Review: Royal Lochnagar 12 Years Old

Category: Highland single malt scotch whisky

Origin: Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Bottling: Diageo

ABV: 40% ABV

Cost: 34.43 from Master of Malt

Score: 84/100

royal-lochnagar-12-years-old

What they say:

Royal Lochnagar Distillery, just a mile or so along the banks of the River Dee from Balmoral Castle in the East Highlands, earned its royal warrant in 1848 and not much has changed since then.

Though the origins of the Lochnagar distillery go back to 1826, it was some 22 years later that its received its royal approval. In 1848, Queen Victoria selected Balmoral Castle as her holiday residence. Only three days after she had arrived, the distillery manager John Begg made an invitation to Prince Albert to visit his distillery, knowing he was interested in all things mechanical. To his surprise, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their three eldest children visited the next day. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. So impressed were they with the whisky, John Begg immediately received a Royal Warrant of Appointment as supplier to the Queen.

The Royal connection has meant that the distillery has played host to a string of famous visitors, many of them British prime ministers taking an hour or so off between meetings with the monarch of the day at Balmoral.

The history of the distillery nearly ran a very different course. The first licensed Lochnagar distillery was set up on the north side of the river in 1826 by a former illicit distiller – but it was soon burned down by fellow smugglers who were not impressed by a rival deciding to abide by the law! It was then rebuilt by Begg in 1845 on the south bank of the river – and he renamed it New Lochnagar. The north-bank distillery closed by 1860 and Lochnagar continued to prosper – although the Abergeldie Estates refused to sell the distillery the grounds it occupied, seeing the value increase as the distillery flourished and expanded.

Royal Lochnagar is one of the smallest distilleries in The Classic Malts Selection™, and has been rebuilt three times. However, it still retains the traditional distillery appearance – with its two pagoda kiln heads – and techniques (including an open mash tun) and also has a visitor centre and a ‘learning centre’ for the appreciation of malt whisky.

ROYAL LOCHNAGAR 12 YEAR OLD

Royal Lochnagar 12 year old is a fragrant Highland single malt with a delightful balance of fruit and spices.

STRENGTH 40% ABV

APPEARANCE Pale amber.

NOSE Not obvious to begin with. Planed wood, light toffee, boat varnish. Linseed oil behind, even putty, and later a lychee-like acidity. With water the acidity comes through (acid drops), and the nose sweetens. Still a pleasant fresh woodiness, followed by warm sand. After a while, coffee with brown sugar.

BODY Medium.

PALATE Pleasant; an initial sweetness is quickly overtaken by acidity.

FINISH Dry; medium-length, with an attractive lingering sandalwood aftertaste.

Royal Lochnagar 12

What I say:

An impulse purchase when on offer at Tesco supermarket, many of the Diageo malts were recently reduced to clear from Tesco at sub £25 per bottle – I had hoped to restock with one of my favourites the Cragganmore 12 but none were available so I picked up this Royal Lochnagar staple as it is a distillery I had sampled little. Reported to be the monarchy’s favourite, being as it is on the doorstep of Queen Vic’s favourite hunting retreat at Balmoral Castle. A lot of the production from Royal Lochnagar was presumed to be used in the construction of the Vat 69 blended whisky, however these days more is thought to be produced as single malt.

Colour:

Rich dark amber gold, thick/heavy tears

Nose:

Honey and cereal notes, fruity apple, gristy and sweet manuka with hints of maple syrup, wood shavings, a little pine sap, and more sweet caramel and toffee

Taste:

Slightly waxy and oily, mellow/sweet honey with hints of apple and citrus lemon and lime fruitiness, lychee, pineapple, toffee, cereal barley and wheat, sawn/planed wood and a little polish, some linseed oil with a little white pepper, medicated lemon barley sugars, molasses and Camp coffee

Finish:

Medium/short, cleansing, with a lingering oak wood &  sweet honey with hints of savoury

Overall:

Enjoyable dram with a good balance of sweet, savoury and fruity acidity which becomes slightly drying in the finish tempting you back for more. This has a richness in its flavour that masks a complexity that could be easily overlooked – the result is a whisky you could drink effortlessly or if so inclined really spend some time getting to know. I guess Enigmatic sums up this dram pretty well.