Loch Lomond, as you probably know, is a rather unusual Scottish distillery. For one thing, they’re one of the few distilleries that produce both grain and malt whisky. For another, they are set up to produce a wide range of distillates. This is not merely because they make peated whisky alongside unpeated but because they have a range of still setups. They have pot stills and continuous stills; and most of their pot stills—including the originals—have rectifying plates in their necks as opposed to the traditional swan neck. If that weren’t enough they also have a continuous still used to distill grain whisky from a 100% malted barley mash. And from all these different setups they produce a wide range of brands (not all are currently available): Loch Lomond, Old Rhosdhu, Inchmurrin, Inchfad, Inchmoan, Craiglodge, and yes, Croftengea. Croftengea is their peated malt whisky. It’s not made in large quantities, I don’t think. In fact, this is only the first Croftengea I’ve ever had.
This is an official release but it’s a single cask bottled for the Whisky Exchange. While in London in June, I had drinks with the excellent (and extravagantly bearded) Billy Abbott of TWE—he took me to the SMWS Members’ Rooms near Farringdon—and he brought me two samples that he thought I’d like. This was one of them (the other is TWE’s recent Signatory Glenlivet 36—haven’t got into that one yet). I drank it the next night and immediately went down to their Covent Garden store and picked up the single bottle they had left in the store. I opened it right after getting back to Minnesota and confirmed that my response to that sample was not way off. I then managed to purchase two additional bottles from their website and had them shipped to friends in London—I don’t know when I’ll be there next but the bottles are there waiting. Since I have a small stock put away for the future, I can now continue drinking my bottle down at a rapid rate and I can also encourage you to go out and purchase what remains of their stock.
Croftengea 9, 2008 (54.8%; Whisky Exchange exclusive; hogshead 272; from my own bottle)
Nose: Ash wafts out of the glass as I pour but by the time I pick it up, the top notes are all about cocoa and fruit (baked apple, peach). The smoke plays around it all. Goes on in this vein for a good while. With water the fruit is even more pronounced.
Palate: A lovely mix of smoke and fruit with a little meatiness thrown into the mix. There’s more citrus here than on the nose, lemon in particular. Very drinkable at full strength and the texture is very good. The citrus gets muskier with time and there’re some softer, sweeter notes as well of pastry crust and vanilla. A few drops of water and the fruit is over the top: peach, lemon, over-ripe pineapple; a bit of weed too now.
Finish: Long. The fruit waxes tropical. The smoke comes back strong here and brings some cracked black pepper with it. With time the smoke fades a bit here and lets the fruit take center stage (the apple and peach from the nose return as well). As on the palate with water, but with more smoke underneath the fruit and more weed.
Comments: This is bloody good stuff. Why does Loch Lomond not put out more of it? Are they opposed to making money? Or is this cask an outlier? More research needed.
Rating: 90 points.