Okay, let’s bring this week of reviews of hand-filled exclusives from Diageo distilleries to a close. You will recall that these are all distilleries located in the highlands—Oban on Monday and Dalwhinnie on Wednesday. We end now with Royal Lochnagar. The Oban was 11 years old and from a refill bourbon cask; the Dalwhinnie was 12 years old and from a re-charred sherry cask. This Lochnagar is the oldest of the three at 14 years old and is from a 2nd-fill sherry butt. While I’ve tasted a few more Lochnagars than Dalwhinnies in my time, this is only my third review of a whisky from the distillery. I was even less impressed by its entry in Diageo’s Game of Thrones cash grab than I was by the Dalwhinnie and Oban in that series; and I wasn’t super-enthused by the other one I’ve reviewed either—an indie release, also 14 years old and from a sherry cask. In other words, my expectations are low and it won’t surprise me if this manages to exceed them. Let’s see if that turns out to be the case.
Royal Lochnagar 14, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022 (59.3%; 2nd-fill sherry butt; from a bottle split)
Nose: A big load of citrus (orange peel, lime) along with some cereals and wet stones. Some muskier fruit (pineapple?) lurks below on the second sniff along with some oak and some dried leaves. Maltier with time. Brighter with a squirt of water (makrut lime peel, citronella) and then quite a bit sweeter (peach, raspberry). Some white pepper in there as well.
Palate: Pretty much as indicated by the nose but with the oak to the fore. Turns sweeter as I swallow. Very approachable at full strength with rich texture. More oak as it sits but it’s not tannic. Okay, this probably needs water to open up fully. Yes, water pushes the oak back and pulls out a lot more fruit here as well. The citrus dominates but it’s a mix of tart and sweet. The oak makes a comeback with more time but doesn’t dominate as before.
Finish: Long. The oak dominates here with citrus and salt at the edges. The salt comes to the fore as the oak fades. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Neat, this was nice on the nose but too oaky on the palate. Much better all around with a good squirt of water. Not at the top for me of the trio of hand fills I’ve reviewed this week but quite good and the best of the three Lochnagars I’ve reviewed so far.
Rating: 85 points.