This Thursday (18th July 2019), the Open Championship tees off for its 148th annual meet. With the world’s eyes set to watch the Royal Portrush golf course in Northern Ireland for 4 days of the world’s golfing elite competing against one another, their sponsors Loch Lomond Group, have marked the occasion with the new “Open Course Collection”. Working in collaboration with Northern Ireland native, Portrush resident and former Open Champion Darren Clarke (2011 Champion), the Loch Lomond team have released this 19 year old single malt whisky, named after the Royal Portrush course itself, as part of the collection. The whisky has been maturing in the Loch Lomond warehouses, in American ex-bourbon oak casks for some 18-19 years, before being finished for a final 6 months in Claret red wine oak casks. The final liquid is released without chill-filtration, and has been bottled with its natural colour (glowing with a distinctive pinky/rose gold hue), captured at a sizey 50.3% ABV. Retailing at some £145 for a 70cl bottle, will it be winning its own trophies? Let’s see…
Well that 50.3% hits you straight away. Once the nostrils have acclimatized though there’s a lot of red wine influence at first – those red fruits (strawberries and raspberries) just tingle and tantalise.. There’s a good dose of vanilla and creaminess in there too. In fact, is this for The Open or Wimbledon? It really is conjuring up memories of strawberries and cream! There’s bit of a pastry flavour to it too. Lots of delicious things going on here. A faint smell of the whisky’s heritage and dunnage about it – helping to avoid making this a total sugar fest.
The fruit basket of flavours continue as this coats the tongue, but this time there’s a distinct gooseberry and grapefruit sort of sourness amongst the red berry sensations. The fruits aren’t the only notes here though as there is now a fair bit of a cinnamon-style spice to it, which, with that buttery/pastry note, reminds me of fruit turnovers. Quite the dessert.
Wow. That 50% ABV really comes back for you! This whisky delivers a proper rasp down the throat and ooh ooh ooh there’s heat, heat, heat. And spice. Its wood all the way here. Fitting for a golf theme!
When I first saw the colour of this whisky, I (wrongly) assumed that the whisky had been given a port cask finish – though that might have just been the name of the whisky and golf course influencing my decision. Claret cask it was however and lovely stuff it is. [Insert your own reference to Alan Partridge, as needed]. There’s lots going on in just a tiny sip of this and they’re all pretty indulgent notes too, right up until that firey finale! Despite the sample containing little bits of oak floating in it (you know its direct form the source then!) there’s a fine balance between the sweetness and oak flavours. Having enjoyed some of Loch Lomond’s core range and having experienced how fruity their malts are, this whisky really points out the difference that those 6/9/12 month cask finishes can make on a final whisky and in this case, the red wine casks are bringing so many extra little sweet red berry notes. Usually, when I have whiskies of this sort of age, it would usually be a case of savouring the flavours and sensations, but this little edition was so light of body and more-ish – once the final firey had fizzled out – that it just invited another sip straight away! What I would give to make a collaboration whisky! And its a collaboration well done!
Sample disclosure: This whisky sample was received as part of a Tweet Tasting promotional event by @TheWhiskyWire and @LochLomondWhisky. All tasting notes however are intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky.