Spirit Of The Week: Loch Lomond 22-Year-Old Single Malt

Honoring Scotland’s second most beloved invention–golf–and the 151st Open at Royal Liverpool.

(Loch Lomond)

The roots of the Loch Lomond Distillery reach back to 1814, when it first started crafting whisky on the shores of Alexandria, Scotland. The present endeavor, however, launched in 1964 and produced spirits until 1984, when the infamous “Whisky Loch” shuttered distilleries across Caledonia. For three years Loch Lomond remained dormant, only to relaunch in 1987. 

Besides its location, what makes Loch Lomond different is its combination of stills—three pairs of straight-neck pot stills, a pair of swan-neck stills, two pairs of continuous grain stills and a continuous Coffey malt still. The straight-neck stills, developed by whisky innovator Duncan Thomas in the 1950s, are especially notable, as they’re the only extant straight-neck stills in all of Scotland. 

Using this singular setup to craft its single malts, Loch Lomond this month releases two new limited-edition expressions to celebrate its nation’s second most beloved invention: golf. Honoring The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool, Loch Lomond unveils the Open Special Edition and the Open Course Collection—both of which earned Double Gold at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, helping Loch Lomond earn the SFWSC’s Most Awarded Distillery title in 2023. 

Using the taller and thin straight-neck stills along with more traditional swan-neck stills allows Loch Lomond Master Blender Michael Henry to more nuancedly shape his certified organic whisky at the point of distillation by producing a more potent white dog (up to 90% ABV compared to a swan-neck still’s 70% ABV). This encourages different notes to rise to the forefront—more difficult to achieve via conventional pot still.

“Our straight-neck stills are an incredible, innovative piece of engineering which are unlike anything else used in the Scotch whisky industry,” Henry tells Maxim, explaining how special distillation trays in the necks of these unique stills allow for greater contact with the cooling alcohol vapor. This makes the process more efficient and encourages flavors to separate during distillation.

“They allow me to carefully shape the character of the whisky at the point of distillation, creating a lighter spirit with a distinctive fruity flavor which is integral to our distillery’s award-winning signature style.” 

The juice that makes up the Open Course Edition was distilled and poured into first-fill ex-bourbon American Oak casks in 2000, and then rested for over two decades on the banks of their iconic lake. During this time Loch Lomond’s signature tropical fruit notes are amplified, creating more melodies of pineapple, mango and grapefruit, along with hints of toasted oak, vanilla and cinnamon.

“The Loch Lomond Distillery has always followed its own path, and here I have the freedom to be creative and explore flavor in a different way,”  the Master Blender continues.

“Often distilleries focus on the flavors created through cask influence alone, but at Loch Lomond Whiskies we use both the distillation and maturation processes to explore whisky-making, opening up new possibilities for passionate whisky lovers who share our curiosity.” 

Noting how the Open at Royal Liverpool is one of the most prestigious events in the golf world, Henry mentions how proud the distillery is to be part of the journey—and to craft a pair of whiskies worthy of the 151st championship. 

“Our approach encourages me to be inventive, to try things that many would find impossible and to follow my imagination. It gives me the freedom to think big and to do things my way, rather than being confined to the rule book of traditional whisky making.”

If the Open Course Edition is too difficult or pricey to source (only 4,500 bottles available worldwide), look out for the more widely distributed Open Special Edition created in collaboration with their venerable golf ambassador Colin Montgomerie. Initially aged in American Oak wood, Open Special Edition is second-finished in red wine Rioja Alta Reserva casks. $40, $320

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.