Origin: Lowlands (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon first fill and ex-Sherry PX
Added colouring: No
Owner: Lochlea Distilling Co.
Average price: € 40.00
Official website: www.lochleadistillery.com
There’s a lot of excitement in the whisky world these days, with new distilleries springing up all over the world, including Scotland which is certainly not standing idly by.
The birth of a distillery is usually announced with great fanfare, sometimes because it marks a real innovation (like Torabhaig, the second to be established on Skye in many years), sometimes because the hype helps to fund the business until the first whisky can be released.
And then there’s Lochlea, Ayrshire’s first craft distillery in the Lowlands, founded in 2015, which has quietly gone about its business without bombastic announcements and almost unnoticed, to the extent that it wasn’t even mentioned in some lists of operating distilleries.
The brainchild of owner Neil McGeoch and distillery manager Malcolm Rennie, Lochlea was created on a farm that provides the barley it needs, with production all on site except for malting, for which a malting floor is already planned: a distillery that is both modern and old-fashioned, in the wake of many others that make craftsmanship and traceability a point of honour.
Rennie (who moved to Ian MacLeod to oversee the new Rosebank) has recently been replaced by a very well-known name in the whisky world, John Campbell, coming from 27 years of experience at Laphroaig (and yes, there are plans to make a whisky with peaty notes).
This is Lochlea’s first whisky, released at the beginning of 2022 (precisely on 25 January, the birthday of Robert Burns who owned the farm for a number of years), three years of ageing in ex-Bourbon casks (from Maker’s Mark) and ex-Sherry Pedro Ximénez casks of a spirit resulting from long fermentation and high-cut distillation, with a production of 7385 bottles.
The nose is a bomb of cereals and malt, crunchy muesli with nuts, nutmeg, apple, pear, a hint of peach in syrup, freshly cut wood, honey. Sweet with a slight roughness in the background, herbaceous and black pepper notes emerge over time.
A more decisive pepper on the entry, quite full-bodied, the cereal notes are also found on the palate accompanied by apple, plum, vanilla, honey, more wood with a decisive but not invasive spiciness. Nuts and a dry, bitter streak in the background, of liquorice root.
The finish is not very long and spicy, dry, with apple, vanilla, malt and nuts.
Young but with character, the casks played it safe without too much impact, especially the Sherry casks, thanks also to a distillate with a strong personality. Immature but pleasant, a promise of great things to come.
Note of merit for the bottle (with embossed tractor tyre marks) and for the price, which was kept popular unlike many other debuts.