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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Loch Lomond Loch Lomond Loch Lomond (or Loch Lomond Inchmoan Croftengea)

Loch Lomond has released A LOT of grim whisky over the years. But then suddenly, their official bottlings are no longer mocked. And they're putting out single casks. Has the punk rocker gone full Green Day?

Count me intrigued. I've always enjoyed their rejection of the Scotch Whisky Association (or was it the other way around?) and their unorthodox distillation processes (which led to SWA issue), even though I haven't always enjoyed their whiskies.

Here are three official Loch Lomond whiskies bottled within the past year or so.

Loch Lomond 12 year old single malt, official bottling, 46%abv

I'm sure there were many in Scotland who were worried when a private equity group bought the Loch Lomond Distilling Company, but occasionally, occasionally, a PE firm can sort out a company's issues and gradually redirect the ship. I have more confidence in Loch Lomond's future than Bladnoch's at this point, FWIW. Anyway, I listed "single malt" up there because there's a Loch Lomond single grain on the market, and I will not be reviewing that today or ever. Thanks to MAO for this sample!


The nose is......shockingly clean and fruity. I'm thinkin' pears, apple, apricots and oranges. Then there's ginger powder, barley and black pepper. Gradually, vanilla and sticky candy notes develop with time. Barley, pears and marshmallows lead in the palate. Then black pepper, eau de vie, limes, guava and canned fruit cocktail juice. It grows more floral with time. The finish has the palate's fruits, but with a spicy zing. Hints of vanilla and flowers float in the background.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes much simpler, basically barley, coconut cream and vanilla. Similarly the palate narrows. Peaches in tomatillo sauce, vanilla bean and a little bit of sugar. It finishes tart, peppery and mildly sweet.

So this is what Loch Lomond has been blending out or selling to blenders all these years?! Leave Loch Lomond neat and it will kick Glenfiddich 12's and Glenlivet 12's asses all around the block. Bottled at a good strength, Loch Lomond 12 has a successful balance of oak and spirt, not to mention all those fruits. I'm more stunned by this one than the 12yo G&M Ledaig. And the price.

Availability - Many whisky retailers in Europe and North America (including Ohio)
Pricing - USA $28-$38; Europe: €40-€55 (w/VAT)
Rating - 86 (neat only)

Inchmoan 12 year old single malt, official bottling, 46%abv

The most, um, intimately named of Loch Lomond's whiskies, Inchmoan is a mix of distillate from the distillery's pot still and trouble-making hybrid still. It's also heavily (40-50ppm) peated. The only other Inchmoan I've consumed was one of the five most gruesome whiskies ever. I still have sense memories of that one, so I'm approaching this one with caution.


The nose does have its weird side: wet dogs and plastics factory exhaust. Then there's the candy corner: cotton candy, marshmallows, rock candy and cherry lollipops. Also cinnamon and flowers. It doesn't come together at any point. The palate is less odd. It's ashy, earthy and tart. Vanilla, fresh ginger and a mild herbal bitterness. Toasted oak and toasted barley with honey. Vanilla, honey and tart fruit in the finish. Pepper and smoke in the aftertaste.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is still kooky. Burnt hair, burnt plastic, rocks and cracked pepper. The palate has a heavily ashy, almost woody, peat smoke. Salt, pepper and sourness. The finish matches the palate.

Though the neat palate was drinkable, I couldn't finish the sample. While it certainly isn't boring, nor flat out disgusting like the other Inchmoan I had, Inchmoan 12 is a strange mess. It's as if someone closed his eyes and mixed a bunch of random fluids together. Perhaps this stems from the fact that they took a difficult spirit from two different stills and stuck it in recharred barrels. I do recognize there's a significant portion of the scotch community who think peaty = good, always. Perhaps this is for them. It's not for me.

Availability - Some whisky retailers in Europe
Pricing - Europe: €45-€75 (w/VAT)
Rating - 71

Croftengea 9 year old 2008, cask 272 for The Whisky Exchange, 54.8%abv

Croftengea's malt is also peated at 40-50ppm, but I believe it's all hybrid straight-neck still spirit. Yet I like Croftengea, a lot. It's Fun Weird, which is my favorite whisky genre. And yes, I did actually buy a bottle of the Croftengea I raved about last autumn. I was also looking forward to today's sample because its supplier, MAO (thank you!), already gave it a 💖.


The nose begins with a luminous creamy dessert note, like toffee pudding with toasted coconut and orange zest. Orange-cranberry scones. Peaches and flowers. A gentle but rich peat of a much older whisky. That same peat note shows up in the palate, along with pear and peach nectars, lime juice and cayenne pepper. Also some tart berries and a slight Campari-like bitterness.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Mangoes, oranges and toasted coconut in the nose. Hints of herbal peat and ocean in the background. Same peat and pepper in the palate, but now there are tart lemons, limes and grapefruit. The finish has the same tart fruit notes, as well as a light sweetness and bitterness.

Well, damn. Another great Croftengea. I'm not sure if I'm more surprised by its fruitiness or the peat style. It feels older than its 9 years. I was waffling about giving it the Big 90, but because it was one of the most delightful drinks I've had this year boosted the number to that magical spot. Sorry that it's out of stock, you should have read MAO's review last summer and bought four bottles then. I did the former but not the latter. I learn nothing, folks.

Availability - Loch Lomond sells out!
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90