Balmoral Royal Lochnagar Single Malt Whisky
Now for something a little different with a whisky that is exclusively bottled for Balmoral Castle. This country estate is more commonly associated with the Royal Family who use it as a peaceful retreat away from the demands of London and serving their country.
This Royal Deeside residence has been used by the Royal Family since 1852. It was shortly after moving in that the ruling monarch of the period visited the neighbours which so happened to be Lochnagar distillery. I've gone into this meeting in more detail in my Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve whisky review.
Needless to say the connection between the monarch and the distillery is signified by the Royal prefix which continues to this day. It's a honour and a historical linkage that warrants a special whisky surely? Hence this exclusive bottling available to visitors or via their online website. It comes in either a 20cl (£14.95) size or what we have here in the 70cl (£44.95) edition.
I always approach these types of bottlings which caution as you'll see examples in gift shops at various visitor attractions across Scotland. My experiences tend to be they are little more than cheaply purchased whiskies adorned with a label symbolising wherever you are visiting.
However this one on paper promises to be different following a friend's recommendation; the Royal linkage and the fact the Queen wouldn't approve of a substandard bottling from such a longstanding neighbour? Royal Lochnagar is not a massive producer of whisky in the Diageo stable and what it does produce from its two stills must count for something.
This release is bottled at an impressive 46% strength, but there are no comments regarding natural colour and chill filtering. Given these are often selling points it'd be reasonable to assume its coloured and filtered, especially as Royal Lochnagar is owned by Diageo who favour these practices.
Colour: a lovely honey glow
Nose: almonds is my initial impression, then a little ginger and cranberries. More plump red fruit, a touch of liquorice and caramel wafers. It offers just enough to keep your attention.
Taste: a very pleasant almost luxurious and decadent texture. A real sherry influence with ginger, cloves, raisins and cinnamon. Dark chocolate and on the fringes the alcohol which confirms the youthfulness of this dram but that's a minor criticism overall - just a true age statement you cannot hide - as I'm quite happy with this whisky. Honey and golden syrup round off a satisfying experience.
Overall: initially I wasn't taken hugely with the nose on this whisky but once sipped it grows upon you. A lovely balanced palate reminiscent of the Cragganmore 12 year old as it offers enough complexity and sweetness. A friend was advised this Balmoral whisky is 15 years old and if that's the case then its a bargain.