The relationship between Islay and Malt Whisky is as old as the history of the spirit itself; Islay is thought to be one of the first beneficiaries of the old Monks’ distillation knowledge when they came from Ireland to Scotland. As harmonious as the relationship between Island and spirit is, their combined history has been a difficult one often fought between smuggler and authority. Many tales exist about the activities of both illicit distiller and exciseman, celebrating the futile attempts of both parties to better the other. The 1823 Excise Act and the subsequent reforms made legal distillation viable for many illicit distillers who subsequently appeared as respectable and legitimate distillers.
Except for the owners of the largest distilleries, whisky represented an additional source of income rather than a sole profession. Rural communities such as Islay therefore saw the striking emergence of a class of farmer-distiller, men who could turn their perishable malt into profitable spirit. These men came to symbolise and progress the taste and style of small-batch Malt Whisky for generations to come. Malcolm McNeill, founder of Lossit Distillery, was one of the leading farmer-distillers of his age. Founded in 1817, Lossit was the biggest producer of whisky on Islay in the industry’s formative years and lasted for half a century until it was silenced in 1867. The longest surviving and most successful of Islay’s farm-distilleries, Lossit was part of the transformation of Islay’s reputation from an outpost of smugglers to a leading force in the whisky industry.
Lossit Distillery was situated in the Parish of Killarow & Kilmeny towards the East of Islay near to the small settlement of Ballygrant; the A846 arterial road from Port Askaig to Ardbeg cuts through the village before turning south at Bridgend.
The site is known as Lossit Kennels, but is now a private residential property on the DunLossit Estate. Caol Ila is the closest existing distillery to Lossit, while the industrial might of the nearby Bunnahabhainn was envisaged long after the small stills of Lossit had cooled. Tucked away in a dip between Loch Ballygrant and Loch Lossit, the distillery’s water supply, surrounded by both woodland and moors, Lossit holds a unique position in the rugged Heartlands of Islay.
Lossit’s ability (and need to) utilise entirely local supplies to build a business that could satisfy both local and national markets is a structure that many Single Estate distillers are attempting to replicate today. It could even be said that Lossit was the original Single Estate distillery!
Nose: a gentle earthy, peaty and smoky nose with orchard fruits, leather and roasted nuts. After a few minutes in the glass, I could also pick some peppery notes and over-baked pudding. Not a multi-layered complex nose at all but still pleasantly fresh and rather light.
Palate: The nose didn’t lie for a second: all the aromas previously mentioned actually show on the palate (which tends to be a bit uncommon from my experience!). Other notes do appear though: peppermint, ginger, hot spices (oh you know this zingy chili feeling on the tongue!), marzipan and yummy “Mon Chéri” Cherry liqueur chocolate truffles. #AddToChristmasList