“On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”
As a young man the only thing I knew about Loch Lomond was that it was mentioned in a song. I’d never seen the place and didn’t even know it was in the Highlands (I live in the Highlands). OK, it is just in the Highlands; it’s often considered to be part of the Highland/Lowland border.
A few years later I was living pretty close to the Loch, and during that time I discovered the first of two very beautiful things: my youngest daughter was born in the Vale of Leven Hospital just five minutes’ walk from the shore. That was 20 years ago, and the place has remained special to me ever since.
A few more years after that I found the second thing: Loch Lomond Distillery. The distillery is located just a four minute walk from the Vale Hospital. In my younger days I probably passed it many times without knowing; today I can’t pass it without a smile and a desire for of one of their wonderful drams.
The distillery is a relatively modern incarnation (since 1964) of a much older distillery located a few miles further north, but still on the banks of Loch Lomond (the song is still stuck in my head). Loch Lomond is a distillery that some people think throws out too many expressions; they are rather unique in the style and types of stills they have in operation (a subject covered by Graham in this article), but it is this variety of equipment that allows them to put out such a diverse range of products.
Again, perhaps too much to list here, but you will find stuff under the names “Loch Lomond,” and, although a review of the marketing and branding has been evolving since 2020, you may still find bottles branded as “InchMurrin” and “InchMoan,” the intention being to replace these names to reduce brand confusion and replace with flavour descriptors on the labels, such as “Fruity and Sweet” or “Smoke and Spice.” There’s also Spearhead single grain whisky and a range of Ben Lomond gins. To give you the wider picture: although not from the same distillery, but the same stable (so to speak, as it is also owned by the Loch Lomond Group) is Glen Scotia over in Campbeltown.
So which of their drams have I pulled from the shelf? It’s the somewhat unusual peated single grain. What makes me say unusual? Well, it’s the fact that it is made from peated malt! Yup, it’s a single grain whisky and not a single malt, and that comes down to the process. As mentioned above: Loch Lomond employ various equipment and whilst they run perhaps the most common of all (the pot still) they also have a column still operation. There are a number of different incarnations of the column still, but the industry standard is the Coffey still (named for the man who patented its design, Aeneas Coffey) Although this dram is produced using heavily peated malted barley, due to it running through the Coffey still it must be regarded as a grain whisky.
Now, this dram is a non-age statement expression, presented non chill filtered at 46% ABV. There is no mention of colour adjustment, although the whisky is presented in an almost black bottle, so colour is only really apparent in the glass. Loch Lomond do admit to some colour adjustment if required for continuity, in their single malts. In a recent communication with the Master Blender at Loch Lomond, Michael Henry, he mentioned the single grain is natural coloured. Fantastic! Michael also recently mentioned in a social media group that he would like to move toward natural colouring. It’s great to hear the industry professionals make such open statements.
Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain – Review
Colour: A pale gold (although hidden in a black bottle).
On the nose: I always seem to get a smile across my face when have a peated whisky to nose, and to be honest this doesn’t disappoint on that front. It’s young, undoubtedly, and there is a slight – very slight – hint of a spirit, rather “new make” like. But, more so, there are lovely floral notes, married with summer fruits combined with a stunning wee peppery and smoky layer floating through the sweet treats.
In the mouth: The taste comes to you in a nice, full style of mouthfeel. The pepper is there but, for me, it’s a sweet smoky-ness that catches the attention. There is some lovely blackcurrant and summery citrus, I often associate peaty whisky with colder weather but I really want to say this tastes like such a fresh summer style of dram. Fresh finish, with a smoke that likes to hang about a wee bit.
If I was to find fault, maybe I’d be inclined to say it does taste very slightly on the young side, but really I’m clutching at the fault finding straws with that. I don’t think this is a simple dram, but it’s not a complex dram either… but I don’t think it hopes to be such. It’s a whisky that I can pick up in most stores/supermarkets in Scotland for around £25, sometimes less, very rarely more. For that price, a 46% ABV, non-chillfiltered peated whisky, can I really (or even, should I really) be looking to find fault? It’s a staple dram on my shelf and I hope it remains so.