The great Romantic poet Lord Byron, who grew up in Aberdeenshire, was clearly strongly affected by the landscape and atmosphere of the mountains where he wandered as a child. Later in life, thinking back on his youth, he wrote:
England, thy beauties are tame and domestic
To one who has roved on the mountains afar
Oh! For the crags that are mild and majestic
The steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar!
The year before Byron’s death, in 1823, a distillery was built at the foot of his beloved hill of Lochnagar. A quarter-century later, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who had recently set up residence at nearby Balmoral Castle, visited the distillery and were so impressed by its whisky that they awarded it a Royal Warrant, allowing it to use the word ‘Royal’ in its name.
Today, it is Diageo’s smallest distillery (at less than 500,000 litres a year), and thankfully most of its production, once destined for blending in Vat 69, is now reserved for bottling as this most distinguished single malt (though some of it still contributes to Johnnie Walker Blue Label). Its delicious velvety texture is complimented by the flavours of fresh berries and a woody sheen.