Monday, January 27, 2014

New release - Royal Lochnagar Triple Matured Edition

This whisky is the first of a new Triple Matured series released by Diageo.  There will be five single malts in the series and they will be exclusively available to members of their Friends Of The Classic Malts group.  Two are being released now - this from the Royal Lochnagar distillery and another from Talisker on the isle of Skye, which we will be reviewing shortly - and the other three will be announced and released in stages over the next six months or so.

Royal Lochnagar was founded in 1845 and is the smallest of Diageo's 28 single malt distilleries with an annual production capacity of 450,000 litres. It is located in the Deeside region of the east Highlands, close to Balmoral Castle.  The close proximity to the Royal's summer residence led to the rumour that the single malt was Queen Victoria's favourite. The majority of the whisky produced at Lochnagar is used in Diageo's vast portfolio of blended whiskies, with older casks in particular being earmarked for use in their premium and super premium blends such as the iconic Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

The name of the Triple Matured range relates to the fact that each whisky has been aged in three different types of cask.  Initial maturation has been in refill casks, then in charred American oak hogsheads and finally in refill European oak casks. All of the whiskies will be released at 48% ABV and there are only a few thousand bottles of each. 

These will be available through the Friends Of The Classic Malts website and at each participating distillery. Membership is free and you can join on the same website.  Each bottling costs £80 and there is a limit of two per member.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is driven by two prominent fruity aromas - green apple and orange.  The apple has a fresh, crisp feel to it and the orange a candied peel edge to it.  There are also distinct malty cereals and plenty of woody spices present, with cinnamon coming through in particular.  Underneath are hints of gingerbread, honey, white pepper and sultanas.

The palate follows a similar path to the nose.  It feels soft and viscous with the fruity elements again to the fore.  The green apple seems more cooked than before and an increasing cinnamon-like note is reminiscent of stewed spiced apples.  The candied bitter orange peel compliments this, as does an ever developing oaky woodiness.  Just as the oak threatens to overpower and dry out the the palate, some much needed sweeter notes come through to redress the balance - think of honey, malted barley crumbly brown sugar and sultanas.  Background warmth is added by some late ginger, nutmeg and the faintest hint of liquorice.

The finish is of decent length and has a pleasant warm woody spiciness to it.  This especially becomes more exaggerated as the sweeter elements fade quite rapidly.  The warmth is led by ginger and nutmeg notes, with cinnamon and oak spice backing them up.  A very late hint of dried apple rounds things off.

What's the verdict?
Having not really ever sampled anything from Royal Lochnagar, we have now sampled three expressions in the last six months or so.  This one offers something different to the regular 12 years old and now extinct Distiller's Edition, in the form of extra woodiness, spiciness and dryness. The extra ABV strength of this Triple Matured Edition also beefs everything up and it is a very satisfying whisky to drink.

The addition of water softens the expressive wood spices and allows the sweeter and fruitier notes to shine through.  It also lowers the alcohol level and makes the whisky feel creamier and more toffee-like.  It is nice without water, but very nice with a few drops added.  This is well worth searching out.

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