In a momentous declaration that reverberates through the esteemed halls of the spirits industry, The Whisky Exchange has anointed Loch Lomond's 18 Year Old as the Whisky of the Year for the illustrious year of 2024. A choice that has stirred the aficionados and connoisseurs, this single malt, crafted under the discerning eye of master distiller Michael Henry, triumphed over a formidable shortlist that included the Glenglassaugh Sandend, securing the runner-up spot, and the venerable Glenallachie 15 Year Old claiming third place. The competitive field also featured the distinguished Jura 18 Year Old, the resplendent Balblair 15 Year Old, and the captivating Arran Sherry Cask.
What elevates the accolade bestowed upon Loch Lomond's 18-year-old elixir is the stringent criterion set by The Whisky Exchange: contenders had to flaunt a price tag below £90 (equivalent to US$114) and be readily accessible for commercial purchase. This fiscal inclusivity ensures that the libation awarded the coveted title not only bears the mark of excellence but is also attainable for the discerning and aspiring whisky enthusiast.
Michael Henry, the virtuoso behind Loch Lomond's lauded creation, expressed profound gratitude for the prestigious acknowledgment, emphasizing the honor of being recognized by a judging panel comprising luminaries from the whisky industry. The meticulous process behind this triumphant elixir involved a meticulous aging ritual in three distinct American oak casks, spanning a venerable 18-year period. This extended maturation bestowed upon the whisky a rich, fruity profile, establishing it as a paragon of craftsmanship and dedication.
Delving into the sensory symphony of Loch Lomond's 18 Year Old, the olfactory experience is adorned with notes of green apple, invigorating grapefruit, and the delicate allure of honeysuckle. The palate, a veritable canvas of flavors, unravels a tapestry featuring baked apples, luscious toffee, the earthy embrace of tobacco leaves, and the subtle tartness of gooseberries. It is a sensorial journey that encapsulates the essence of the distillery's style, a testament to the philosophy of flavor creation through the alchemy of distillation.
Michael Henry elucidates, "The 18-year-old is a great example of our distillery style and our philosophy of flavor 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, giving it a wonderful caramelized and baked apple character, full of sweetness intertwined with a hint of smoke."
This liquid manifestation of craftsmanship boasts an ABV of 46%, inviting enthusiasts to partake in its splendor. Priced at £87.50 (approximately US$110), it is an investment in not just a bottle but a narrative that unfolds with every indulgent sip.
The laurels don't end with The Whisky Exchange's accolade. Loch Lomond's 18-year-old expression has also been adorned with a Gold medal at The Spirits Business's 2023 Scotch Whisky Masters in the single malts in the Highlands and Islands aged between 13-18 years round. A testament to its enduring excellence and a vindication of its place among the pantheon of distinguished spirits.
In the broader spectrum of The Whisky Exchange's discerning selections, Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin emerged as the retailer's Gin of the Year, while the venerable Hampden Estate 8 Year Old was anointed as the chosen one in the realm of rum. Dawn Davies MW, the head buyer at The Whisky Exchange, reflected on the tough competition that characterized this year's selection process. She remarked, "I always love when a whisky wins that people are genuinely surprised by. The reason we started this award was to bring to the forefront some great whiskies that people may have overlooked in the past. This year was an especially tough line-up with all six deserving of the crown, so a massive congratulations to Loch Lomond and a whisky that is a delight to drink and great value for money."
In the tapestry of spirits, Loch Lomond's 18 Year Old stands as a shimmering thread, weaving together the artistry, dedication, and sensory opulence that define the world of fine whiskies. As it assumes the mantle of Whisky of the Year for 2024, it beckons enthusiasts to embark on a journey of indulgence, where each drop is a testament to the distiller's craft and an homage to the spirits that elevate moments into memories.