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Loch Lomond is a distillery unlike any other. The original site to carry the name dates from 1814 and was situated near Tarbet, the exact location however, is lost to the mists of time. The current distillery in Alexandria dates from 1964, though production didn’t commence until 1966. The site was in operation until 1984 when a downturn in the industry led to its closure but production recommenced under new ownership in 1987 and in 1993 the site was expanded to include a grain distillery. Then, in 2014, the distillery was acquired by a group of private investors operating under the name of Loch Lomond Group and, along with the malt from sister distillery Glen Scotia, the brand has been completely repackaged and relaunched.
I was fortunate enough to be shown round the distillery by brand ambassador Ibon Mendigueren at the start of September and it was not a day I will forget in a hurry. I’ve visited a few distilleries in my time and after a while, the experience can become a bit predictable but this was a completely unique setup. Lomond is one of the few distilleries that has a fully functioning Cooperage on site and it was a joy to see how quickly and skillfully these men can strip a cask to the bare bones and rebuild it.
The real character of Loch Lomond rests in the stillhouse though, where an array of different still designs is to be found. Along with a pair of traditional Pot Stills, there are six Lomond stills based on a design pioneered by Alistair Cunningham in 1955. Like a traditional still, they feature a pot with a tall cylindrical column, inside the column is a set of rectifying plates which can be independently cooled, controlling reflux and allowing a distiller to produce varying alcoholic strengths and flavour profiles. Added to these are a set of continuous column stills for the production of grain whisky and a further continuous still which is used to produce a single grain made with 100% malted barley. Under this one roof is the capacity to create an unbelievable 11 new make spirits.
Not content with experimentation in the stillhouse, the distillers at Loch Lomond have also been toying with different yeast strains in the creation of their wash. This I found fascinating as it is commonplace these days for all distillers to favour the same strain of high-yield distillers yeast. So, when it came to light that a distillery exclusive bottling had been made with the use of Chardonnay yeast I just had to buy a bottle to take home…
Smell: Lots of Fruit… Pineapple, Lemon, Orange… Malt, Vanilla Fudge, Marzipan… Light aromatic Spice.
Taste: Silky Caramel and Orange, Pineapple, Lemon & Lime, Vanilla, Spicy Oak, Almond.
Value for Money: Around £70 a bottle, 9 years old, cask strength and limited to a couple of hundred bottles, not to mention, bloody delicious. No complaints here.
Whisky has but three ingredients. Four if you count wood. The likes of Bruichladdich have been following a programme of terroir exploration, establishing what effect different barley strains have on the character of the whisky. The effect water has on the flavour profile is generally accepted as negligible and much has been said over the years of the dramatic effect wooden casks can have on new make spirit. Of 4 ingredients, that leaves only yeast as something of an unsung hero. While a number of voices have made an argument for yeast experimentation over the last couple of years, it is still common practice to stick with the same, high-yield, highly efficient Distillers yeast from one location to the next… Then there’s Loch Lomond, quietly getting on with things, fermenting with wine yeast some ten years ago… Of course, experimentation is all well and good but there needs to be a finished product at the end of the day and Loch Lomond have certainly achieved that with this Inchmurrin. It’s a fine dram in its own right and yet another reminder to expect some seriously good things from this distillery in future.