McClelland’s Lowland Review

McClelland’s Lowland

40% abv

Score:  62/100


Not only dull and flat, but actually unpleasant.

It is surprisingly difficult to write about bad whisky.  There is so much in a good scotch to admire and speak about…so many brilliant qualities to draw attention to.  Unfortunately…very few of those are to be found in this bottle.

I want to start out by saying that I truly appreciate what McClelland’s (owned by Morrison Bowmore) is trying to do here.  This series of bottlings are an attempt at creating an entry level line of whiskies, wherein each bottling represents a distinct scotch whisky producing region (Islay, Highland, Lowland, etc).  Though they haven’t necessarily failed in capturing some of the dominant characteristics of said regions, they have left out one important ingredient.  Quality.

There are some deep, dark unpleasant notes on the nose here.  Something bitterly floral/weedy and pungent.  Almost feinty.  It is razor-sharp and zesty, lacking any form of subtlety.  I get a touch of peppery something-or-other as well.  Nothing seems to work in harmony here.  A little time in the glass mellows the pungency a bit, but does nothing to address the off notes.

Tastewise…well…a little better, actually.  It has an alcoholic bite that affirms its youth, and delivers buckets of floral notes and bitter greens.  Still not good, but better than what you get with your nose in the glass.  From here, the finish is all heather and meadows, and thankfully short.

It is hard for me to say that, as for a whisky to earn high marks from me, it must have a long finish that doesn’t deliver sour notes at the end.

Unfortunately, not a lot to say on a positive front here.  Steer clear.

…and for those curious…if you care to know which distilleries are actually producing these young malts of the McClelland’s line…look no further than the stable of Suntory’s malts.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

28 thoughts on “McClelland’s Lowland Review

  1. Robert

    I received a bottle of this as a gift. All I can say is “Wow!” I’m not sure if even a can of Coke can make this palatable. It took forever (and several drams of good whisky) to get the taste out of my mouth. Think I’ll let it sit for a year or two to see if air helps. An age statement probably would have helped. Toxic.

    1. ATW Post author

      Hahaha. ‘Toxic’ is a very apt descriptor. Not good stuff. The McClelland’s line has its share of defenders, but I simply get aboard any of the expression I’ve tried.

  2. Robert

    You were waaayyyy too generous giving this 62. I think 45 is closer to the mark. Maybe it will improve with air in a few years (cause I don’t plan on drinking this till the horrid memory of its smell and taste has faded away). Or maybe this spring I’ll put it in our sprayer and use it to kill weeds.

  3. veritas

    I have not tried this, and probably never would (NAS, 40%, reputation), but now I really won’t. Thank you Curt…

    But I own a partly consumed bottle of what I believe is in the running for worst whisky in the world – Lambertus 10 YO Grain whisky. I tried it and was horrified.

    First impression “like the smell when you enter a hoarder’s house and move a few books around.

    When my friend was leaving the country he thought if he tried to bring it he might be labelled a terrorist entering the US so when I asked for a sample to review on Connosr he gave me the bottle. One friend was able to drink 2 drams of it (after anaesthetizing his palate).

    I think this sums it up….

    “on one sniff I got a faint hit of cat urine (I do not believe, for one moment, that anyone could ever say “in a good way”). ”


    “I am going to, with trepidation, try the “modified Ashok manoeuvre”, warming the glass with the air coming out of my desktop for about 5 min. Then: First impression, the smell of a bandage being removed from an infected diabetic foot ulcer. Yes, definitely polymcrobial, maybe a bit of betadine residue. It could have been worse…”

    Can you beat that?


      1. Jeff

        The real question is, if you took the age statement off, would that encourage industry people to make it older or younger (and isn’t hiding younger product what NAS is all about anyway).

        Some whisky isn’t very good, but the amount that’s currently being ruined by over maturation, versus under maturation and simply poor casking that couldn’t help much in any case, is probably pretty small – but if over maturation is a real concern, then that’s another reason to know how old it is as well. What really isn’t in question is that it would be a different whisky at a different age.

        The worst stuff I ever tried was Inverhouse Green Plaid and, yes, it had an age statement: 36 months. Every NAS I’ve tried beats it hands down – but not because of the “Gaelic magic” involved in removing age statements and talking instead about lochs, whirlpools and the monsters that live somewhere in between.

  4. Robert

    Yeah, but this is a single malt, not grain whisky or a blend. It’s so bad that the bottle of Claymore blended whisky my mother-in-law gave me is wonderful stuff in comparison. And Claymore could be had for <$10 a bottle. My stepson wanted to throw away an old liter bottle of flat tonic water, but I wouldn't let him. As bad as the tonic tastes, it actually improves these whiskies enormously. Still awful, but less toxic than when neat. Realized it's actually crap Auchentoshen (which I don't like), so really crap whisky.

    1. Skeptic

      SO wait…. you used crappy tonic water to lift crappy whisky and make it less toxic? Life is too short… I’d have dumped it and visited David’s Amrut collection instead.

