2022 has been a landmark year for Ayrshire’s Lochlea distillery. In January, they saw their first single malt scotch whisky hit the shelves (whether virtually or otherwise) and then very swiftly disappear as they all got snapped up! The reviews were great, the press well received, and the whisky enjoyed by those quick/lucky enough to get some.
Next, the team started a series of limited editions, which celebrates their whisky’s origins: not just by honouring the farm on which the distillery presides – where the Scottish Bard Robert Burns once worked! – but the barley itself from which the whisky can be made. In fact both the barley and the water that go into making Lochlea’s whisky comes from their own site. First up was Sowing Edition (First Crop), representing Spring and the start of the crop’s lifecycle, and then more recently we have seen the launch of the Harvest Edition (First Crop), marking the end of the crop’s growth.
Continuing that celebration of their key crop and ingredient now sees the arrival of their first core release: the fittingly entitled “Our Barley”.
This is a single malt scotch whisky recipe that has been honed by ex-Laphroaig Distillery Manager (and industry legend!) John Campbell, to represent the flavours that the Lochlea barley has to offer the spirit.
Having started production in August 2018, we know that the spirit is max 3-4 years old, and the final bottling is comprised of a combination of maturations across first-fill Bourbon barrels, Oloroso Sherry casks, and shaved-toasted-recharred (STR) barriques.
Each bottle is presented within what has become their signature squat, square, and engraved decanter-style glassware, at 46% ABV, at its natural colour and without chill-filtration. Bottles are becoming widely available within the UK at an RRP of £45.
Soft, creamy vanilla, with clean grist, crisp apple, and a lovely warming toasty smell to it.
I don’t normally comment upfront but this is a notably silky body – obviously it is young but it has got some velvet about it already. When it comes to flavour it is more of the delicious creamy vanilla, with a little apple, and a clean and sweet malt/grist. That toasted oak flavour is there again and it just adds to the warmth and complements the barley – it doesn’t detract from it. Delicious light nutty almond flavour and a gentle oak spice build.
A lovely, warming, gentle peppery fizzle.
Well, I may not be awash with tasting notes but this was so very enjoyable. A delicious, fresh, crisp celebration of malted barley. It is really good when you can taste a spirit’s origins and here, they are celebrating that. I think it’s both a tasty treat, and a marketing coup. Celebrating what the farm is built on and what whisky is made of whisky at the start of their whisky journey is honest and fantastic. With so many cask finishes and experimentations going on to try and distinguish new releases from one another it is refreshing to see Lochlea going back to the basics and putting their barley front and centre.
When first reading about Lochlea I did wonder if having John Campbell take over the helm would see Lochlea going down a peated whisky route. [ed: if it was going be a peat-fest then it would be in safe hands!] Normally, I try to avoid tasting notes before sampling a whisky, but knowing about Mr Campbell’s involvement did make me wonder whether that toasted oak note was actually an indication of there being any peat in there or even just the influence of an ex-peat cask… but maybe my mind was just running away with me and the marketing influencing my notes before I’ve even poured the whisky.
Speaking of marketing, I love that there are no statements about there being “potential” or a “journey” on this one. It is a belter in its own right. It reminds me of a personal fave, the Glencadam 10 – simple, honest, and delicious. Light but characterful. It does feel like a celebration of their barley.
Sample disclosure: This sample was received as part of a paid subscription to OurWhisky. All notes are intended as an honest, fair, and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.