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Harvey MacNair was a Victorian entrepreneur who loved to travel almost as much as he loved scotch whisky. On one excursion he spent the day fishing in the rivers and lochs of the Scottish Highlands before seeking refuge in one of the hidden bothy’s that nestled on the hillside. Lighting a fire to warm his bones he found that the chimney was blocked and the room soon filled with smoke. Not one to give up easily, Harvey made the best of it and poured himself a dram. It is said that he became enamoured with the interplay between smoke and spirit and this formed the inspiration for his own brand of whisky.
In 1857 he founded Harvey MacNair & Company, blenders and bottlers of fine scotch whisky, and by 1911 the firm had acquired Benromach distillery near Elgin. Unfortunately the arrival of the First World War forced the distillery into closure and by 1919 MacNair’s had moved it on. Soon MacNair’s & Company was itself purchased by Hiram Walker of Canada and by 1987 the name had been all but forgotten. Eventually the rights would be sold on again, this time to Pernod Ricard.
In July 2017 Billy Walker, Graham Stevenson and Trisha Savage acquired Glenallachie distillery from Pernod Ricard and received the MacNair’s name as part of the deal. The name would soon be put to good use as a brand of blended malt named Lum Reek, a name inspired by Mr. MacNair’s night in the bothy all this years ago (lang may yer lum reek is a Scottish term that wishes health and prosperity, literally meaning long may your chimney smoke).
Marrying the whiskies of Speyside and Islay with malt from Glenallachie, Billy Walker created a range of bottlings, starting with the entry level NAS version and progressing up to the 21 year old. Each expression is bottled at 46%, un-chill filtered and natural colour.
A blended malt that features whisky matured in first-fill bourbon, oloroso sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks before being bottled un-chill-filtered at 46% abv and retailing for around £40.
Smell: Coastal peat smoke, liquorice, pepper, vanilla… Also some berry notes and raisins with honey and some woody spice.
Taste: The smoke is very much at the forefront along with liquorice and dark chocolate. Malty with honey and ginger. Blackcurrant. Earthy peat finish.
Value for money: God knows I’ve ranted about the increasing prices of whisky on this website but whilst most categories spiral upwards, blended malts continue to offer great value for money and Lum Reek is another example. Smoky yet layered this is a delicious dram that brings serious bang for your buck.
I make no secret of my love for peated whisky and affordability is also something I like to celebrate. With that in mind, the chance were always high that I would enjoy this dram but it nevertheless surprised me just how good it was. There are other good blended malts out there but I can’t think of any with quite the same cask make-up. Great stuff.
Lum Reek 12 Year Old
Aged 12 years in a combination of bourbon, red wine and PX sherry casks before bottling at 46%. Retails for £50.
Smell: Peat definitely not as pungent as the NAS version, though it is present. Really malty, with honey and caramel. Biscuit. Prickly, woody spice.
Taste: Not what you would call delicate but there’s a touch of refinement here in contrast to the bluster of the previous dram. The smoke has mellowed a little but continues to drift throughout the entire experience. Buttered scones. Dry roasted peanuts. Big helping of honey. Orange and lemon. Juicy oak. Currants.
Value for money: Takes the NAS version and improves on it with a little bit more maturity and added depth from the PX casks. £50 is a steal for this quality.
A fantastic whisky that somehow manages to dry the tongue with smoke and ash whilst also leaving the sides of the month salivating for the next sip. Delicious and affordable – my favourite combination.
Lum Reek 21 Year Old
Matured for 21 years in a combination of Oloroso, virgin oak and red wine casks, the Lum Reek 21 is bottled at 46% and retails for £125.
Smell: The smoke is still there, but it’s old now and a little stale. There’s more oak too, with woody spice to go along with it. Honey and caramel. Cinnamon. Lemon. A wee bit musty.
Taste: Honey. Peanuts and caramel. Chocolate. Orange zest. Pepper and charcoal. Gently billowing smoke in the background that lingers into the finish with a touch of old oak.
Value for money: At a glance, Glenfiddich, Glendronach, Glengoyne, Benromach, Aberfeldy and Arran all have 21 year olds on the market at £125 so we’re very much in standard pricing territory here – would we perhaps expect to see something a wee bit lower for a blended malt though? I’m not too concerned however as this is still a very fine whisky of 21 years – and a bloody good one at that. Have to say though, I think I preferred the 12!
I’m no expert but it can’t be easy finding balance in a 21 year old peated malt that’s been influenced by Oloroso, red wine and virgin oak but that’s what Billy Walker has achieved here. Another excellent dram. Ignore the “B” word. This is 100% malt whisky and it’s wonderful.
Lum Reek is an excellent range of drams that offers something very different to the similarly delicious Glenallachie malt whilst maintaining the same standard of quality. Very impressive and great value for money.
If any of the drams reviewed in this article have caught your eye, you can buy them from Master of Malt...
Buy Lum Reek (NAS) here
Buy Lum Reek 12 Year Old here
Buy Lum Reek 21 Year Old here
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**Other retailers are available.