    2. Jeff

      I usually do prefer single malts to blends, and probably on the basis that the greater flavour intensity in many single malts outweighs the benefit of balance in many blends (which is also probably why I really like a lot of vats). I understand Ralfy’s approach to things in pointing out that they’re really two different types of products, but to me they’re directly comparable as experiences of drinks consumed neat. I haven’t tried the Lowland, and the Islay (Bowmore) can be fairly rough, but I kind of liked the Highland (Glen Garrioch). If you look at what you consume in terms of opportunity cost (“I’m only going to have three drinks tonight” or whatever), I’ve never really understood helping along bad product with better product/mixes, but I don’t blame anyone for not throwing anything out; but, on the other hand, if you’re cutting crap to make it drinkable, that’s also an idea that can be applied to bleach.

    3. David

      I’m with Skep here… I don’t drink enough to waste my opportunities with crap. Not sure how I feel about him dipping into MY stash though…who are you…Kramer?

  5. Robert

    Can’t pour out! It was a birthday gift from my step-son, so gotta man up and do the deed. Just in small drams, though, over a very long time. Hope it more like snake venom, which doesn’t kill you in small doses, and not like arsenic, which does.

      1. Chris 1

        These gut-rot McClellands run around $40 here. A beginner would do better putting the money into some of the very decent blends that can be had for that kind of money. I’m thinking Cutty Prohibition, Dewar’s 12, Black Grouse, JW Black (for a few bucks more). My only experience of McClellands is the Islay, and if that had been my first foray into peated single malts I may never have had the guts to spend the money and try Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

        Skeptic’s got the answer to your dilemma discretely pour it out over time and then start to sensitively educate your stepson on the joys of good whisky.

        1. Cricklewood

          I love how this thread has generated so much comments after all this time. I’m with y’all this stuff gives Scotch a bad name as much as those ridiculously expensive NAS releases that come in decanters.

          Your money and tastebuds are better off with a good blend or some of the younger bottlings from interesting distilleries. Heck just skip on over to Irish or Canadian whisky, there is some seriously underrated stuff at low prices there.

          1. Skeptic

            Given the preserving effects of alcohol (and who knows, maybe this is cut with formaldehyde (which can happen with the wrong yeast and the wrong substrate *), so maybe you should drink the stuff and live forever…

            *This comment does in no way suggest that the producers were either willfully o unwillfully negligent in the fermentation or distillation of this product or knowingly or unknowingly put anyone at risk…

  6. Robert

    I have a chemistry degree, so I’d recognize if there was formaldehyde in it. However, it does have an essence of a failed lab experiment from my Organic Synthesis Lab. Been a long time, but those odors never leave your memory, especially the one that resulted in me losing my smell and taste senses for 6 months. I could only wish that would occur again. At least till the bottle is empty.

  7. ATW Post author

    Love how much chatter this old write-up is generating. Fun.

    Kinda wish I could get my hands on the whole McClellands range to write up. Well…let’s face it…I could, but what the hell would I do with it afterwards?

    1. David

      You could maybe get together a bottom shelf night. McClellands, JW Red, maybe Solan (depending on the day I guess). If you get 20 people (and I guarantee one bottle of each would be enough), you could probably get everyone to chip in 5-10 dollars and that would pay for it.

      You could do something to make it fun, like doing group reviews.

      But I suspect you’d still find your sink disinfected, little drams at a time.

  8. Robert

    I’ve been able to get the bottle level down to about 1/3 left with the generous use of ice (and intestinal fortitude). Has improved slightly with air to semi-toxic level (or is my body adjusting to this poison?). Shame is there are many decent to good bourbons for the same price. I’m moving more and more to bourbon, as I can buy really good ones for $35-$50, or about half what a really good scotch runs. For example, I just bought two bottles of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (69.7% ABV) for $40 each + tax. Great bourbon nose and palate! I also have two Russell’s Reserve SB’s that are also excellent that were $42+ tax. Also have Glenmorangie 10 ($30) and Ardbeg 10 ($41) which are a great buy, as I’m moving away from more expensive scotches, mainly due to ridiculous price hikes. I love Laga 12, but it has jumped from $68 to $94 in about a year, so it’s off my list. I’ve decided to go with value buys that are still good whiskies, and all the other can eff off. I am still buying Laphroaig 15 and Cairdeas 2015, as they are still reasonable ($70 and $71) and excellent whiskies, but that’s currently my upper limit.

    BTW, no version of McClellan will ever be on my buy list.

    1. David

      ECBP is not available anywhere in Canada, and in Seattle it was $60-70, which, by Canadian standards, is not bad. I have one, unopened, at 70.1% -illegal to fly with! I have tasted it from someone else’s bottle and it is quite a dram!

      It should be noted for the Jeffs out there that is does indeed carry a 12 YO age statement (unless it has now lost it…)

      1. Robert

        I should say the batch of ECPB you have (#6 I think) is the best of all I’ve had. I bought all the bottles I could (4) and still have one left. All are really good but that one is superlative. Drink it in small drams to make it last, which you need to as its referred to as “HazMat” due to the 70.1% ABV. Let us know how it goes. I think the bottles I currently have open are #10, which is very good.


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