Royal Lochnagar distillery

Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Everything about the plant, especially its two small stills and worm tubs, point to this being a classic, ‘heavy’ 19th century site. Instead, its distilling team work to make it ‘light’. The wort – from a rake and plough mash tun – manages to be clear (which is not easy to achieve). Ferments are long, but it is the way in which the stills and worms are utilised which makes the difference.

Distillation is slow to maximise reflux and the stills’ doors are opened after distillation to allow air in to rejuvenate the copper. Meanwhile, the worm tubs are run warm. All of this maximises copper conversation and produces a new make with the aroma of dry grass, a background of fruit and mid-palate depth. It is this weight which allows the bulk of the make to be aged in ex-Sherry butts.

  • Region
    Highland
  • Production type
    Single malt
  • Distillery Status
    Working

Royal Lochnagar History

Moonshining was a profitable activity in Upper Deeside in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As a result, when licit distilling was attempted post-1823, the reaction of the whisky smugglers was extreme. The first distiller to attempt legal whisky-making in the parish of Crathie, James Robertson, had three distilleries burned down.

John Begg, however, had both time (opposition to legal distilling had faded by the end of the 1820s), and a powerful patron on his side when he commenced distilling across the river from Crathie in 1845. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had only recently bought the neighbouring Balmoral Estate (complete with castle), a move which not only confirmed Scotland as a fashionable destination for the English middle classes, but began to give whisky a foothold in the wider British consciousness.

Begg invited his new neighbours to his distillery soon after he opened and in 1848 what is claimed to be the first ever distillery tour took place. The Queen, her consort and their three eldest all took a dram of Begg’s make [the Queen would go on to favour mixing hers with claret] and a few weeks later Albert awarded a Royal Warrant to the distillery. No-one would now dare to burn the place down.

Begg’s own blend built a solid reputation and his firm was absorbed into John Dewar in 1916. In 1925 it became part of DCL [now Diageo]. A small site, its make was destined for a number of blends and in more recent times became the named malt in Korea’s top seller, Windsor, and among the list of malts used in Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

It has also played a small but significant role in single malt. For a period its no-age-statement, 100% Sherry cask brand, Selected Reserve, was the most expensive whisky in the Diageo portfolio. It, an expression finished in Moscatel casks, and a 12-year-old make up the current range.

Timeline

  • 1823 James Robertson establishes a legal whisky distillery in Crathie
  • 1826 The distillery is destroyed by arsonists, but Robertson builds a second distillery near Lochnagar
  • 1841 Robertson's second distillery is also burned to the ground
  • 1845 John Begg builds his own distillery on the banks of the River Dee
  • 1848 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit the distillery and grant it a Royal Warrant
  • 1882 John Begg dies and the distillery, now Royal Lochnagar, is inherited by his son, Henry Farquharson Begg
  • 1896 Henry Farquharson Begg passes away and the distillery is placed in the hands of his trust
  • 1902 Royal Lochnagar is established as a private limited company
  • 1906 The distillery is rebuilt
  • 1916 Royal Lochnagar is acquired by John Dewar & Sons
  • 1925 Dewars becomes part of Distillers Company Limited, and subsequently part of SMD in 1930
  • 1963 The distillery is given a thorough refurbishment
  • 2008 Royal Lochnagar Distillery's Edition, finished in Moscatel casks, is released

Royal Lochnagar Facts

  • Condenser Type i
    Worm tub
  • Fermentation Time i
    Minimum 60hrs
  • Filling Strength i
    63.5%
  • Grist Weight (t) i
    5.4
  • Heat Source i
    Steam
  • Malt Specification i
    Lightly peated
  • Malt Supplier i
    Mainly in house
  • Mash Tun Type i
    Traditional lauter
  • New-make Phenol Level i
    Lightly peaty
  • New-make Strength i
    67-68%
  • Spirit Still Charge (l) i
    3,900
  • Spirit Still Shape i
    Plain
  • Stills i
    2
  • Wash Still Charge (l) i
    6,000
  • Wash Still Shape i
    Plain
  • Washback Type i
    Wood
  • Washbacks i
    3
  • Water Source i
    Lochnagar foothills Spring
  • Wort Clarity i
    Clear
  • Yeast Type i
    Pressed

Owners

Current owner

Previous owners

Contact

Address
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Crathie
Aberdeenshire
AB35 5TB
United Kingdom
Website
Visit Website
Phone
+44 1339 742700
Visitor Opening Hours
Monday
10am to 4pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (Aug)
Tuesday
10am to 4pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (Aug)
Wednesday
10am to 4pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (Aug)
Thursday
10am to 4pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (Aug)
Friday
10am to 4pm (Nov-Mar), 5pm (Apr, Sept, Oct), 6pm (Aug)
Saturday
10am (Mar-Dec), noon (Jan and Feb) to 4pm (Oct-Mar), 5pm (Apr-Sept)
Sunday
Noon (Apr-Oct) to 4pm (Oct), 5pm (Apr-Sept)

Map

See also

  • Auchroisk Auchroisk Auchroisk Distillery & brand

    Auchroisk

    One of Diageo’s ‘nutty-spicy’ sites.

  • Benrinnes Benrinnes Benrinnes Distillery & brand

    Benrinnes

    A highly individual Speyside whisky.

  • Blair Athol Blair Athol Blair Athol Distillery & brand

    Blair Athol

    The home of Bell's blended whisky.

  • Caol Ila Caol Ila Caol Ila Distillery & brand

    Caol Ila

    Islay distillery belonging to Diageo.

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