Loch Lomond is a beautiful place, full of proper Scottish vistas and charm. I have stayed near by before and passed by many, many times on the way to Scottish holidays as a child, but I have never once noticed the distillery. This is even odder when you consider that it is a huge, industrial behemoth that produces 10 million litres of grain whisky and 2.5 million litres of single malt every year!
Since the mid eighties the distillery has produced whisky in large volume, but in 2014 the distillery was bought out by its management team backed by a private equity firm. From this date to today, there has been a significant shift in focus and much more effort has gone into getting people to see the high quality and diverse range of whisky that the distillery has to offer.
Now let us say upfront that it might never win any awards for being beautiful, but it is a fascinating place to visit. They do not normally have the facilities to run tours, but we were lucky enough to tour with both Gary Mills (Brand Ambassador fo Loch Lomond Group) and Michael Henry (Master Blender)
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Loch Lomond is genuinely a distillery like no other that I have visited. It might stray from the quaint, picturesque view of distillation in Scotland that most people like to imagine, but what it lacks in looks it fully makes up for in sheer scale and variation. With the different still types and by cutting at different ABV levels, Loch Lomond can distill a baffling array of new make spirit, which makes their ability to experiment almost unparalleled.
Gary and Michael were fantastic tour guides! As Michael understands the distillation process down to the minute details of chemical composition, he was able to take us through the Loch Lomond process, highlighting all the interesting things that make whisky production at Loch Lomond unique and we were able to ask lots of geeky questions about different parts of the process and get answers with such detail that we often got lost. Gary is a fantastic advocate for Loch Lomond’s portfolio, he is passionate, knowledgeable, but still very much down to earth, so he added charm and a sense of fun to the process.
I think for us, however the most fascinating part of the process was getting chance to sample the different New Make spirits that they produce. Each carried the house style, which is sweet, full of tropical fruit flavours and creamy vanillins, yet each was made different by tweaks to the process. Whether it was peating and distillation in the flat line arm still, or using a high ABV cut point to create a lighter, crisper fruitier style, each variation gave the spirit an interesting spin on the house style.
We did also visit the warehousing and get chance to see some of the myriad of barrels that are on site, but sadly (as with most distilleries) photography was most definitely off the cards, which means that if you want the full story, you will have to visit for yourselves!
For making us feel like kids entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and for putting up with all our daft questions, we would give this distillery tour 10/10