Dram Club 1.2 - Lochlea First Release

Todays review is Lochlea First Release. It’s also one of our dram club bottles this month. There’s still a few samples available if you’d like to grab one. These are currently just our thoughts, but we’ll be updating the page in the coming weeks with thoughts from everyone who joined the dram club.

Lochlea First Release

Region: Lowlands

ABV: 46.0%

Price: £55 RRP (Auction £150)

For those who are unaware, Lochlea distillery is based in Ayrshire, on the farm which was Robert Burns’ home and workplace from 1777 to 1784. In 2014 Current owner Neil McGeoch gained planning permission to build the distillery, which began producing spirit in 2018. The distillery utilise their own barley and water to ensure full traceability from field to cask, and are capable of producing around 200,000 litres of spirit a year.

The distillery was Initially led by distillery Malcolm Rennie. Malcolm has previously worked at Ardbeg and Glen Moray, and laid down the spirit that makes up this first release. Malcolm can now be found working as distillery manager at Rosebank. With his departure the stewardship of Lochlea has now passed to ex-Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell. Before joining Lochlea, John had spent 27 years at Laphroaig, nearly 16 of which he was distillery manager. He took up his new post in November 2021.

This inaugural expression was released for Burns night 2021, and was aged in a combination of first-fill bourbon and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. It has been bottled at three years of age, at 46%, without chill-filtration or colouring. This was a release of 7385 bottles. 


On the nose we’re instantly hit by pineapple, no actually make that pineapple cubes, and verbena. With a little air we’re at a breakfast table eating of a bowl of sugar puffs with some chopped strawberries mixed in. We’re washing this down with a glass of orange juice. There’s a really fruity nose on this, and we’re not getting much maltiness which is surprising given the age.


This is pleasant, sweet and fruity on the palate. It has heaps of orange, citrus and exotic fruit notes. We can best describe this as fruit twist Fanta. Nice Syrupy feel on the tongue, but the finish is a touch too spicy. Which is surprising given the ABV, but there are no notes here that make it obvious that this is so young.

Nose (with water)

The reduced nose is creamier. We’re also getting more of the PX casks influence that is coming through as caramel and toffee. This reminds us of a McDonald’s caramel sundae. Air reveals notes of sultanas and cranberries.

Palate (with water)

Ooft, we did not see this coming, water has really changed this. We’re getting caramel, vanilla pod, and cardamon. The orange juice has changed to orange peel, and this is all good until the mid palate/finish where it falls apart. The sweeter notes fade fast with water, and we find this is much hotter. It’s like we’re drinking a cask strength release. There’s also a slight bitter note on the finish we really don’t enjoy.


To compare it to other new distilleries we’ve tried recently, it beats Torabhaig easily and shows its self well compared to other 3yo whisky releases. It does however fall short of other young distilleries like Ardnamurchan, who held off releasing their whisky as soon as they could.

This needed a year or two more in a cask to get to nearer its true potential. Saying that, at £60 we were happy to nab a bottle to be able to try this and we’re pleasantly surprised that it’s actually pretty tasty for what it is. We’re happy to recommend this at RRP, but couldn’t suggest you pay the auction price for a bottle.

    Score: 8/10

    • 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
    • 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
    • 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
    • 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
    • 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
    • 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
    • 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
    • 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
    • 2 - Pour it out
    • 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.

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