Tuesday, April 18, 2023

loched and loaded

It's been something like eighteen months so here's another whisky post. The main items of interest among a very gratifying selection of whisky delights at Christmas and my birthday were a pair of bottlings from the Loch Lomond distillery, something I'd never tried before and something you never used to see in the major outlets like supermarkets or Amazon. But evidently they've had a bit of a rebrand and a sales push of late and well, here we are.

The two bottles I have are the standard no-age-statement entry-level single malt which they have decided to call Loch Lomond Classic, and the 10-year-old expression (which interestingly doesn't seem to be listed on their website). The distillery itself is right on the Lowland/Highland region boundary in the same way as Glengoyne is; in fact Loch Lomond is slightly further south (and a few miles further west) than Glengoyne. Nonetheless it's classed as a Highland whisky.

What you'd broadly expect here is that the older whisky would be slightly darker and deeper and richer than the younger one, and that's pretty much what you get, The younger one has the slight magic-marker smell that young whisky has, but also just a hint of something fruity. maybe apples or pears. The older one is slightly sweeter, and, as you can see from the photo - it's the one on the right - darker, and also has just a hint of that parsnip/Marmite/leather-topped writing desk savouriness that slightly older whisky sometimes has. It seems kind of obvious to say that the older one is better, but, well, it is. Both are pretty polite, smoke-free whiskies of the sort you would expect from the Highland/Speyside region; as I've said before my preference is for something a bit more rough and ready but there's absolutely nothing wrong with either of these.

As I've said elsewhere, most distilleries manage to concoct some claim of being the oldest, highest, biggest, based on some slightly weaselly definition of the word in question. Loch Lomond doesn't exactly do this, but its bottles do carry a legend that says "since 1814" (you can see it in the picture above), which even the most charitable observer would have to say is a big fat lie of the sort that you would surely think would be legally actionable. Presumably just enough smoke can be blown up the impartial observer's ass by the fact that there was a short-lived distillery on the banks of Loch Lomond from 1814, even though it only existed for a handful of years and the new distillery, which opened in 1965, has no connection to it and is in a completely different location.

The other thing people know, or rather think they know, about Loch Lomond is that it's the whisky that Tintin's adventuring buddy Captain Haddock used to drink. Well, what's the problem with that, you might say - it's right there in the books, see?

Well, the problem is related to both the date-related slipperiness above and the multiple re-workings of the Tintin books over the years, something I previously mentioned here. In fact the panel from The Black Island featuring the train was originally drawn as containing Johnnie Walker whisky and only re-drawn to say Loch Lomond in the early 1960s when the early books were re-issued in colour. The re-issue dates and the date of the re-opening of the distillery are pretty close together, but it seems highly likely that the re-drawing work commenced before the new Loch Lomond distillery was even open, and it seems unlikely that Hergé was following upcoming developments in Scotch whisky so avidly as to have been aware of it. The most likely explanation is that he just chose a nicely generic Scottish-sounding name (perhaps with some help from his English translators) without any particular intention that it mirror the name of a real-life entity and the fact that it subsequently did is just a coincidence. OR IS IT, etc. etc.

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