Over the past 25 years, The Whisky Exchange has evolved into one of world’s premiere retailers of high end whiskies. It was initially founded in London by brothers—and fine spirit connoisseurs—Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh. In the process of building out an impossibly vast personal collection of scotch, they’ve managed to sip through countless expressions from within the category. Along with their talented team, they comprise some of the most experienced palates on the planet.
All this is to say, when they release their annual list of the best whiskies of the year people listen. And that time is here once again. It’s hard to believe, as it feels like we were just here talking about the 2023 winners. But 2024 is just weeks away and with it comes a new champion: Loch Lomond 18 Year Old. Let’s uncork a bottle and see what makes it so special…
The first thing to note about Loch Lomond is the versatile nature of the distillery itself. The Highland workhorse, which sits not far from the shores of its namesake body of water, cranks out a ludicrous 23 million liters worth of whisky each year. Nearly 90% of that colossal sum consists of lighter grain whisky, which pours off their outsized column stills.
But the 3 million liters worth of malt that’s made here is done so in a truly unique fashion. In addition to a pair of traditional pot stills, Loch Lomond operates six stills which function not unlike a pot/column hybrid. They allow the distillers to dial in the body and flavor profile of their distillates to an exacting degree. Beyond that, the facility holds its own cooperage, affording the craftspeople behind the brand even more control over the final product.
The benefits of all that micromanaging are easily appreciated in a dram of the Loch Lomond 18. The non-chill filtered liquid is bottled at 92 proof and holds a compellingly full body. There’s an exquisite richness to the mouthfeel, one that holds honey, orchard fruit and—ultimately—tobacco leaf. It’s just the sort of complex nuance that tickles the fancy of single malt aficionados. So it’s not at all difficult to understand how this particular expression took home the top accolade from Sukinder Singh and co.
The folks at Loch Lomond, as you might suspect, are properly chuffed with the results.
“It’s a real honor to be presented with this award from The Whisky Exchange, especially knowing that the judging panel was made up of some of the whisky industry’s finest ambassadors,” said master distiller Michael Henry in a press release. “The 18-Year-Old is a great example of our distillery style and our philosophy of flavour creation through distillation. Using spirit from both our straight neck pot stills and swan neck pot stills, capturing different elements of fruit character before maturation in American Oak.”
This latest honor caps off a banner year for Loch Lomond Whiskies. In April, the portfolio of products took home more medals at the coveted San Francisco World Spirits Competition than that of any other distillery.
In claiming the Whisky Exchange prize, Loch Lomond 18 Year Old bested runner-up Glenglassaugh Sandend, and a 15 Year Old flagship expression from Glenallachie. Rounding out the shortlist was Jura 18 Year Old and Balblair 15. It’s worth noting that all five of these standouts are typically positioned on US shelves for under $100 a bottle. A poignant reminder—especially during holiday gifting season—that you don’t necessarily need to break the bank in order to score a singularly special example of well aged single malt scotch.