The question “If you were given the choice to drink whisky from only one distillery for the rest of your life, what would you choose?” (or along those lines) is asked by the whisky community once in a while. Popular and less massive distilleries and brands like Laphroaig, Arran, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Springbank are some of the few often mentioned. But, none of those are my answer, as mine is Loch Lomond.
I understand why a lot of consumers say the distilleries above are their favorites. They can simply make good whisky. Most of their releases have varied cask influences that can be exciting. However, after having tried at least 400 different whisk(e)y expressions, over the span of 10 years I’ve come to realize that a lot of Scotch matured or finished in ex-Oloroso sherry, ex-Pedro Ximenez and ex-Port casks tend to be very similar to each other.
This applies to most of the peated single malts and those with light distillery DNA that are just doing any ex-wine cask maturations. By light distillery DNA, I’m referring to those with made short fermentation times and using shell and tube condensers, where the distillery style is very reliant on cask influence for flavor. Sure, you’ll be able to tell them apart when you know what you’re drinking. But try it in a blind tasting and your mind will be going ten different directions. Where’s the fun and variety in that?
In my mind, Loch Lomond is currently the most interesting Scottish distillery due to how flexible and varied their products are. In my chat with Loch Lomond’s Master Blender Michael Henry, he mentions that they use at least three different types of yeast for their single malt.
They also ferment their wash for at least four days, which is at least two days longer than most Scotch single malt distilleries. Remember, longer fermentation means more congeners. More congeners means more flavor. Aside from those, they also use traditional pot stills and the unique straight neck pot stills, while most other distilleries tend to only have one design and set of traditional pot stills.
Like Springbank and Bruichladdich, Loch Lomond makes three styles of single malt. Though, Springbank and Loch Lomond are more similar to each other as they both make an unpeated, semi-peated, and heavily peated single malt. However, one thing the other two distilleries don’t do at the moment is produce their own grain whisky. Loch Lomond has their own in-house column stills (two types) to produce their own grain whisky, which means they can sell them as single grains or blend them with their single malts to produce their own blends.
Back in the day, this might have been classified as a single blended Scotch, but this classification was taken away by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) about a decade ago. I think the new rule now is along the lines of: a blended Scotch can only use a distillery’s name if all the whisky came from the distillery.
I’ve already reviewed Loch Lomond’s Inchmurrin 12 previously, so I’ll just be reviewing their 12 year old namesake and Inchmoan 12.
Loch Lomond 12 year old “Perfectly Balanced” – Review
On the nose: Balanced, indeed. Initially, I get a light but enveloping aroma of smoke. After that are light to medium aromas of honey, caramel-covered Fuji apples, starfruit, cedar, peppers, toffee, cereals, and kiwi fruit
In the mouth: Similar to the nose, but the order of notes is different. The light and enveloping smoke is still there. Upfront, I get more kiwi fruit, starfruit, and caramel-covered green apples. After them are light to medium tastes of honey, toffee, cereal, cedar, vanilla, and fudge with cream on top.
The best words to describe this whisky would be balanced, complex, and full of layers. This acts like a mature whisky for its age. Most 12 year old whiskies we get today are usually favoring a few flavors. While others are almost undistinguishable or just there for support. But, all the flavors here are as pronounced as each other, and last just as long.
Similar to the Springbank 10, this is not something meant for beginners, since there aren’t any dominant flavors or any flavors that jump out in this.
A great single malt for the price. Hopefully, this will be something the more experienced and picky drinkers will flock to, with the price and quality making this a steal.
(8 when using TWE price)
Loch Lomond Inchmoan 12 Year Old “Smoke and Spice” – Review
On the nose: Spicy, creamy, and dark fruits. I initially get fairly lasting sensations (for the age statement) that make me think of peppercorns, herbs and peat. All-in-all, it’s like a mix of Japanese nori paste, thyme, rosemary, pink peppercorns, and smoke. After these welcoming notes are light notes of honey, cereals, toffee, vanilla, and caramel-covered apples.
In the mouth: Less spicy here, but the earthiness is more pronounced. The Japanese nori paste is livelier. There are also bits of alfalfa, green tea, smoke, peat, and bacon. Light to medium tastes of pepperiness, smoke honey, toffee, vanilla, cereals, caramel-covered Fuji apples, bacon fat, and more nori. There’s a lasting and pleasant mix of toffee, honey, cereals and Fuji apples, kind of like letting a liquified granola bar mixed with apple juice sit on your tongue.
This isn’t as complex and as layered as the Loch Lomond 12, but I think that’s quite unavoidable with the heavier peat. While being designated as the distillery’s heavily peated style, peat heads won’t consider this as peaty as the popular Islay single malts like Laphroaig and Ardbeg.
Don’t take this comment as a knock towards the brand. Aside from Loch Lomond trying to achieve something different, Highland peat is just different from Islay peat. In fact, I think using peat while balancing more flavors around it is a more difficult task than just making a whisky more appealing via making it more peaty. Just look at how Highland Park’s Viking rebranding took away the delicate character they used to have.
Like the Lomond 12, this is a steal. If you’re a peathead looking to enjoy more flavors other than peat, give this a try. You’ll be amazed while also saving money. Dare I say this will make you moan with pleasure.
(8 when using TWE price)