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Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024 and four Loch Lomonds

Last year I covered a few interesting whisky books in the lead up to Christmas, many of which are still available and are thoroughly recommended. James Eadie, too, have released another Palo Cortado finished Caol Ila which I’m sure will not disappoint. Some books are timeless, such as Dave Broom’s Sense of Place. However others provide useful reference and benefit from updating annually. My 2023 copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook is well thumbed and has supported research into many articles this year.

For 2024 it is massively updated. One article caught my eye, on oxidation in whisky. If you follow my articles here on Malt you will know that a favorite note for me is “oxidised fruit,” which really refers to the rich ripe fruity notes that shine through in an refill bourbon barrel that’s usually at least 20 years old. These notes are absolute highlights for me and usually accompanied by a high score. In The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024 there is a superbly researched article by Ian Wisniewski which captured all the aspects of this process for me, and will help me pick out the whiskies in the future most likely to display these flavour characteristics. You should certainly look out for his next book – due to be published this month – called A Passion for Whisky: How the tiny Scottish island of Islay creates malts that captivate the world.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the other content of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024; suffice it to say you should track this down and pick up a copy to find out for yourselves. Instead, I decided to reach out to the editor, Ingvar Ronde, for an interview looking back to previous editions, and into the future.

Malt: How did you come to write the first Edition of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 19 years ago, and what did it take to research and write?
Ingvar Ronde: My interest in whisky started already in 1980 when I made a journey to Scotland and travelled along the Whisky Trail. Enjoying whisky at the very places where it was produced was intriguing and from there on, whisky became both a way to enjoy life and a hobby. In the early 2000 my interest had grown to the point where I wanted to keep track of everything that happened in the industry. When I couldn’t get any good and reliable answers from the internet, I realised that what I needed was a yearbook. I found there was none about whisky (dogs, cars, weapons, etc. were easy to find) and so I decided to do one myself. I had a background in publishing so it was a natural step. Luckily, there were more people than me that were lacking such a book.

Malt: Did the Malt Whisky Yearbook have an immediate impact, or was it a slow burn?
Ingvar: It did take two or three years before the Yearbook had become known amongst whisky enthusiasts, but what surprised me was that around that time, many people working in the industry had taken an interest in the book. That part of the business has grown over the years and, as mentioned, I didn’t see that coming.

Malt: Over the years how has the Malt Whisky Yearbook changed as whisky landscape has changed?
Ingvar: The basic format of the book has remained the same (with a few twists to the layout over the years): starts with a number of interesting articles that I ask well-known whisky writers to do for the book specifically. This is followed by a substantial chapter covering all the Scottish distilleries, both what has happened since last year, but also each distillery put into a historical context. Most of my readers have Scotch malt as their benchmark or ”go to” whisky, so this is an important chapter. That is then followed by an ever growing chapter about distilleries outside Scotland, and the book ends with a summary of the Whisky Year That Was, a review of independent bottlers, the best whisky shops, and the latest statistics.

Malt: You are Keeper of the Quaich and something of an industry stalwart; how does this impact on bringing interesting, insightful, and occasionally controversial articles into the editions?
Ingvar: Being inducted as a Keeper was definitely a huge honour, and on some occasions it has opened doors to unexpected opportunities. On the other hand, it hasn’t stopped me from questioning things within the industry that I don’t agree with. If you ask the same question to other Keepers, I’m sure you would get the same answer most of the time. The fact that you are a Keeper means that you have spent quite a few years promoting Scotch whisky, but it also means that you care so much for that particular spirit that you are willing and prepared to challenge anything that you feel would be detrimental or harmful to Scotch in the long run.

Malt: What size of team is behind the 2024 edition, and how do you manage to include quite so many updates and cover so many distilleries now?
Ingvar: Well, it’s no secret that the only person directly responsible for the Yearbook is me. Apart from the first articles in the book, everything is written and researched by myself. The important thing to point out is one of the first pages in every edition of the book (Acknowledgements) where you can see just how many people’s input it takes to make a Malt Whisky Yearbook. I keep in touch with them every year and I’m truly grateful for their knowledge and their willingness to share it with me.

Malt: During the last 19 years whisky has been on an exponential trajectory and your Malt Whisky Yearbook has grown with it. Do you see a challenge in the market over the next few years? Have we seen peak whisky?
Ingvar: Consumption of whisky is globally spread and, in the last few decades, the production of whisky has grown from just the Big Five (Scotland, Ireland, USA, Canada and Japan) to another 80 or so countries. No other spirit has this universal presence. I know that some people are fearing yet another ”whisky loch” such as the one in the early 1980s, when a new generation preferred other types of alcohol than whisky, and a number of Scottish distilleries had to close. In my opinion, I don’t see that happening any time soon. A lot of new distilleries are opening up, yes, yet at the same time so are a lot of new markets with new consumers – not least in Asia and South America.

Malt: What highlights in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024 should readers look out for?
Ingvar: As always, I’d like to highlight the articles from my dear contributing writers. Kristy Sherry has done a great piece about new Scottish whisky producers looking back at historical ways of producing whisky. Ian Wisniewski explains why oxidation in the casks is vital to the flavours we enjoy. Johanne McInnis gives us examples of new possibilities of enjoying whisky. Andrew Derbidge writes about one of the most exciting whisky scenes today: Australia. Joel Harrison asks the important question if the 500 years of heritage in Scotch whisky making still has a part to play, and Neil Ridley is looking for any possible challengers to Scotch whisky as the world’s most popular spirit.

