Never judge a whisky by its label

Peter Ranscombe samples Loch Lomond distillery’s range of single malts at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Trying something new is the best part of the Fringe. Going to see a show that you would never normally watch is half the fun of the world’s largest arts festival.

And so it should be for Scotch too. I’ve learned that you should never judge a whisky by its label.

I wouldn’t normally reach for a dram from Loch Lomond distillery. Back in my days working on the business desk at The Scotsman newspaper, I had the distillery firmly fixed in my head as only producing Scotch for the supermarkets.

Times have changed. The distillery changed hands and has recently launched a range of 12-year-old single malts, which are being served throughout August at the Hub, the former Highland Cathedral church at the top of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, which is now home to the offices of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Free samples are even on offer tomorrow and on Saturday.

Just as I’ve learned to keep an open mind with Fringe shows, so too should I whip off my blinkers when it comes to trying whiskies.

The Loch Lomond 12 Year Old was my favourite out of the trio. On the nose, there was plenty of honey, vanilla, red apple and cinnamon, which led into warming alcohol on the palate, really well balanced against more of the sweet flavours, along with fresher green and red apples.

A drop of water revealed more pear notes and some caramel. All in all, it reminded me of Glenfiddich, with its mix of orchard fruits and sweet notes.

For me, the Inchmurrin 12 Year Old offered deeper toffee and caramel notes on the nose, with aromas of honeycomb, brown sugar and wood smoke. The spirit felt warmer on the tongue than the straight Loch Lomond, with vanilla and orange flavours joining those noted on the nose.

The sweeter notes were tempered into something closer to spun sugar after a smidge of water, with the whole concoction finishing with a deeper treacle tone.

The Inchmoan 12 Year Old was the most serious of the three beasts. It boasts of being “peated” on the label and it certainly lived up to that billing.

Aromas of ripe pear and some honey peaked through the peat, before the whisky revealed its chewy mouthfeel and its complex flavours of roasted coffee, redcurrant, caramel and toffee. Perhaps better suited to Hogmanay celebrations than the Festival, but nevertheless a worthy addition to the range.

And a salutary lesson in trying new things – whether they’re Fringe shows or reinvented whiskies.