Cadenhead’s Loch Lomond 12 year old

“O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road, An’ I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.”

I love this Scottish ballad; its haunting beauty really stirs the emotions. If you’ve ever been to a traditional Scots wedding, it will probably be the last song you’ll hear the ceilidh band play, and then everyone will leave in a sentimental cloud of drunken maudlin happiness. Looking at the history of the song, there are many different depictions of what the words could mean; with no definite proof of a composer, it leaves the lyrics up for interpretation. Whether you believe the song to be joyous and upbeat or tragic and yearning, it lets the listener decide.

Based on the comments of some whisky friends, I’ve concluded that my tasting notes can be somewhat like this ballad: people can be unsure of how to interpret them. After reading them, and in the absence of a score, they often can’t tell if I liked the whisky or not! It has also been pointed out to me how long my notes can be… I will list lots and lots of yummy tasting “ingredients,” and then might give the dram a low score; alternatively, I may list some really mucky-sounding tasting notes, but give it a decent score. My process of notetaking is simply to sit and write down every single aroma and feeling as it comes. Maybe chocolate and chicken pie are not a good mix, but soil and furniture polish come together to make a beautiful unity. One note that always, always puts me off my dram is the smell and taste of latex; more often than not, that one aroma can leave me feeling quite peaky. If you see it emphasised in my notes, then it’s safe to assume I am not a fan.

The whisky I will be reviewing today is a Cadenhead’s “Authentic Collection” Loch Lomond 12 year old, distilled in 2007, bottled at 55.8% and was matured in a bourbon cask until 2019. I sampled this at a whisky tasting and it was one that really stood out to me.

I’m not usually the biggest enthusiast of smoky and peated whiskies, as they do crazy things to my throat. I get the attack of the burning bubbles that rise up out of the depths of my stomach, eep! However, the scents and flavours were so wild to me with this dram that I had to share my thoughts. Have you ever tried a whisky that sticks with you? Well, this was one that stayed with me and made quite the impression. Just from reading my tasting notes, I wonder, can you guess whether I enjoyed it or not?! If I didn’t put a score down, it would be up to the reader to interpret my feelings as I experienced this wild whisky.

Cadenhead’s Loch Lomond 12yo – Review

Colour: white wine.

On the nose: it is smoky and dense with spilled diesel oil, then a cheesiness that begins to turn smoky, reminding me of the Bavarian varieties. Amongst those sooty scents, a meaty aroma makes it presence known in the form of savoury hams hanging in a deli. Next come furfural notes, from which I get both almond essence and dried pet food. Imagine entering a pet store and going to the area where the dog and cat nuggets are; that is the smell I am experiencing here. It is extremely funky, but there is a tartness in the background that breaks it up, and a slightly sulphurous note is present. Throughout there is a very sweet icing-sugar scent that builds and becomes sweeter, almost as if you can taste it through your nose. To add to the eccentric bouquet, there is a potent “farmy” tang in the form of sheep and silage.

In the mouth: very sweet, with the icing sugar translating from the nose. The sourness is more present on the palate than it was in the smell. The liquid is quite hot and spicy. The smokiness comes in the form of coal tar and ash. The feeling and taste of licking a lump of coal comes to mind, and trust me, I have done this: it was not pleasant. The icing sugar begins to burn, almost like a crème brûlée topping wherein the burnt parts give you that bittersweet taste. The mouthfeel is oily and leaves the mouth in a not-too-dried state, though that spicy chilli makes the tongue and back of the throat tingle.

The finish lasts for quite a long time, which I attribute to that hot chilli burn that stays on the back of the throat. After a while, the mouth begins to dry, but the icing sugar sweetness gives it enough moisture to not be unpleasant.


This whisky is unstable, and it would not be suitable for a novice, in my opinion. I dare say it would scare most people off, if this was their first-ever dram. I have encountered lots of funk with many whiskies, but this one was definitely a dram packed full of odd notes.

Surprisingly, I did not find it undrinkable. Sure, I am not a fan of “farmy” or pet store notes, nor do I like licking lumps of coal, but I found the Loch Lomond and all of its bizarre aromas very interesting. If I had not scored this whisky, you would probably think I hated it. For me, just because I enjoyed the peculiar mix of notes, I gave it an above-average score. I tend to go for more subtle and lighter profiles, but this one weirded me out just enough for me to double back and enjoy it. Not one that I would have often, but one that I would drink to shock my senses.

Score: 6/10

CategoriesSingle Malt

A west of Scotland native, Dora is a full-time foodie and seeker of interesting flavours who has done almost every job in the catering business. You can follow her musings on Instagram.

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