Have you ever tasted Loch Ewe?

Tom van Engelen found another weird sample in his cupboard and decided to write about it. At some length, as we’ve come to expect.

Fun additional fact: The Loch Ewe Distillery and the accompanying hotel appear to be for sale for an estimated £ 750.000. The amount is a rough estimate, since it’s the only object in at least Scotland that combines an insanely run-down hotel, with a tiny distillery and license.

One of the most beautiful experiences of visiting Scotland was a daytrip I made in the summer of 2007. On the 20th of July, to be exact. We left the B&B in Dornie, where we had a view on beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, and set course for Ullapool up north. On route I saw landscapes I will never forget, passing through long glens and past beautiful lochs like Loch Maree and Loch Ewe. That is where we made a stop to visit a novelty. The Loch Ewe Distillery was an interesting project in this most rural of rural parts in Scotland. It involved an old loophole in an Act dating back to 1786 to operate the distillery. The loophole was repaired straight after owner John Clotworthy got permission to distill in smaller stills than are prescribed in Scotland.

We visited there and were in awe of the fantastic whisky bar, and also had a look inside “the cave”. We even bottled our own Loch Ewe spirit. Because of the small outturn, I don’t believe the spirit ever reach the 3 year threshold. In my sample drawer I found the 100 ml bottle I filled by hand myself and decided, for the sake of your amusement, to taste it.

Spirit of Loch Ewe, distilled 4 July 2007, bottled on 20 July 2007 at 57,2% abv

After 11 years in a 100 ml sample bottle it did not lose intensity. Strong and fruity new make feel, so an overload of little oranges/mandarins. It’s actually very pleasant, as far as new make spirits go this is a fine example. A very small pot still will do that for you. With water even more alive.

Quite oily and thick on the tongue and a light fizzy feel like taking a sip of Fanta. The orange feeling sticks to the palate. It’s actually not that bad. Water totally ruins it, the whole context is gone, probably because there is none yet after 16 days of maturing in a small cask.

Now the finish is rather harsh and reminds me of beer, which I really don’t like in a whisky. With water the fruit comes out but chaos rules supreme.

Score: 67 points.

I have tasted 12 year old single malts which were more boring than this one. As it
stands, Loch Ewe spirit is definitely a worthy member of the whisky family, albeit in the far corner of the spectrum. I love the charm of the idea and drinking this stuff again was a nice experience.

To finish this session with another spirit, I went back into my drawer and found this, also from 2007:

Kilchoman spirit 2 years old “Anticipation” from cask 05/2007 at 62,6% abv


Image from Whiskybase

Nice and crispy malt with a huge deal of smoke. This smells like a drive up to the farm
distillery. The lands, the little inland lochs, but also the beach at Machir Bay where the Atlantic Ocean crushes down on the sand. In fact, now I think of it, me and 4 other whiskynerds cracked open the bottle where this sample comes from on that beach. It’s perfect, that’s why we bought a bottle, for 27 pounds.

Surprisingly light and gentle. Not much taste yet, but a nice and oily mouthfeel. A little vanilla and dark dry chocolaty taste. Amazing stuff. This predicted the future Kilchoman is having now.

A young peater is always a hit for me. Even at this high alcohol is does nothing to scare me away. It’s lovely and strong and full of character already. So mighty and balanced, it makes me in awe of how well put together Kilchoman is.

Score: 80 points for power, character and balance.

This is good whisky, even when it is still spirit. Wonderful!

About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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