One of the most exciting amongst the recent mushroom growth of Scotch whisky distilleries is Lochlea Distillery in Ayrshire. Why so? Well, for me it's primarily because the entire project was kept pretty much under the radar until they were ready to release their inaugural whisky. It is admittedly difficult to keep track of all the new projects and ventures cropping up as of late but I definitely try my best. However, the first I actually heard of Lochlea Distillery was a feature in Whisky Magazine just before its first whisky was about to appear on the shelves.
Although not for long. Despite being fairly priced for an inaugural release, the state of the current market means these flew off those shelves only to soon appear at a whisky auction site near (or far from) you. Luckily, I managed to get hold of a bottle which was duly opened and shared with the good folk in the Edinburgh Whisky Group.
For a three year old whisky, it's showed great potential and the distillery is certainly one to watch. So, when Colin (Whisky Forager and Tipsy Midgie) and Adele (Tartan Spoon) asked if I'd like to join them to pay a visit to the distillery, the answer was a resounding 'yes'.
We were met by Lochlea's Patrick Dupuy who showed us around. Our first stop was the barley field. At Lochlea, they grow all their own barley but, for the moment, this is malted off site.
Trials using their own malting floor have already been undertaken and the plan is to have this up and running on site soon. Of course, this is all dependent on cash flow. Lochlea Distillery doesn't have a visitor centre per se and the founders made the conscious decision to not go down the gin path whilst waiting for the whisky to come of age. Therefore, those two income streams which are generally considered to be quite important for new Scotch whisky distilleries, are not available to Lochlea. So, additions and expansions such as malting floors and bottling plants need to added when the time is right.
After holding back Adele from throwing herself amongst the barley, we strolled down to the warehouse. Here we saw dunnage, racked and palletised set ups all in the one warehouse.
Several different types of casks could be spotted and, naturally, those casks at the top of the warehouse mature a little differently to those elsewhere.
The still house was our next stop. Whereas, at the moment, it looks very compact, Patrick explained that it was designed in a way to allow room for expansion once they are good and ready. The stills were running at the time and, later on, we saw the casks being filled.
To end our visit, we tasted the latest Lochlea release: Our Barley. This is the first core single malt from the distillery; matured in oloroso casks, STR barriques and first fill bourbon barrels.It's bottled at 46%, is non-chill filtered and retails for around the £45 mark.
Tasting this side by side with the inaugural release as well as some Lochlea new make spirit, for me there was one very clear note which ran throughout all three: aniseed. Is this the Lochlea character? Well, maybe it is for me.
Such a great distillery to visit and one which has intrigued me ever since I heard of it (which admittedly hasn't been for long). Thanks for Patrick for taking the time to show us around; to Colin for organising and for Adele for being the designated driver.
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