...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Loch Lomond Cluster

Loch Lomond Distillery makes delicious whisky. Mark that down as something I did not see coming. They were producing some pretty foul products as recently as 10 years ago then, as soon as the Exponent investment firm bought the company, Loch Lomond whiskies shifted in quality almost overnight. Thus the quirky stills weren't the problem, nor was the warehouse stock. It's curious what a change in management will do. What the newest owners, Hillhouse Capital Group, another investment firm (this time, from Asia), choose to do still remains to be seen.


Despite the marketing claim that the distillery has been around since 1814, the current distillery was constructed in 1966. It was created by Duncan Thomas and Barton Brands to be an autonomous production facility, producing both malt and grain whiskies for blends. As a result, Loch Lomond has a variety of stills that no other distillery can claim. Pot stills with rectifying plates in their necks can be adjusted to produce different spirit styles, plate-free pot stills offer up classic single malt distillation, and continuous stills produce grain whisky (with all malted barley!). This results in 11 different styles, a number they can increase or decrease depending on the brands' needs. If Hillhouse gets around to aggressively reducing these styles, as has been rumored, that would be a tragic misreading of the distillery’s strengths.

For 2022's first cluster, I will be trying 15 single malts from four of the style types: Inchmoan, Inchmurrin, Croftengea and Loch Lomond. Going into this series, I've enjoyed Croftengea the most of all, but have had good experiences with Inchmurrin and Loch Lomond as well. Inchmoan is the only one that has left me unmoved thus far.

So, four weeks, four styles. (There will be a breather week in the middle to celebrate Mathilda's birthday.) No midpoint post this time around, but there will be a concluding entry, and possibly a Loch Lomond single blended malt (or some goofy SWA term) of my devising at the end.

THE LOCH LOMOND BUNCH:

1. Inchmoan 12 year old (2019 bottling) -- "...it's much more of a solid unit now with the odd phenolics merging solidly with the fruit, and the recharred wood staying out of the picture..."
2. Inchmoan 10 year old 2009 SMWS 135.22 -- "I love this stuff ...... It is the sort of thing for which I would pay a premium."
3. Inchmoan 14 year old 2004, cask 68 for HolyDram Israel -- "This one is for all you peat monsters out there ...... powerful beyond the abv and a real competitor to more famous peaty brands."
4. Inchmoan 25 year old 1992 -- "Another great Inchmoan, this time bottled at the perfect ABV."
5. Inchmurrin 10 year old (1990s bottling) -- "...underbaked but also sort of woody ...... filtered through cardboard boxes."
6. Inchmurrin 12 year old (2019 bottling) -- "...makes one go, "huh, that's different", then, "I'd sure like something else to drink.""
7. Inchmurrin 9 year old 2010, for The Whisky Exchange - "Loaded with bold fruit, pastry and candy notes......my favorite Inchmurrin yet."
8. Inchmurrin 19 year old 2001 SMWS 112.88 - "[The] nose is very satisfying, while the palate is simpler and woodier than the 9's..."

-- breather week --

9. Croftengea 16 year old 2005 The Whisky Trail, cask 272 - "I would gladly choose this style over nearly everything coming from Islay today."
10. Croftengea 15 year old 2002 SMWS 122.21 - "The nose and palate are pristine, and the finish elicits monosyllabic nonsense from the drinker."
11. Croftengea 10 year old 2006 Exclusive Malts, cask 485 (my bottle) - "...young, hardy stuff with plenty of spirit, but it's neither raw nor par-baked."
12. Loch Lomond 12 year old (my bottle) - "Leave [it] neat and it will kick Glenfiddich 12's and Glenlivet 12's asses all around the block."
13. Loch Lomond 18 year old - "...like a fatter version of grain whisky, but it still has a single grain's limitations, thus the flatness and inability to hold back the oak's onrush."
14. Loch Lomond 21 year old 1996 Cadenhead Small Batch - "Everything in this whisky works better at 46%abv."
15. Loch Lomond 30 year old - "As much as I adore fruity whisky, the extra depth brought out by dilution improved the experience."

Conclusion