Just How Royal is Royal Lochnagar? Tasting the 12 Year Old

The story is well known….Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came to their newly purchased castle at Balmoral in 1848, and were met by the owner of the nearby distillery at the time, John Begg. He invited them to visit the distillery, and they came the following day. The Monarch liked the tipple, Lochnagar received a royal warrant, and to this day provides whisky under the Balmoral label to the royal family. Today, businesses who hold warrants do not get the prefix (or suffix) “royal” added to their name (or we would have had “Royal Laphroaig”, which holds a warrant from Prince Charles) but Lochnagar wasn’t even the first to receive that honor, as both Royal Brackla and Glenury Royal were already “royalized” by her uncle, King William IV.

As I learned in the research for this post, royal warrants expire five years after the death of the issuing royal’s passing, the distillery doesn’t actually hold a current warrant. Only one distillery holds that distinction today, Laphroaig. Thus, Royal Lochnagar states that it’s “[b]y appointment to their late majesties Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V” who died in 1936.

Royal warrant or not, when the Queen wishes to gift whisky, as she recently did with Pope Francis, it’s a bottle of Royal Lochnagar under the Balmoral label.

Photo Credit: 1stopnews.com

Photo Credit: 1stopnews.com

I don’t know if Balmoral is the standard Royal Lochnager 12 or not, but that’s the whisky we’ll be reviewing today:

Photo Credit: mymaltwhiskys.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: mymaltwhiskys.wordpress.com

Royal Lochnagar 12 (40% ABV)

Appearance: Gold with quick and thick legs.

Nose: Nutty (hazelnuts?), honey, white bread, some ash mixed with water (ash..not smoke…), milk chocolate and some fizzy candy.

Palate: Honey, pepper, some oak and lemon peel bitterness.

Linger: Spice on the tongue with some dryness in a medium linger.


I suspect that the whisky Queen Victoria had is very different from this expression. It was probably somewhat peated and non chill filtered, rather than the bland and non distinctive presentation made by this expression.

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