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Monday, October 17, 2016

Single Malt Report: Loch Lomond Original

Some of us think we're hardcore hipsters for liking Glen Scotia and Ledaig before it was cool to do so. But how many of us dig on Loch Lomond for kicks? I cannot be counted amongst that crowd. While I do respect that distillery for continuing to make whisky without adapting to the times, their company's management (destruction of Littlemill and near abandonment of Glen Scotia) and the frequent packaging revisions (enjoy Google image searches of Inchmurrin Single Malt and Glen Scotia), on the other hand, seem to be some form of satire funny only to the ownership.

Thanks to Loch Lomond distillery's unique set of stills -- four pot stills with rectifying heads, two pot stills without, and a Coffey still for grain and malt -- they can make a plethora of whiskies right in-house.  This week I'll be reviewing three of these whiskies, all single malts.  Today it's the newest iteration of NAS Loch Lomond, the Original.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Brand: Loch Lomond
Type: Single Malt
Region: Western Highlands
Maturation: paint cans
Age: at least three years old
Bottling year: 2015
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? ???
Colorant added? Probably
(mini purchased by the reviewer)

The orange gold color doesn't look even remotely natural for this baby whisky.  The nose treads right between new make and cheap blend.  Apples, rotting veg, margarine, and a chemical note that's something between methanol and turpentine.  YET it's not entirely terrible.  It gets earthier and picks up more barley notes with time. The palate starts with brown butter, caramel, dirt, and a vague bitterness.  There are hints of dark chocolate, dry cheese, dried sage and Loch Lomond's ever present chemical note. It does have a remarkably oil texture which makes me think it wasn't chillfiltered. The finish has a cheap cigar aftertaste to it, then some margarine and burnt toast bitterness.

Loch Lomond National Park is beautiful. Loch Lomond single malt is not. Its producers don't seem to strive for drinkability, subtlety, or brilliance. And, you know, there's something admirable in that. You get what you get without much woodwork or futzing.  And if their whiskies weren't usually lousy with turpentine or garbage notes, I'd say they were on to something.

The good news is that this Loch Lomond Original is probably the best "Loch Lomond" brand single malt I've tried.  The bad news is that's not saying much. What works in its favor is the thick mouthfeel, earthy palate and near absence of oak. What doesn't work is the constant chemical note running throughout keeping me in constant fear that I'm drinking something unsafe. And I can do without all the margarine notes too. Overall, the whisky is more or less of the quality of an NAS blend and, thankfully, priced almost the same.

Availability - Specialty retailers
Pricing - $20-$35 (w/o VAT or shipping) in Europe, $30-$35 in USA
Rating - 72

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