The Loch Lomond distillery is a bit of an odd one out, because at the start of the
third millennium it was the only remaining Scotch whisky distillery that was able to
distill both ‘malt’ whisky and grain whisky within the same facility.
This set-up wasn’t all that exceptional in the second half of the 19th century.
However, after Ben Nevis removed their Coffey still in 1971, Loch Lomond was
the only remaining ‘dual’ whisky distillery in Scotland for a couple of years.
It still is - sort of. Competitors William Grant & Sons had the marketing savvy
to stamp another brand name on the Ailsa Bay malt whisky when they launched
it in 2007, but it is actually produced within their Girvan grain whisky complex.
Another unique feature of the Loch Lomond distillery is the fact that it’s the
only Scotch whisky distillery with the same name as its (main) water source.
Loch Lomond is one of the more recently constructed distilleries in Scotland.
It was built in 1965 and production started in 1966. Ownership of their
Littlemill Distillery Company Ltd. parent company was divided between
Barton Brands and Duncan Thomas, who later sold his shares.
After that date, whisky production increased dramatically.
That makes sense - grain whisky can be produced much easier, cheaper and quickly than malt whisky.
Loch Lomond expanded rapidly. After the addition of a new pair of ‘Lomond’ stills with rectifying heads in 2015
the distillery now has three pairs of this type of ‘enhanced’ pot stills. They have one pair of classic pot stills too,
as well as a three continuous stills. Two of those are used to produce grain whisky like one would suspect, while
the third is fed exclusively with malted barley. Loch Lomond considers that product malt whisky.
The distillery was closed in 1984 after the whisky
industry was hit hard by a recession. In 1985 the new
owners became Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd.
Production resumed at Loch Lomond distillery in 1987,
but they kept producing malt whisky only until 1993,
The Loch Lomond ‘brand’ is just one of many, by the way.
If you've ever bought a bottle of Craiglodge, Croftengea, Inchfad, Inchmoan,
Inchmurrin or Old Rhosdhu because you thought that the whisky was crafted
at a picturesque obscure distillery by that name, you were sadly mistaken.
Those were just some of the many brands from Loch Lomond Distillery.
In 1993 a Coffey still was installed as well so that
Loch Lomond could start producing grain whisky .
The Loch Lomond distillery is located in the Western Highlands - on the shore
of the Leven river, a kilometre from the point where it flows from Loch Lomond.
That puts it quite close to the Lowlands and some 20 kilometres away from the
city centre of Glasgow to the south-east. That relatively central location would
make it a great target for a distillery visit, but Loch Lomond doesn’t offer tours.
The area offers other attractions though. The scenery around the lake Loch Lomond and Dunbartonshire is
often beautiful and the nearby Ben Lomond mountain dominates the landscape. Local attractions include the
Loch Lomond Aquarium, Balloch Castle Country Park, the Scottish Maritime Museum and Dumbarton castle.
1) The Loch Lomond Distillery Company is owned by Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Ltd.
They also own the (active) Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown - as well as the remains and brand
name of the closed Littlemill distillery nearby. The company also has interests in bonded warehouses,
wine & spirit wholesaling and spirit broking. The people behind the 'Loch Lomond Distillery Company'
are the Bulloch family (including one Sandy Bulloch) who bought the Loch Lomond distillery in 1985.
2) The first grain whisky distillation equipment was installed at Loch Lomond in 1993.
This enabled the distillery to produce both grain and malt whisky - a unique feature for more than
a decade - until the pot stills for Ailsa Bay malt whisky were installed at Girvan. This enables Loch
Lomond to create their very own ‘single blends’- like the 'High Commissioner' blended whisky.
9) The Inchmurrin brand contains only whisky from the pot stills with rectifying heads.
The SWA still allows rectifying heads - so Inchmurrin is actually an ‘SWA-safe’ single malt whisky.
I’m not sure if that’s true for the rest of Loch Lomond’s portfolio. They do have a pair of traditional pot stills,
but according to Marketing Manager Scott Dickson they have never released a whisky from just those two stills.
Sadly enough, in 2016 there were no plans yet to do so soon - but Scott didn’t deem it impossible either.
3) The Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse plant in Ayrshire bottles other alcoholoic drinks as well.
Their bottling plant also bottles drinks like whisky, vodka, gin and rum for other businesses.
