I’m not made of money, and not every night is a Lagavulin night. Sometimes I just need something that I can mix in a cocktail without feeling regret about wasting a “good” spirit. But I’m also not interested in something bland or poor quality, either. To fill this void of a reasonably priced yet consistently delicious scotch whisky, one of my go-to brands has been Lismore.
Much like some of the other successful brands of scotch whisky, the Lismore brand came about as a result of a distributor wanting to bottle and sell their own blended scotch.
The Lundie family has been in the scotch brokering (distribution) business since at least 1904. Around 1932, Robert Lundie founded a brokerage that became the sole provider for the Macduff brand of whiskey, and in the 1950’s they started producing their own brand of blended scotch (exactly the same way Johnnie Walker was born). The Lismore brand was created to market that blended scotch product and was introduced around 1978.
The family business was purchased in 2004 by J&G Grant, owners of the Glenfarclas distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. J&G Grant continue to bottle and distribute the Lismore brand, expanding from a line of blended scotches to include a single malt as well.
There’s not a whole lot of detail about the source of this spirit, which is consistent with other similar types of re-branded scotch whisky. Typically, these kinds of products are sourced from distilleries who have some excess whisky sitting around and are looking to pad their bottom line, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. And, usually, that winning includes the end consumer, who’s getting a good spirit without paying the “brand tax” for a fancy label.
In this case, since this is listed as a single malt and not a blended whisky, it’s probable that this spirit is sourced from a specific distillery instead of a batch of distilleries. It’s also probable that this may be some Glenfarclas stock that either didn’t quite make the grade for their house brand or was made in excess of the orders that they could fill, especially since the same company owns both that distillery as well as this brand.
In any case, since this is a scotch whisky we can assume that it’s made from malted barley and aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. There’s no age statement on the bottle so there’s no way to know how much longer this spirit may have sat in a barrel, but since three years is the minimum requirement… let’s go with that.
I actually quite like this packaging.
The bottle itself is rather plain and straightforward, very similar to the Glenfarclas bottles. In fact, they’re damn near identical it seems. There’s a pudgy round body that sports a bulge near the shoulder, just above the label. Above that is a rounded shoulder that tapers to a short stout neck with a small bulge in the middle. The whole thing is topped with a plastic and cork stopper.
I think I actually prefer the labeling on here to the Glenfarclas method, though. With Glenfarclas standard brand of labeling, the white label pretty much obscures the entire body of the bottle making it difficult to see the spirit inside. In this case, the label is minimalist and without much fanfare — really letting the color of the spirit shine through.
It certainly smells delicious — right from the start I get notes of honey and lemon, with perhaps a touch of peat smoke behind it. For those who love a good penicillin cocktail, this smells exactly like that cocktail tastes.
As for the actual flavor of the spirit, those positions seem to swap a bit. Where the honey and lemon are front and center in the aroma they take a backseat to the peat smoke flavor when actually taking a sip. That’s not to say that the peat flavor is overpowering, it’s just the most prominent and first thing you get.
Once the liquid is gone, the peat starts to fade into the background and those lighter flavors start shining through more, with a light and smooth finish to top off the experience.
Overall, I appreciate the blend of flavors — their combination is delicious.
One of the reasons I like this spirit is the consistency. No matter when or where I pick up a bottle (or the format in which I choose to enjoy it), I always get the same thing. And that’s no different with the added ice.
Just like the neat version, the peat flavor is the most forward of the flavors, eventually simmering down and letting some of the more delicate flavors come through. The honey and lemon aren’t quite as prominent in this presentation of the drink, but they’re still there if you look.
Typically my whiskey drinking falls into two categories: either I need something to sip as a secondary consideration (like with a cigar) or I need a whiskey that takes center stage and is the entire show. I feel like the Lismore single malt is a perfect example of the former. A good accompanying act, something that won’t break the bank but is still an enjoyable experience. And that’s why I always keep a bottle somewhere in the house. It might not be prominently on the bar, but it’s never far from reach.
Lismore Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Owner: J&G Grant
Classification: Single malt scotch whisky
Grain bill: Malted barley
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $18 / 750ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
One of the best supporting characters in the liquor cabinet.