Ask a panel of whisky experts what their favorite Scotch is and you will hear nothing but equivocation. You will be told that there are too many to choose from, that each is right for a different mood and other non-answers. One brand ambassador compared it to having to choose a favorite among his children. But ask the same group about the worst single malt they ever tasted and you will almost always get a quick, two word answer: Loch Dhu.
Loch Dhu is the Edsel of Scotch malt whisky; it is famous for being a complete and utter failure. A ten year old product of the Mannochmore distillery, it is widely known as one of the worst Scotch single malts ever released. Nearly black in color, which some have speculated is due to a massive infusion of caramel, Loch Dhu was known as the "black whisky" and its name is Gaelic for "black lake." The whisky was released in 1996 and its notorious reputation has only grown since then. In fact, strangely enough, it is considered a collector's item and goes for hundreds of dollars at auction, even though no one recommends drinking it. It is a true whisky oddity.
So what was so bad about Loch Dhu? Well, I now have the opportunity to find out. A few stray bottles recently showed up at Wine & Liquor Depot in Van Nuys. You may still find some on the shelf...for $300 per regular bottle or $80 for a 200 ml.
Loch Dhu (Mannochmore Distillery) 10 yo, 40% abv
Given that it's the "black whisky," it's hard not to comment on the color which is dark brown, resembling a cup of French Roast coffee. The nose has malt with a strong balsamic vinegar element, very unpleasant. As it first hits your tongue, the stuff seems okay with a malty flavor, but then there is an unpleasant rush of prune juice. It ends with a really strong bitterness which settles into a long bitter finish. How to describe this stuff? It tastes like Scotch mixed with prune juice and a dash of balsamic vinegar. It really is pretty horrible.
Well, I'd have to say that Loch Dhu deserves its wretched reputation. It is truly awful and I don't know what I'm going to do with the 190 ml I have left. It is certainly one of the worst single malts I've tasted, but not the worst. For that, you will have to wait until next week.