5) Part of Loch Lomond’s output is ‘malt’ whisky from a column still.
Some people call these whiskies ‘silent malts’ - but this actually is a grey area.
Loch Lomond calls it malt whisky because the continuous still is fed exclusively with
malted barley. That may be well and good, but is the ingredient actually the most
important thing that sets malt whisky apart from grain whisky?
Or is it the traditional copper pot stills?
6) The ‘standard’ NAS (No Age Statement) expression of
Loch Lomond with the blue label and tube was available
between the mid-1990s and 2014. In the early 2000s
the whisky label changed though. The text ‘pure malt’
(see left) was changed to ‘single malt’ (see right) to
comply with new SWA regulations on classifications.
8) Loch Lomond is one of the few distilleries that is not a member of the SWA.
The Scotch Whisky Association is the lobby organisation for the other large Scotch
whisky producers. Perhaps Loch Lomond not being a member played a role in the SWA’s
decision not to include a special category for LL in their revamped classification of 2008.
4) Loch Lomond is the favourite whisky of Captain Haddock - who
is a fictional character from the Belgian Tintin comic books. Based on
my own experiences, the slogan "Best drank by fictional characters"
would have been very fitting for a few LL releases from the 1990s...
7) Even though one of the founding companies behind Loch Lomond was called the
Littlemill Distillery Company Ltd. they didn’t actually own that Littlemill distillery at the time.
Surprisingly enough, in 2004 the new owners (Glen Catrine) were able to acquire the
ruins of the long closed Littlemill distillery after they were damaged by a fire in 2004.
2004 - The Loch Lomond distillery had already produced
a large number of different brands in the past (including
Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdu and Inchmurrin). In 2004 the
Croftengea brand is added to the LL whisky portfolio.
2008 - The SWA (Scotch Whisky Association) suggests
a new classification system for all Scotch whiskies.
Loch Lomond isn’t a member of the SWA, but they still
propose a sixth category that would include some of
their own whiskies. Their proposal was rejected...
2010 - A peated version of Loch Lomond with a green label but without an age statement is released.
Around this time they have eight stainless steel washbacks with a capacity of 50,000 litres each.
2014 - The ownership of the group changes and the peated expression with the green label is discontinued.
Various properties are now owned by Exponent Private Equity - which sounds rather ‘capitalist’ if you ask me...
2005 - The 'Craiglodge' and 'Inchmoan' brands are
added to the Loch Lomond line-up. I foresee one tiny
practical problem for bartenders: figuring out if an
intoxicated patron is ordering Inchmurrin or Inchmoan...
2006 - The ‘Inchfad’ whisky brand is added to the
ever growing Loch Lomond family tree. It was named
after an island in the south east of the lake.
2015 - A new pair of ‘Lomond’ pot stills with rectifying heads is added.
The Loch Lomond distillery now has three pairs of these Lomond stills, one pair of traditional pot stills, one
continious ‘malt’ still (fed exclusively with malted barley) and two pairs of continuous ‘grain’ stills. That’s 13 stills!
Inchmurrin 13yo 1996/2010 (60.7%, Riverstown, Filled at Loch Lomond distillery, C#69, 295 Bts.)
Nose: Oily. A tad metallic? Grows a little sweeter after a few minutes, but it remains quite inexpressive.
So, let's try to add some water. It did indeed became more alcoholic and prickling - but remained inexpressive.
Taste: Hot with liquorice in the undercurrent. After I added water it seemed a little sweeter. Gritty finish.
Score: 76 points - it lost one or two points in the fairly harsh finish. Perhaps a tad perfumy?
Inchmurrin 1973/2010 (44.3%, Gordon & MacPhail, Refill Bourbon C#3380, Imported by LMdW)
Nose: Oddly oily and grainy. Overall, it's quite restrained. Some cod oil? Some faint spices after a few seconds.
Taste: Sweet and smooth. Passion fruits in the centre. Something perfumy? Tannins. Dry, fairly bitter finish.
Score: 78 points - although this one is difficult to score. Bottom line: I would not recommend it.
Craiglodge 2001/2005 (45%, OB, Distillery Select, Cask #223, Dist. 26/2/01, Bottled 8/9/05, 434 Bottles)
Nose: Sour and immature. Very farmy. Cattle feed. Not unlike grappa. Not a trace of peat I could find.
