Longmorn 16 vs Highland Park 18

September 21st, 2012

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

Highland Park 18 – 43% ABV, £57.95

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

Posted in whisky deathmatch by Joe Abercrombie on September 21st, 2012.

19 comments so far

  • AntMac says:

    When you go across the water, will you try out some of the local spirits?.

    My purse was too small to do that when I was in Sweden.

  • Bryce says:

    Interesting, however, with a blog entry every few days, one could suspect that you have some extra time on your hands. I thoroughly enjoy your blogs but it seems you are between books. Just saying…

  • TheFourthHorseman says:

    I can’t bear reading these whiskey deathmatch entries anymore as checking out the prices on the ones that are available only makes one bitter and depressed. Maybe it’s not so bad in a less criminally alcohol-taxed country. The solution would of course be to wallow in a single malt induced haze, but that seems to bring us where we started, or worse.

    Being served by anyone with a suede-patched suit sounds off-putting as well, but other than that I can totally see a hapless late night student of whiskey life ahead of me.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    There have indeed been more entries this September already than in any other month since this blog began in August 2007, would you believe. Lot more to report around the time books come out than at other times. Work has actually been continuing on various projects. You should simply be thankful for this onslaught of ultra-high quality free content.

  • Tony Robson says:

    This may sound ridiculous but I’m envious of whiskey lovers, no matter how much I try them I can’t shake the displeasure of the taste.. yet it’s obviously a nuanced drink with so many facets to the enjoyment of it; aromas, flavours, even texture and presentation seem to have a strong bearing on the pleasure of imbibing it.

    Joe, would you have any introductory recommendations for a “novice” drinker, something that’s easy on the palette and can maybe ease me into the whiskey world?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    I’m a long way from being an expert, but something relatively sweet and light like a Glenlivet 12 might not be a bad choice, and can be got pretty easily and cheaply from your local supermarket. If you find it overpowering at first, put some water in it. In my opinion people like to talk a lot of bollocks about the proper way to drink whisky, but the proper way for you is however you like it.

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:

    I have drank whiskey twice, and threw up… twice.

    The irony is, I actually quite enjoyed it on both occasions (especially the second), my stomach – now lining free – however did not.

    Its astounding how expense a single bottle of whiskey can cost, being a poor student, one cannot justify such prices. Besides, for £50 quid you could get a prostitute with that type of money, or at least a rather large bottle of Chloroform.

    @ Bryce – shush, you might scare him off from making them now!

  • Antmac says:

    Oh dear.

    Frank, wouldn’t it have been a nicer way to find a comparison to have said “For 50 pounds you could take a girl out to dinner twice, and disappoint her once” or something?.

    Or “Fifty pounds would buy three novels and a cheap bottle of port”.

    Or even “I was going to say something that would just possibly refelct badly on our host, but I brought fifty pounds of gob-stoppers instead”.

  • Frank says:

    I might just put my money on the Highland to win this… I must content with the 12 year old, also being a student (and having the ridiculous idea that I can start a whisky collection at this stage in life). I’ve heard people say it’s a lot more unrounded but I love it nonetheless. Looking forward to the next!

  • Adam A. says:

    @Tony Robson – no shame in not being a nuanced drinker. The amount of invested practice in discovering those differences could easily put you on the slippery slope toward alcoholic legendry (READ: http://drunkard.com/issues/02-03/02-03-clash-of-tightest.htm).

    For me, whiskey is the easiest of liquors to get my head (palette, liver) around. What I can’t – and simply won’t – touch is tequila. Ye gods. A purely awful and inevitably psychopathic experience.

  • TheFourthHorseman says:

    Adam: I see a lot of people slag tequila, and it always makes me wonder if they base their opinion just on the bender that involved seven shots of the worst tequila imaginable in some godawful dance club. Kind of the same as writing off whiskey based on the cheapest scotch. I presume many do, but I’m sure there’s many who just don’t like it, just like with whiskey.

    Anyway, ranting aside, añejo (aged) or even reposado (rested, as in aged less) tequila can be very good. Try, if possible, El Jimador or 1800 for example.

  • Mark C says:

    I think I might be becoming more ‘whisky aware’ thanks to this blog: I was getting a shop in the other day and noticed something flashing in my peripheral vision. Looking up, I saw a few malt whiskys on a shelf behind the checkout and noticed the red flashing was coming from their general direction. At first I just presumed some flashing lights were reflected off of the packaging of one of the bottles but, no! The thing actually had an integrated circle of red LEDs! Seemed a bit over the top to me and I couldn’t help wondering, ‘What would Joe make of that?’…

    Cannot for the life of me think of the brand.

  • Dking says:

    That £50 bottle of whiskey would cost me more than double that here in Norway. Just a bottle of ‘The famous grouse’ costs around £30, so for me, a bottle of that fruity, classy, whiskey, at Christmas time, or birthdays, as an oh so extra special treat, is about my limit, which is a terrible thing if you’re a whiskey lover (I may just give up drinking whiskey!).

    Joe, maybe you could do a crap version of whiskey death match? You could call it ‘Crap whiskey, to the death!’ for those that are a little less fortunate in the whiskey world.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    You can’t really take a whisky seriously that doesn’t have LEDs in the bottle.

    Do you know what, the strange thing is that the more I drink whisky the wider my taste becomes. I start to like different things for different reasons. I’ll quite happily sit and drink a Bells or a Famous Grouse straight, if that’s what there is.

  • Jacob says:

    Don’t become such a consumer of exquisite brands that you’re writing and future works degrade my good man.

  • AntMac says:

    Whiskey and Pizza fueled dream-writing, Jacob.

  • Frank Fitzpatrick says:

    @AntMac Doesn’t the entire population live off a Whiskey and Pizza fueled diet? Must just be me and my weak stomach and my prostitute friends…

  • Roderigo says:

    It would have to be Corryvreckan through sheer planet destroying force of personality .. although Balvenie single Barrel is a delight.

  • Steve says:

    Has to be said that whiskey is definitely what you make it.
    I absolutely love more expensive whiskey’s (particularly macallans 18) but it still doesn’t it my opinion beat a nice Chivas Regal 12 when I fancy one which is an amazing blended whiskey. Dam now I fancy a bottle but have to work……

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