Lochlea is one of the new kids on the block. It has been quietly producing and maturing spirit since August 2018, launching the Lochlea First Release in January 2022. Since November 2021 industry veteran John Campbell, the ex-manager of Laphroaig, is the production director and master blender for Lochlea.
Lochlea distillery is built upon the farm in the Lowlands that was once the home of Robert Burns. The family-run farm grows and harvests its own barley with draff feeding local cattle, similar to what Daftmill is doing. However Lochlea is a lot bigger and is also preparing its own malting floor, thus being one of the only distilleries to do everything on site.
This first release comes from a combination of first-fill bourbon and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. More whisky expressions are expected to be added from mid-2022 onwards.
Lochlea First Release (46%, OB 2021, 7385 btl.)
Nose: freshly cut yellow apples and peaches, with pleasant malty notes. It quickly becomes nuttier, with hints of muesli and hazelnuts. The expected vanilla biscuits as well, but not overdone. In the background there’s a light earthy / floral touch. Somehow it did remind me of the early Daftmill releases, although it’s definitely a lighter spirit.
Mouth: less impressive now, as the youth comes out more. There’s a peppery bite with some spicy bourbon wood, as well as generous grainy notes. A pickled note. White pepper. Mid-palate you get more caramel sweetness, orange and a hint of toffee. After that it gets drier, with nutmeg and salty notes.
Finish: a bit short and simple. Spicy and malty notes, with hardly any fruits.
A fine introduction to Lochlea. It has an attractive nose and a nice texture on the palate. I’m guessing the PX casks are helping to hide a light, young and slightly generic spirit, which still shows a rather harsh edge. We’ll give it the benefit of doubt, but the competition among start-up distilleries is fierce. Bottles were sold out quickly – maybe getting a tasting sample from The Whisky Exchange is a better idea.