In 1852 Prince Albert purchased an estate at Balmoral, which to this day is an estate of the British Royal Family – Balmoral Castle. Adjoining the estate is the Royal Lochnagar distillery, which was founded in 1826. It is said that both Prince Albert and his wife Queen Victoria came to favour the Royal Lochnagar malt whisky after visiting the distillery at the invitation of the distillery’s manager. The whisky was then supplied to the Queen and Royal Lochnagar earned a Royal Warrant in 1848.
Located in the Highlands, Royal Lochnagar single malt whisky is thought to be a key component of famous blended whiskies such as the world renowned Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Much to my delight, Royal Lochnagar also releases its malt whisky as single malt whisky.
Royal Lochnagar produce a few different single malts, among them the Royal Lochnagar Distiller’s Edition (this one was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2011). The Distiller’s Edition aims to be different to the distillery’s other offerings, and it is made up of hand selected casks of Royal Lochnagar that have been finished in old Muscat-cask wood. This extra period of maturation in Muscat wood infuses the malt whisky with some of the distinctively sweet character for which Muscat is famous.
Nose: Woody and resinous, potpourri, fresh lemon and orange oil with green grapes and tart green pineapple. There is a nice foundation of barley and honey, and with time the whisky opens up with anise seed/licorice, mint and ripened dark fruits (black plum, blackberries). Dry grass and hay become noticeable.
Taste: As on the nose, the wood is resinous and sappy. The whisky is slightly oily and buttery, with vanillas. The fusion of sweet and spicy tastes like peppermints and warming candied ginger, with licorice, sweet grape and orange peel, and beneath it all lies a nutty and honeyed foundation. Hints of sultana flash by. There is an interesting grassy component to this whisky.
Finish: Spices and wisps of wood smoke develop, only to be washed away by dried fruit (dried fig, especially) and sugary jam.
Overall: This malt is all about balance. The Muscat wood influence is an important component of this whisky’s character, but it does not run the show. The Muscat wood is most noticeable towards the finish as the taste of the whisky progressively sweetens.