Taste: Superficial and gritty. Very much like grain whisky. Young, cheap grain whisky that is.
Very much like stale beer in the finish - they've stooped to new lows at Loch Lomond distillery.
Score: 32 points - that's right.... this is one of the very worst single malts I ever tried!
The only thing that kept it from sinking any lower was the fact that it had personality.
Oh, the torture and humiliation I'm willing to suffer to reach my obsessive objectives...
Croftengea 10yo 1993/2004 (54.8%, OB, for the The Whisky Fair 2004).
Nose: Strange. 'Farmy'. Odd organics. Quite interesting - growing VERY interesting. Dentist? Unique.
It has whiffs of oil and 'grain warehouse'. I can't say I like it, but it's something else!
It's somewhere in an unexplored corner between coastal, oily and medicinal. Shows new facets every time.
Sweeter, fruitier and more complex with some time and water. I found gooseberries during a second try.
Taste: Sweet and hot. Smoky centre and finish. Wow, this is better than I expected.
Peppery prickle, mellowing out towards the finish. Smoke remains dominant. Liquorice root; vaguely fruity.
This does have the power and punch of an Kildalton malt, but not the body or depth.
Score: 84 points - but it needs a few bonus points for character to get there.
Inchmoan 2001/2005 (45%, OB, Distillery Select, Cask #53, Dist. 5/3/01, Bottled 7/9/05, 397 Bottles)
Nose: Crap! Pretty much the same as the Craiglodge. Farmy and immature, maybe less expressive.
In fact, it quickly turned into a 'gutter' direction. Glue and maybe the faintest memory of a hint of peat.
Taste: A little sweeter than the Craiglodge, maybe with the faintest hint of peat. Beer again.
Score: 28 points - incredible.... What were they thinking when they released this?
Inchmoan 1994/2005 (55.4%, OB for The Whisky Fair, C#647, 222 Bts.)
Nose: Farmy - very much like the impressive '2004' release for TWF. But that's about the only resemblance.
Sharp and alcoholic, seems quite young. A hint of sewer smells? I'm afraid this one shows very little complexity.
Taste: Quite bitter. Hint of sardines? Martini Bianco? A fairly gritty mouth feel. Altogether quite nondescript.
Taste: 66 points - quite a disappointment after the triumphant 'The Whisky Fair' bottling from 2004.
Inchmurrin 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Malty, oily... more smoke than Loch Lomond. Vegetables? Barbecue spices?
Not very interesting at first, but becomes more powerful after a few minutes.
Taste: Disappointing start. Soft first, bitter later on. More complex after a while. Eucalyptus! Peaches?
Score: 63 points - but it shows notable improvement over time.
Loch Lomond (Inchmoan) 29yo 1974/2003 (54.4%, Cadenhead's Chairman Stock, 210 Bts.)
Nose: Passion fruits and a hint of antiquity. Vaguely spicy. Some clay. More subtle with water.
Taste: Beautiful 'evolved' / tertiary fruits. More pronounced tannins after adding water. Metallic finish.
Score: 86 points - making it my second favourite Loch Lomond ever by 2008. Wonderful stuff!
My #1 so far was the Inchmurrin 34yo 1967/2001 (45.3%, OB for Sweden, Vin & Spirit, Sherry cask, 1800 Bts.)
Loch Lomond NAS (40%, OB, Blue Label, Bottled +/- 1999)
Nose: Oily and malty. No power, but more flavours than the Inchmurrin at first.
Becomes even oilier later on. Too much after 10 minutes! Loses a lot of points here.
Taste: Herbal. Soft and a bit sweet. Menthol? Bitterness. No 'challenge'.
Score: 58 points - not much complexity and 'depth'.
Old Rhosdhu 5yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, 70cl)
Nose: The first thing that comes to mind when you smell this malt is 'Phew!'. Sickeningly slick.
Castor-oil. Sweat and cheap aftershave. Hints of coffee.
taste: The taste is very oily as well. Perfumy. Just too smooth - it's gone before you know it.
Score: 44 points - this wanders into Drumguish 3yo territory. I actually prefer some older blends.
Perhaps only great distilleries like Lagavulin can produce something that's enjoyable at such a young age.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Loch Lomond malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Loch Lomond I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Loch Lomond.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.