Crafting Loch Lomond

Remember Tintin? Some of you definitely will. He was a fictional reporter/traveller created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (more famously known as Hergé) who visited many countries during the five decades he was drawn. In 1938’s “The Black Island” Tintin and his dog Snowy end up in Scotland. When it was first published there were signs, barrels and tankers bearing the name Johnnie Walker Whisky. These were later changed to say Loch Lomond Whisky and the brand became a recurring theme throughout the Tintin series. No one knows, or is saying, why the name of the whisky was changed but it first appeared in a 1966 edition of “The Black Island” – two years after the Loch Lomond Distillery actually came into being…

Its story begins with an American called Duncan Thomas who in the 1960s owned the Littlemill Distillery, which was founded as far back as 1772. He chose to build the Loch Lomond Distillery in Alexandria with the majestic Ben Lomond mountain towering above it. Opening in 1964 production began a year later with the aid of Barton Brands, a Chicago-based company known for producing distilled spirits and liquors. They bought out Duncan Thomas in 1971. At the time the distillery had a set of pot stills with rectifying plates in their necks, making way for the production of several different flavours. Demand unfortunately slowed over the next decade and in 1984 the distillery closed its doors. An ominous year indeed.

All was not lost though. Inver House bought it a year later before selling it on to Alexander Bulloch and the Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse Co. in 1986. Production was soon under way again. Aside from the pot stills already in place two column stills were added in the early 90s – one with the ability to make grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. These and other changes came slowly over the years, including the addition of two new malt stills in 1999 and experiments with wine yeast to create unique flavours. In 2014 the Bulloch family moved on and the distillery was acquired by the Loch Lomond Group, an independent distiller and blender which also owns Glen Scotia in Campbeltown. The Loch Lomond Distillery has continued to produce its classic single malt and single grain whisky.

The so-called Loch Lomond Original is a smooth single malt with hints of smoke and peat. Loch Lomond Reserve and Signature are blended Scotch whiskies with both malt and grain whisky in their design, something unique to the Loch Lomond Distillery. There’s also the Inchmurrin series featuring some very distinctive whiskies. Inchmurrin Madeira Wood Finish is matured in American oak whisky barrels before spending even more time in Madeira wine barrels. This way of finishing the process brings out more fruity flavours in the whisky as well as a pleasing nuttiness. Their ‘master distiller’ William White is responsible for this unique drink but it was Tommy Wallace, once ‘master cooper’, who chose the bourbon casks for what was to become Inchmurrin 18 Year Old. If you care about the packaging as well as the flavour (mmm we might add) then buy it while it still looks like a work of art.

Loch Lomond has lost many distilleries over the years. While the Loch Lomond Distillery could be seen as carrying on their legacy – and certainly they believe they are – what makes them stand out in the modern world is the sheer variety they have on offer. The group has received praise for its unusual concoctions. What could be next we wonder? A new pair of stills was installed earlier this year as the Loch Lomond Group began an increase in production to get an even bigger spot on the international stage. The company already exports to 70 countries. So we could be getting more experiments from the Loch Lomond Distillery then, or maybe they’ll see this as an opportunity to perfect what they already have. If it needs perfecting. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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