Malt: It will be your 20th Edition next year? Has planning begun already for this significant milestone?
Ingvar: Actually, no; that work starts now.

I’d like to thank Ingvar Ronde for taking the time to respond to Malt amongst his busy book launch schedule around the world. To wrap up this article, I’d like to share some recent reviews of some Loch Lomond bottles from independent bottlers, only one of which features in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024.

Mortimers Malt Grantown-on-Spey 2015 – Review

18 year old Inchmurrin. 40% ABV. £36 at auction.

Colour: Yellow gold.
On the Nose: Some sherry, probably a refill seasoned sherry cask, not absolutely loveable but there is some nice fruity character, and not too far away from the official bottling reviewed previously. It’s quite vegetal around the edges, damp autumn leaves, there is a core of sweet toffee, chocolate raisins, and vanilla fudge.
In the mouth: Soft, mellow, and smooth, but growing vegetal character. Aniseed and tarragon too, liquid caramel, a little mint, creamy texture, short finish with a little bitter burnt sugar.

Conclusions:

Not quite a supermarket dram, but I understand this was bottled for a petrol-station-come-convenience-store in the Highlands. It’s really difficult to settle on a score for this dram; on the one hand it’s a characterful 18 year old for supermarket prices, on the other hand it’s lacking. Perhaps if Aldi had released this for £29.99 as a Christmas Special we’d all say it was quite good; at the same time, in comparison to the line up that follows this is a disappointment.

Score: 4/10

Thompson Bros Loch Lomond Aged 9 Years – Review

2014 to 2023. 48.5% ABV. £55.

Colour: White gold.

On the nose: Sweet grist, cold wash, yeast, sherbet, perfumed white fruit, icing sugar, with wate a bit softer and bringing more fresh fruit.

In the mouth: Jsagged grist and raw malt, minerality, starchy, softening to bring fruity but initially very austere. In time apple and unripe peach, boiled sweets, buttery texture. Water brings out much more juicy fruit.

Conclusions:

This is very much a cask bottled in the Thompson Bros style: a bit austere, but very honest, very spirit forward. This is like the Loch Lomond equivalent of a 5 year old Springbank from the Campbeltown Cage. This, too, is very much my style but it’s not as juicy as the Loch Lomond style I like most, but think another few years in a cask would have helped. One thing I would say is that this is the real benefit of an indie bottler: bringing a characteristic that is different from that of the official bottlings. Another deserving contender for adding to the Yearbook 2025.

Score: 6/10

Dràm Mòr Inchmurrin Aged 11 Years Cask 2996 – Review

Refill bourbon barrel. 58% ABV. £50 (discounted at retail).

Colour: Yellow gold.

On the nose: Big bourbon bomb, spicy wood notes, vanilla and salt taffy, not too much fruit making it past the cask notes on the nose initially, but with time it builds into ripe white orchard fruits.

In the mouth: Boom, big juicy ripe fruit from the off, a retro-nasal experience of these over-ripe oxidised fruits from the process described by Ian Wisniewski in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024. Cask spice and dried tropical fruit, strong fruity esters give extra layers of flavour. Pear drops, sherbet, and a slightly savoury note from the wood adding more depth. The finish is long and succulent.

Conclusions:

A very active refill cask for sure, and picked at the right time to get balance between the cask character and that of the spirit. This is a joyous dram that I find myself holding back on to avoid finishing too quickly. Dràm Mòr certainly deserve a place in the Yearbook 2025!

Score: 8/10

Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection Loch Lomond Aged 14 Years (Peated) – Review

Bourbon hogshead. 2007 to 2022. 51% ABV. £49.50 at auction.

Colour: White gold.

On the nose: Rich toffee sweets, buttery Werther’s Originals, brown sugar, a slight waft of smoke, a little vegetal peat, highland toffee.

In the mouth: Creamy butterscotch, fruit pastels, spicy peat, then smoked tropical fruit, roast coffee grounds, creamy fruit pudding, bbq charcoal, peppery spice, salted caramel and apple sauce, a lingering smoky peat and spice on the finish.

Conclusions:

As peated drams go, this is my jam. Lightly peated is far more sophisticated than many of the heavily peated youngsters around. The peat and the fruit are well integrated and the cask influence is about right. Cadenhead’s are certainly worth their inclusion in this edition of Malt Whisky Yearbook 2024.

Score: 7/10

Overall conclusions:

Purchasing whisky is still a bit hit and miss at times, that is very much the case with independent Loch Lomond; there are some real finds and a few duds.

CategoriesSingle Malt
Graham

Graham is at the consumer end of the whisky world; constantly seeking out a bargains and generally very cautious with his limited budget. An occasional visitor to distilleries and a member of the odd whisky club. He does not collect whiskies but has a few nice ones put away for some future special occasion. He enjoys discussions with the wider whisky community and may resemble the ‘average’ Malt reader.

  1. Damjan says:

    Does the latest edition features all the past issues’ articles, or are some articles specific to previous issues?

    Love the site!

    Cheers

    Damjan

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