I’ve marveled about the ingenuity of Loch Lomond before, yet it has taken me too long to write about what is (in my mind at least) their flagship release. It’s been getting a bit of traction, but the Inchmurrin 12 Years remains one of Scotch whisky’s best kept secrets. It’s also the closest you’ll get to tasting Littlemill without emptying your bank account.
So, why is that? Because of the unique straight-necked stills, currently only employed at Loch Lomond. But these stills were originally developed for the defunct Littlemill Distillery by Duncan Thomas in the 1930s. Not coincidentally, Thomas is also co-founder of the current Loch Lomond distillery, which has been around since 1966.
These straight-necked pot stills (pictured above) allow for double distilled and triple distilled styles of spirit to be produced from the same stills. They have a straight, tall body filled with a series of rectifying plates that can push the spirit to higher strengths. In case of their Inchmurrin style the spirit comes off the still at about 85% abv, compared to roughly 70% abv for spirit collected from traditional copper pot stills.
Because of the high demand for blended Scotch during the boom times of the 1950s and 1960s, Littlemill produced different styles of spirit. That philosophy was kept intact when Loch Lomond was built in the mid-1960s. First by founder Duncan Thomas, who installed a set of straight-necked pot stills. Then by the previous owner Sandy Bulloch, who added another pair of straight-necked stills, as well as traditional swan neck pot stills AND a continuous still.
“Our former owner wanted to be fiercely independent and created a completely self-sufficient malt and grain distillery”, master blender Michael Henry once explained to me. But the distillery has a different goal now. Its versatility is no longer used mainly for blends, but is also highlighted in their single malts.
When a private equity firm bought Loch Lomond in 2014 they embraced the distillery’s versatility. They have a core range made up from different spirit styles. There’s a trio of single malts – Inchmurrin, Inchmoan and Loch Lomond. The distillery also promotes an unpeated and peated single grain whisky.
But today I’ll focus on just Inchmurrin, made in those quirky straight-necked pot stills. This single malt matured in three different cask types; bourbon, refill and recharred. Ever since being introduced to it some five years ago, I’m of the believe it is one of the better (for lack of a better word) entry-level whiskies available. Maybe not in the upper echelon of Benromach 10 and Springbank 10 and the likes, but certainly more than worth your time.
Loch Lomond Inchmurrin 12 Years (46%, OB, 2021)
Nose: Initially some faint oak shavings, but we quickly descent into creamy vanilla, red apples, peach and mango. It has some grassy notes too, as well as a touch of breakfast cereals. Taste: There’s that fruity Inchmurrin arrival that’s definitely in the same ballpark as those older Littlemill, albeit with a little less depth. Peaches, pink grapefruit and bitter oranges, but also nutmeg, cloves and a whiff of honey. Finish: Oak spices, orange pith. Finally a touch of milk chocolate. Medium in length.
Loch Lomond's Inchmurrin 12 Years offers a lot of value for money, although I would understand if some might find the oak and spices just a tad much. But to me it is the fruitiness that stands out most. And where else can you find something (somewhat) reminiscent of Littlemill for less than 50 euro?