Whisky Review #91: Lochside 1991 13 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail LMdW Exclusive)

With Scotland currently experiencing another period of boom with regard to the popularity of whisky, there are a multitude of new distilleries either being planned or built at the moment across the country. Some existing distilleries are even being expanded in order to allow for them to better address the demand for both single malts and blends.

However, it must be acknowledged that the industry has also had its share of dark days and one of the most prevalent periods in history would be the 1980s and early 1990s, when the industry underwent a period of sharp contraction due to a lack of demand. This led to the closure of a number of distilleries across the country, some temporarily, but most for good.

One of the distilleries which represent the latter category would be Lochside, which is the focus of this week’s review.

While the distillery was founded in 1957, the buildings it inhabited were actually founded in 1781 when the site was used as a brewery by James Deuchar & Sons Ltd. (which eventually formed part of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries).

Scottish & Newcastle operated the brewery until the 1950s, when it made the decision to close it. The buildings were then purchased in 1957 by Macnab Distilleries Ltd. and one of their major shareholders was the eccentric Canadian millionaire, Joseph Hobbs.

Hobbs was the owner of Ben Nevis distillery in Fort William (as well as Glenlochy distillery in the same town for a short period of time) and played a fundamental role in the conversion of the brewery site into a distillery which was then given the name Lochside.

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Lochside distillery (Picture credit: http://www.whiskyintelligence.com)

As Ben Nevis produced both malt and grain whisky, Hobbs decided that Lochside would follow their lead and the distillery therefore had both pot and column stills installed in order for both to be produced on site. It was also at that time that the Sandy Macnab brand of blended whisky was created, with Lochside being an important contributor to the blend.

Lochside remained under the ownership of Macnab Distilleries Ltd. until 1973, when the latter was purchased by Spanish whisky manufacturer Destilerías y Crianza del Whisky S.A., who were also more popularly known as DYC.

DYC was in turn purchased by Allied Distillers and became part of the newly formed Allied Domecq, which was a merger between Allied Distillers and Spanish sherry procucer Domecq. The latter firm was also the subject of a takeover in 2005, when it was sold to French spirits conglomerate, Pernod Ricard.

It was under Allied Domecq’s ownership that the distillery was deemed to be surplus to requirements and was mothballed in 1992, with the site being earmarked for redevelopment.

The distillery was finally demolished in 2004/2005 and has now been replaced by a housing development, although traces of the former distillery remain to this day.

Interesting fact: When the site was slated for redevelopment, not all of the buildings were destined to be demolished and the tower which formed the tallest part of the distillery was supposed to have been left intact. However, a rather severe fire broke out during January 2005 and as it caused significant damage to the buildings, which necessitated the demolition of all the buildings on site.

In terms of equipment, the distillery was equipped with a cast iron mash tun, several stainless steel open-top washbacks and 2 pairs of wash and spirit stills. The distillery also had column stills, although these were unused during DYC’s ownership. The distillery’s production capacity is unknown but estimates place it at approximately 1 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis.

While the whisky produced at Lochside was used for the Sandy Macnab blend, it was also bottled as a 10 Years Old single malt as well as for the various blended whiskies which made up the DYC brand.

While most of the stocks of Lochside single malt (and grain) have been bottled by independent bottlers over the last 15 years, there remain some casks which are held by certain independent bottlers and will be released in due course.

There have been some rather interesting and unusual releases of a Lochside single blend, which was composed of both malt and grain spirit which had been married in the same cask and left to mature for at least 40 years. There have been several independent bottlings of this single blend by various bottlers and they are as collectible as they are rare.

This week’s review focuses on an expression of Lochside which was distilled in 1991 (the year before its permanent closure) and matured for 13 years in an ex-bourbon cask before being bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for La Maison du Whisky (LMdW) in 2004 as an exclusive release.

So, let’s dive right into the review!

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Lochside 1991 13 Years Old (Gordon & MacPhail LMdW Exclusive)

Lochside 1991 13 Years Old (Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail for LMdW, 46% abv)

Colour: Bright gold

Nose: Initial entry presents floral, fruity and malty aromas, with cut grass, violets, honeyed malt, citrus (lemon and lime) and vanilla emerging early on. Cinnamon, hints of bourbon, sage and damp earth also make an appearance with time and it is chased by a fair bit of oak. (21/25)

Palate: Not as honeyed as the nose suggested, with the sweetness taking a backseat in favour of the sage, damp earth, vanilla and malt. There are some honeyed notes in there, but it is jostling for attention alongside the lemon and lime, cinnamon, black pepper, oak and violet elements which are present on the palate. (21/25)

Finish: Relatively long and lingering on the finish, with a slight amount of sweetness and malt coupled with vestigial hints of honey and citrus from the palate filtering through. Fleeting hints of cinnamon and violets and some oak emerge late on to bring things to a close. (20/25)

Balance: A fairly well-balanced dram which showcases what is seen to be the typical Lochside house style. The mouthfeel is oily for the most part and the interplay between the various aromas and flavours is rather interesting. (21/25)

Rating: 83/100

I sampled this expression at The Elysian Whisky Bar in Melbourne during my trip in late December/early Jan and it was available by the nip and dram for a rather reasonable price. It was great to try a rather good and interesting dram from a dearly departed distillery and I was glad that I had the chance to tick another distillery off my hitlist.

I would highly recommend that those travelling to Melbourne anytime in the near future check the bar out as it possesses and exceptional range of independent bottlings as well as a handful of great official bottlings from various distillers.

Until the next review, have a great week.

Slainte!

Brendan

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