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Monday, June 6, 2022

Concluding the Loch Lomond cluster

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

I'm wrapping up this cluster a few days late due to some rare travel last week, thus this conclusion awkwardly drops on a Monday.

Speaking of awkward, I used to think Loch Lomond Distillery produced the most awkward whisky in Scotland. (Seamless transition!) Something changed abruptly once Exponent bought Loch Lomond Distillers. That "Something" was the magical disappearance of the rancid Taco-Bell-garbage-dumpster note I used to identify as Distillery Character. That "Something" was also the distillery's sudden focus on single malt promotion. That "Something" was also the constant rebooting of package design.

The last two somethings are corporate decisions, but the first is more mysterious. Was former owner, Glen Catrine, that bad at selecting casks for official bottlings? And very consistently so? That doesn't explain where that unsettling garbage note went. I found it a grand total of 0 times during this cluster, with the '90s bottling of Inchmurrin 10yo coming the closest to that style of murky fluid. You will rarely rarely rarely hear me speak well of investment groups and VCs, but Exponent built something new upon takeover, something that works. And maybe fished the dead rats out of the stills.

All four of Loch Lomond's single malt styles shown brightly during this cluster:

Inchmoan was the biggest surprise, since I didn't even enjoy that malt after the takeover. But here it averaged the best scores of the four types (tied, actually). Each of the four Inchmoans read differently, so the only constant was quality. But what quality!

Inchmurrin was probably the weakest of the four styles, possibly because it didn't have peat to hide behind, but at least the aforementioned '90s Inchmurrin highlighted how much has changed for the better.

Croftengea, a remedy for those of us tired of the same-old-same-old peated stuff, remains my favorite non-Islay peated whisky. And I wonder if we've even seen the best of it.

Like Inchmurrin, the Loch Lomond type doesn't have the luxury of peat to cover up spirit flaws but, aside from the 18yo, it can be a solid, fruity whisky. The older stuff improved with water, and the 12yo was the closest thing I've had to a "daily drinker" for years.

The cluster's 14 modern Loch Lomond malts averaged 86 points! A decade ago a Loch Lomond cluster would have peaked at 68 points and I would have quit whisky blogging. (Don't everybody sigh at once.) 88- to 90-point scores made up 40% of the reviews in this cluster, which I admit sounds like some dreamy, Whisky Advocate stuff. But it's real. Loch Lomond makes good whisky.