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Loch Dhu 10 Year Old The Black Whisky




Whisky Review: Loch Dhu 10 Year Old The Black Whisky

Tasting Notes:

One of the whisky worlds’ most controversial bottlings, the Loch Dhu 10-Year-Old Black Whisky from the Mannochmore distillery. This dark dram has divided critics, including gaining an infamously bad review from WhiskyFun’s Serge Valentin.
Black coffee
A strong hit of espresso, there is some well-hidden sweetness, coffee cake with walnut and some treacle toffee.
An extremely bitter coffee note, followed by burnt toast, and some well-roasted nuts. There’s an artificial meaty undertone note – almost like some very poor-quality gravy granules.
Short (many would probably say thankfully!). Quickly drying, with a very heavily charred oak.
I have certainly tasted notes of coffee in independent bottlings of Mannochmore before, but the Loch Dhu 10 Year Old The Black Whisky takes it to the extreme. I can easily see why it’s gained a controversial reputation. Loch Dhu’s not the worst whisky I’ve ever tried – but it’s very close! One to only try you’re feeling very brave, or very curious.

The Loch Dhu 10 Year Old The Black Whisky from Mannochmore is a polarising dram. Its deep black color, which is caused by extremely large amounts of spirit caramel, has made this bottle something of a collector’s item. 

The tasting reviews for this bottle vary widely online, with some hailing the whisky as “caramel smooth” and some distinctly commenting on the flavor of burnt caramel. Either way, we know that caramel is present. 

Serge Valentin, also of WhiskyFun, awarded the Loch Dhu 49 points on his last tasting in December 2004, saying, “the nose is somewhat interesting, but the palate is catastrophic, really”. 

Not only does the whisky have some extreme reviews, it also sits at the forefront of the long-running industry debate around the use of spirit caramel. Spirit caramel, also known as E150a, is a supposedly tasteless liquid used to alter the color of whisky. It is most often used by blenders to achieve color consistency across products. In small quantities, it does not have an effect on the taste of whisky, but in large quantities, some argue that it can alter the taste and mouthfeel of a whisky. 

As such, the debate is split between whisky purists, who believe that no additives should be added to whisky, and E150a defenders, who argue that additives have always been a bit part of the whisky industry (such as paxarette) and that spirit caramel is useful to encourage brand familiarity and loyalty. 

So, the question is, on which side of the debate do you stand? The Loch Dhu 10 Year Old The Black Whisky is, of course, a very extreme example of spirit caramel usage and is not representative of all usage in the industry. However, it does offer an insight into what such extreme usage can do. 

Mark Bostock

Since joining Mark Littler LTD as a freelance article contributor in 2019, Mark Bostock has become an integral part of our UK content writing team. His enthusiasm for whisky, particularly independent bottlings, drives him to deepen his knowledge through frequent attendance at tasting events and the thoughtful expansion of his own whisky collection. This dedication not only fuels his passion but also enriches his contributions to our platform, blending expertise with a genuine love for the subject.

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