Today we’re taking a look at a new range of blended malt whisky that plays by its own rules. Watch out dowdy old blends because here comes Noble Rebel from Loch Lomond.
There’s already a few ‘rebels’ in the whisky world like Rebel bourbon (formerly Rebel Yell, no idea why they changed the name, perhaps something to do with Billy Idol), Quite Rebels from Nc’Nean, and then there’s erstwhile Master of Malt columnist Nick Morgan overturning tables in the temple and generally upsetting writers and whisky festivals.
Now there’s a new maverick in town. It’s called Noble Rebel and consists of three blended malt whiskies from the Loch Lomond Group, the people behind Loch Lomond and Glen Scotia. What is it that makes these whiskies so rebellious? Do they cock a snook at SWA rules by using chestnut casks or are they made by people who shun high vis vests when walking around the distillery? The press release promises that the brand “pushes boundaries in the pursuit of flavour creation, combining the nobility of single malt whisky with the rigour of craftsmanship.”
Not your average blend
We have no idea what that means but these blends are a little different from your average blended Scotch whisky because they are 100% malt whisky and much of that whisky comes from just one distillery. The unique set-up at Loch Lomond means that a wide variety of spirits can be made here, that’s before you even think about cask types.
Master blender Michael Henry explained the set-up to us when we spoke to him a couple of years back: “We have two shapes of stills: a set of traditional swan neck stills like you’d see in other distilleries, and then we have three sets of straight neck pot stills that are unique to us.” These latter stills can either be used to make a high strength spirit of 85% ABV or a lower strength one of 65% ABV.
But he also uses different kinds of yeast: “we use a more floral yeast for the swan neck stills and a kind of yeast that gives more fruit character for the straight neck pot stills.” In addition to unpeated spirits, they also do runs with heavily and medium-peated malt. Overall Loch Lomond produces eight different kinds of new make from those two types of still.
The Noble Rebel range
Quite unusual, rebellious almost. But the malt in these blends isn’t just from Loch Lomond, sister distillery Glen Scotia and others all play a part. The Noble Rebel range consists of three whiskies: Orchard Outburst (all bourbon cask with some malt made with a chardonnay wine yeast) Smoke Symphony (finished in Rioja casks), and Hazelnut Harmony (finished in toasted American oak) – we think you can probably guess how each is meant to taste.
The colourful packaging is particularly unusual without any of the usual visual cues you normally find in whisky. Best of all, these new blended malts all weigh in at 46% ABV with natural colour and no chill-filtering.
Michael Henry commented: “Noble Rebel is an exciting new addition to the growing Loch Lomond Group portfolio. At the heart of each expression is our shared passion for blending finely curated malts into a product of beauty. Bringing new ideas to old ways and deeply-rooted traditions, our drams are modern masterpieces that welcome newcomers with open arms, and delight old friends alike.”
Here they are, click on the links for prices and to buy:
Unpeated and all bourbon cask-matured with some malt fermented with a chardonnay wine yeast.
Nose: Sweet hay, green apples, and floral honey.
Palate: Malted milk, with more apple, pear, and some waxy orange peel, along with a drizzle of salted caramel.
Finish: Sweet and lingering, with some spiced apple pie.
Unpeated and 100% matured in bourbon casks.
Nose: Almond cakes, ripe apple, honeycomb, and flecks of toasted hazelnuts.
Palate: Hazelnut spread, with earthy vanilla, warm oak, and poached orchard fruits.
Finish: Warm spices build, with an oily, nutty finish.
A peated expression finished in Rioja red wine casks.
Nose: Bonfire smoke, with wine-soaked berries, and oaky spice.
Palate: Waves of earthy peat, with chipotle pepper spice, and jammy cherries and blackberries.
Finish: Fruity spice, and lingering smoke.