Tasting Notes: Royal Lochnagar – 12 Years Old (Game Of Thrones – House Baratheon)

You know the drill by now: HBO + Diageo = Game Of Thrones scotch whiskies.

Prior to the launch of the TV show’s final series, there were 8 single malt scotch whiskies released by Diageo. Each bottle represented the signature profiles of its chosen distillery and was aligned to a designated House or institution from the books and show. This particular whisky stood out to me for three reasons at the time: 1) it was the highest age statement of the releases [ed: though it has since been superseded by the Mortlach 15 year old release], 2) its royal name seemed to match well with the family still technically sat atop the Iron Throne,and 3) it was a repackaging of an existing single malt to fit the new whisky series.

Royal Lochnagar – 12 Years Old (GoT)

As with each release there is a passage that links the chosen House with their distillery:

After leading the rebellion against the Targaryen dynasty, Robert Baratheon took his seat upon the Iron Throne to rule over the Seven Kingdoms. The Baratheon stag few on banners in the Stormlands and King’s Landing and golden antlered crowns signified absolute power. Over time, the Baratheon lords proved to be better warriors than rulers, and their house now lies in ruins.

Royal Lochnagar also boasts royal lineage. Originally called New Lochnagar, it was renamed after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the distillery and granted a Royal Warrant to John Begg in 1848. Since then, it has been praised by monarchs, rightfully earning its moniker. Balanced with delicate fruits and spices, this taste of royalty is best enjoyed neat.

Royal Lochnagar / House Baratheon

Beyond the marketing blurb there is little said about the whisky itself – which is the same on the regular packaging too – but what we do know is that it is comprised of whiskies no less than 12 years old, it has been coloured (“Mit Zuckercolor”) and is housed at 40% ABV [ed: taking a semi-educated guess it seems that it would be a combo of ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry matured spirit).

The Stag Of Baratheon our in the wild

Nose

Nice, full and fruity smells coming out of the glass to begin with. Lovely malt aromas. Barley sugars. Orange zest is the predominant fruit. Specifically it brings to mind blood oranges. In the fruit bowl there also appears to be grapefruit (both sweet and sour), raisins and toffee apples. With a bit of that time, that note is joined by some creaminess wand becomes more of a milk chocolate note. Adding those flavours together and it reminds me of the chocolate oranges from Cadbury’s Roses. Maybe even the rose ones (do they exist anymore?) with that sweet little floral note.

Taste

Peaches and cream. Bowls full of it. Yep. Really. The sweet juicy orangey fruit flavours and a soft texture and creamy vanilla. It’s not all sweetness though as there a grassy/hay flavour in there and a little oak spice – particularly nutmeg, cinnamon and candied ginger. A teeny tiny touch of smoke there maybe too?

Finish

A soft, buttery and velvety finish. A warming oak spice and alcoholic fizzle to it but the creamy texture and honey sweetness is lasting. Like a fruit cake served with cream.

Verdict

Very enjoyable. I’ve had this several times before as a dram on its own and am now glad to have a bottle at home – especially with the GoT branding to complete the set. If I had one criticism of it appearing in the GoT series is that I do think it’s a missed opportunity to show something else from Royal Lochnagar itself. As a distillery with so few of its own single malt expressions, this could have been something else to add to their repertoire. That said, it is a solid whisky and I guess that the logic would be that, as a fairly lower profile release within the Diageo family, it’s inclusion within the series could garner some new fans who may wish to buy it in the future once the GoT branded bottles disappear. The higher price tag to have it fit in your GoT set is rather cheeky though. That said, I did manage to snap this bottle up at a sale price of just £26, which is a great price for any single malt whisky in my book.

When it comes to the distillery and House pairing, I really quite like the alliance between Royal Lochnagar and House Baratheon. It may be fanciful but I do kinda buy into the royal lineage aspect to the distillery. Whilst not unique to the scotch whisky business, it certainly is a distinguishing feature. For example, whilst not called “Royal Laphroaig”, the Ileachs still boast a royal warrant on their packaging and have a cask signed by Prince Charles within one of their warehouses. Thankfully, Royal Lochnagar differs from the Baratheon dynasty however as it is not lying “in ruins” as per the Song of Ice and Fire lore. That said, prior to his fall from grace, I could easily imagine the gout-destined Robert Baratheon swigging copious amounts of this stuff from oversized, stag-laden golden goblets.

Back to the whisky, and this dram has that air of “what a good whisky should be like”. I mean that in the traditional sense of malt whiskies, and that creamy texture does help to deliver up a classic quality malt. Traditional seems a very apt word actually. The reference to a previous royal visit and their classic branding (on the regular packaging) matches that profile too. That may be its strength or its weakness, depending on your perspective. Looking across the GOT malts series and the whisky world in general, this one may seem to be pretty ‘middle of the road’ compared to others out there and particularly with new releases constantly pushing the boundaries of flavour profiles, but this seems to be a good one at a good price to return back to as a traditional single malt – Game of Thrones or otherwise.

M

Royal Lochnagar

Sample disclosure: bought it myself and all notes are intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky itself and not a promotion. Please drink responsibly and wisely.

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