also involved with a couple of unsuccessful distilleries in South Africa and the USA.
Longmorn Distillery started production in December 1894 and, for a short period, life for Duff and for Longmorn was very good, so good, in fact, that three years later Duff bought out his partners and also built the BenRiach Distillery (aka Longmorn #2). Unfortunately, Duff was caught up in the Pattison Crisis in 1898 and ultimately suffered financial ruin. As a result, Longmorn Distilleries Company Ltd. passed through series of ownership changes until, in 1970, it joined The Glenlivet and Glen Grant to form The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. In 1978 The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd was purchased by Chivas Brothers, who, in turn, was acquired by the French Pernod Ricard Group in 2001.
Longmorn’s whisky is a cornerstone of the Chivas Brothers single malt range. The somewhat short, squatty stills with descending lyne arms produce a rich, heavy-bodies spirit that is ideal for providing substance and flavor to blends. And an interesting bit of trivia is that Longmorn was one of the last distilleries to switch from direct coal heating to steam heating, making the switch in 1994.
Review: Longmorn 1996 Single Malt Whisky
For our review today, we have a 17 year-old release of Longmorn bottled by The Ultimate Van Wees, a Dutch independent bottler based in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. This whisky was distilled 01/05/1996 and bottled 23/07/2013. It was matured in Cask 72319 and we have bottle 224 of 600 – the size of the out-turn confirms that this was a sherry butt. Bottled at Cask Strength at 57.2% abv, this whisky is bottled with natural color and is non-chill filtered.
“The Ultimate Whisky Company” was established in 1994 by brothers Han and Maurice van Wees. The Ultimate releases only single cask whiskies, all are bottled without added coloring and are non-chill filtered. Each bottle is numbered and all the cask details are mentioned on the label. The Ultimate’s offerings typically consist of about 18 bottlings at any time, from all the regions of Scotland and, since 1994, more than 300 Malts have been released under The Ultimate label.
Color: Dark Amber, Mahogany
Nose: Nosing a glass of this whisky, you are immediately greeted by a big dry sherry, brown sugar, dried apricots, raisins, cocoa powder, leather quite a bit of oak spice – herbal and peppery, cardamom, cumin, and a fair amount of a bitter, fresh-cut oak that comes in and out of focus, which is sometimes nice and sometimes just a bit too much. There is also a hint of sulphur – not uncommon in sherry-cask matured whiskies – that, here, is a bit too dominant. The addition of a few drops of water really brings the chocolate notes to the front and nearly completely quashes the slight sulphur note I was picking up. Very dry sherry aromas fill the glass. The oak remains a significant factor, not always to the good. The same fruits and dried fruits, molasses, vanilla and toffee as well as more chocolate.
Taste: The initial arrival is quite hot, sharp and citric, the high abv coming across, but then a nice sweetness comes through; warm vanilla cream, toffee, now with more ripe red fruits – plums, berries; raisins, more lemon juice, and a big taste of dark chocolate. Richly viscous on the palate. Water also definitely benefits the palate, smoothing out the aggressive arrival, allowing for a much better development of the sweet vanilla, chocolate and ripe fruit notes. Softly peppery, molasses, creamy toffee, spiced, and rich.
Finish: Vanilla, berries, raisins, herbal spice. Ends with a beautiful chocolate that lasts quite a while
Overall: This one pretty much qualifies as a Sherry Bomb with its unmistakably sherried profile. I’ve tried this one several times now and admit that it can be a tad challenging; I still have a difficult time determining whether or not I really like it. Without question, water helps this one; it brings out complementary sweet notes of the vanilla and dark chocolate, which balance the oak and dry sherry spice notes. Water also helps on the palate. Neat, this has a rather aggressive arrival, but with water the attack is softer, the palate even rounder and sweeter. Part of the challenge with this one is that for those who don’t appreciate any sulphur notes in their whisky, this may be off-putting, especially neat. Personally, sometimes I like what a delicate sulphur note brings to a whisky, although here it may be a bit overpowering relative to the other aromas – certainly it is when explored neat, but the water really helps.
Type: Single Malt
Bottler: The Ultimate, Van Wees
Age: 17 (Distilled 01/05/1996, Bottled 23/07/2013)
Maturation: Sherry Butt (Cask 72319)
Price: $118 (Pot Still Vienna)
Availability: No longer available
Sample Source: My own bottle (Bottle 224 of 600)
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.