Where there’s a will there’s a way. In a far cry away from what seemed like the total devastation of the whisky appreciation calendar but two months ago, it’s now entirely possibly to vTaste your way through the entire week. Initially a patter, now a deluge – enthusiasts find themselves spoilt for choice and brands are actively competing for a share of digital attentions. But, whilst brand ambassadors get used to only having to dress their top halves, it’s remiss to think that this flurry of virtual events and online camaraderie is a comprehensive solution to the variety of issues that the drinks industry is still facing – production, distribution and the bar trade in particular cannot be pivoted digitally in quite the same way.
Whilst slumbering liquid is still getting older, release schedules are not what they were. From the conversations I’ve had over the past weeks, it seems that whilst enthusiasts broadly understand the tricky requirements of socially distanced working, the difficulties (which were once not difficult) of getting the liquid out of casks, into bottles and onto the market seem harder for some to comprehend. “When are we getting new whisky?”, “How long do we have to wait?” Enthusiasts are a keen bunch, but sadly, it’s quite challenging to release new whisky when your supply of bottles and labels is stuck somewhere on the continent. Waiting times have had to increase.
We’re all settling into the notion of the new normal – and distilleries, following a slower start by some, are realising that just going silent and heading off down the Winchester (damn – even that’s closed) is just not a viable option for what now is apparently the longer term. So pleasingly, we are starting to see a trickle of new releases – most recently given the timing of the end of May - not festival, festival bottlings and festival bottlings without actual physical festivals. Needs must.
Lockdown whiskies are our immediate future – reduced release schedules, but plenty of online opportunities for tastings. So whilst there’s going to be even greater competition to purchase the limited number of new expressions (enthusiasts have not suddenly moved on – indeed, I believe that the Interwebs opens up entirely new audience opportunities) – until there are mechanisms for sharing (socially distanced) drams with friends, we’ll have to content ourselves with our evening online lochdowns. But in that regard we're all very rich people indeed.
This recently released exclusive Loch Lomond was distilled in 2006 and matured for 13 years in a refill American oak cask (#196). 266 bottles have been produced at an ABV of 56.8%. You can pick one up from The Whisky Exchange for £64.95.
It’s described on the TWE site as ‘peated’ which whilst entirely accurate lacks the named specificity that some folks have got used to for pigeon holing releases from this Highland distillery. But perhaps, it’s the versatility of Lomond and its twelve+ different styles of spirit that has led to the company looking to a rebrand that focusses as much on its descriptions of products as it does on the colours and shapes that form its visual identity.
Going forward, you’re not going to be seeing your ‘Croftengea’s’ and your ‘Inchfad’s’ as descriptors for Lomond’s peated releases (and I always rather got the impression that the distillery particularly disliked the latter of those being used outside of facility) – but rather an emphasis on aroma and flavour descriptors. Which, outside of die-hard whisky geekery makes perfect sense - ‘Inch-whatever’ means nothing unless you already know.
You’re unlikely to find many distilleries who are willing to use the full breadth of colourful whisky tasting note language as much as enthusiasts and writers – however, I do wonder if Lomond’s revised ‘categories’ might have gone too far the other way. This bottling comes with the masthead of “Fruity & Sweet – with a warming oak spice” – super generic – but also, in terms of my experience with the liquid, something of a bum steer – it’s way more stimulating and thought-provoking than that.
Nose: Nougat and thick whipped cream are joined by a triptych of smoke sources – industrial, vegetal and coastal - grease and lubricant, moist earth and wet wood and stagnant rock pools and beach shale. Apples dusted with icing sugar are joined by reduced meat sauce whilst burnt ends and balsamic onions sit with moist carpet and rolled felt. The addition of water reveals ozone and petrichor alongside sweeter notes of honey syrup and apple compote.
Taste: Rambunctious. An opening of oils and gravels gives way to tart apples, which steadily sour into burnt pine cones, fir trees and eucalyptus. Pickled onions, woollen blankets and sack cloth build into cask spice with cayenne pepper sitting on a bed of lemon and lime. Water once again reveals a softer more fruit-centric heart – pear juice and freshly picked apples alongside a syrupy fruit salad, and just a sprinkle of sea salt.
Finish: Long with cough syrup and menthol.
This Whisky Exchange Exclusive Loch Lomond is not messing about. The characterful, powerfully peated spirit is on full display throughout – and cuts across a swathe of smoky styles on its wide-ranging but harmonious journey. The cask plays the supporting role throughout and whilst I might prefer just a touch more sweetness than sourness – that's being a little nit-picky. This is simply very good and will likely appeal to all peat explorers who like to tread a more adventurous path.
Review sample provided by The Whisky Exchange