The Whisky Exchange has named Loch Lomond 18 Year Old as its Whisky of the Year.
The Highland single malt saw off competition from a number of highly respected Scotch whiskies in the latest iteration of the award, in which drinks-industry experts and members of the public vote to determine the winner.
A complex whisky that shows the distillery's versatile character, this single malt has been matured in three types of American oak casks for at least 18 years, creating a full-bodied and fruity dram.
The nose brings aromas of green apples, grapefruit, honeysuckle and rich oak, while the palate is filled with mouth-watering notes of baked apples, toffee, tobacco leaves and gooseberries, with gentle wisps of smoke lingering in the finish.
This year’s shortlist comprised whiskies from Scotland’s Highlands and Islands, including a smoky red-wine cask-finished single malt, a richly sherried Speyside and a fruity, coastal malt.
After much deliberation, the votes were cast and the winner was clear.
All whiskies in the tasting were under £90 retail price and all ongoing, commercially available releases.
In addition to Loch Lomond 18 Year Old, the shortlist featured:
Michael Henry, master distiller at Loch Lomond, said: “It’s a real honour to be presented with this award from The Whisky Exchange, especially knowing that the judging panel was made up of some of the whisky industry’s finest ambassadors.
"It has been a big year for Loch Lomond Whiskies with numerous award wins, including ‘most awarded distillery’ at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, now made even more special by adding ‘Whisky of the Year’.
“The 18-Year-Old is a great example of our distillery style and our philosophy of flavour 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 caramelised and baked apple characters, full of sweetness intertwined with a hint of smoke.”
Dawn Davies MW, head buyer at The Whisky Exchange, added: “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.”
The Whisky Exchange has also recognised a Rum of the Year and a Gin of the Year, nominated by industry experts and The Whisky Exchange staff.
Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin (£36.50): This was the first spirit to be made with Four Pillars' custom-made still, Wilma.
Founders Cameron Mackenzie, Stuart Gregor and Matt Jones set out to create a gin inspired by Australia: classic, approachable, perfectly spiced, and the ideal choice for a refreshing G&T.
The Yarra Valley-based distillery uses Australian wheat from New South Wales to make its spirit, and combines Asian spices and Mediterranean citrus, with a handful of locally sourced Australian botanicals to create its vibrant, bold character.
Hampden Estate 8 Year Old Rum (£68.50): This eight-year-old rum from Jamaica’s Hampden Estate distillery is produced with the same techniques that were used when it was founded in the 18th century.
Matured for eight years in Jamaica’s tropical climate, it embodies the aromatic complexity and vibrant fruitiness that Hampden Estate is known for, making it a great all-rounder.
A medley of ripe banana, allspice, orange zest and baked apple aromas fill the nose, complemented by notes of ginger, vanilla, dark chocolate, praline and roasted coffee beans throughout the palate.