Pulling up outside Loch Lomond’s front gate, you’d be easily forgiven for not recognising the hub of innovation and experimentation which is taking place deep within the heart of the built-up industrial looking site. Pretty it ain’t. But, visiting Loch Lomond last week offered me much more than just first-hand knowledge of the distillery’s unique still setup - which combines a selection of pot and column stills with two stills which in themselves manage to combine both pots and rectifying columns. There’s much more to Lomond than just equipment – there’s a constant curiosity which seems to manifest itself in a form of ‘what if we just tried X’…..
Lomond’s impressively diverse spirit styles, which are produced from different peating levels, different still styles and different spirit cuts are well documented (including on this site), but the distillery is not resting on its laurels. Whilst much of the production goes to the company’s blended output, there is work being done continuously on refining and combining the various distillates for single malt/grain applications.
A very well appointed lab at the top of the site continually monitors the characteristics and qualities of the spirit, whilst Master Blender Michael Henry looks across a remarkably board inventory for inspiration in creating new expressions. Spirit cuts, cask types and styles and yeast strains are all under investigation. The scope is near mind-boggling when you add in the adaptability of the still setup.
The distillery’s internal short-hand for its output (Inchmurrin, Inchmoan, Croftengea, Inchfad etc) is something which enthusiasts have eagerly adopted to help define the different styles produced at Lomond – indeed, the distillery itself has released a range of bottlings under a selection of these monikers (all of which derive from the names of tiny islands on the Loch).
But, it seems times might well be a-changin’ – Lomond are keen to ensure that consumers understand the differences between their spirit types from a style and flavour point of view. They’re not convinced that a new whisky drinker would know their Inchmurrin from their Inchmoan – and honestly I’d agree with that. So, whilst I have no great insider knowledge of what’s to come, rest assured in the not too distant future, expect some shakeups in the Lomond range as they attempt to broaden their appeal to a wider circle of drinkers.
As we edge close to the London Whisky Show, The Whisky Exchange 20th Anniversary exclusives keep coming think and fast. Just released this week, is a bottling from Loch Lomond’s heavily peated output in the form of a 2007 12 year old Inchmoan. The single cask release of 289 bottles comes from cask #96 which was a refill ex-bourbon hogshead laid down in April 2007. Bottled in July of 2019 at 54.9% ABV, this is available directly from The Whisky Exchange for £74.95.
Nose: Buttery Scottish tablet, sunflower oil and salinity are greeted by hewn rocks and beach shingle. Smoke is restrained, but still discernible – part bandages and floor cleaners, part your Grandmother’s spent old fashioned cigarettes. Resting opens this up considerable – homemade lemonade, waffle batter and crumbly biscuits alongside engine oils. A slight reduction amplifies the peat influence – akin to the inside of a distillery kiln hours after the peat bricks have been burnt – earthy, with clay bricks, coal briquettes and a growing medicinalness.
Taste: Whilst the profile is similar to the nose, the application is much more forceful on the palate. Lemon peels, pepperiness and ash are immediate on the arrival, and grow substantially into the mid-palate. There, they are joined by bitter chocolate, sticky toffee pudding and coastal minerals. The peat influence is much more pervasive here – bitumous tar, hospital floor cleaners, and spent hearth ashes. Water is welcomed – Lemon curd and balm with dulce de leche ice cream and vanilla cream buns. The smoke takes on a new in-land dimension, still medicinal at its heart, but with notes of forest pine and burnt mint.
Finish: Quite long and favouring smoky flavours – tar, antiseptic and charred cask ends.
A very well-selected 20th Anniversary exclusive from TWE – I find this Inchmoan to be quite excellent. The nose is refined and forgiving, whereas the palate is packed full of immediate flavour and impact – both adore the addition of water, which offers new gradations, particularly within the peat smoke spectrum. Much more substantial and substantive than the core range Inchmoan 12 year old – this is very easy to recommend.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange
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