Slowly, but surely, I am making way around all the distilleries and sampling at least a couple of their whiskies and putting my thoughts into a review. One that has escaped me until very recently is Royal Lochnagar which is near Balmoral and was a favourite of Queen Victoria.
The distillery was founded in 1826 but following a fire was rebuilt less than 20 years later which still stands today. In Diageo terms Royal Lochnagar is a small but modest venture only producing 450,000 litres annually from its 2 stills. In comparison Blair Atholl provides 2.3 million, Dalwhinnie 2 million and Oban 670,000 litres. So needless to say there isn’t much Royal Lochnagar whisky to go around or form a widespread portfolio of whiskies. In fact you can only expect to see in addition to this Selected Reserve, the staple 12 year old and a Distillers Edition.
The Royal aspect comes from the Balmoral estate that is nearby. The distillery owner, John Begg, decided in 1846 to invite his new neighbours around and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert for what many believe is the first distillery tour of note. His guests enjoyed the tour and whisky so much so that in the subsequent months the distillery received a Royal Warrant; a huge achievement in the 1800’s.
I was kindly given a sample by a friend of a friend who was visiting the distillery and purchase a bottle of the Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve bottled in 2012 at 43% volume. A rather grand boxed affair this would set you back in the region of £170 if you choose to track down an example.
Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve – review
Colour: a rich golden honey.
On the nose: taking in a bowl of oranges from a distance and a little plasticine underneath. Flaked almonds, the sweetness of honeycomb and syrup. Barley sugar followed by caramel and seasoned with black pepper. Something I couldn’t pin down on the outskirts with this nose then it came to me; beetroot. It’s actually in there!
In the mouth: certainly benefits from the higher strength. Cranberries, blackcurrants and raisins. A polished leather note, demerara sugar, orange zest and then a subtle spice array of cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice.
It’s full of character but not heavy or robust like many sherry influenced drams. A well balanced experience with just enough character and development. Very professionally created and precisely engineered it’s a good whisky, but somewhat overpriced.