Game Of Thrones: House Baratheon: Royal Lochnagar 12 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Apricot skin to gold. Fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Honeyed shreddies. Apples. Pears. Light menthol. Heather. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Water makes for predominantly light apples.

Body: Honey. Vanilla. Apples. Moderate warming alcohol. Smooth mouthfeel. Strawberry. Light cream. Malt chocolate. Water makes soft apples and vanilla toffee.

Finish: Honey. Lemon cakes. Shredded wheat. Strawberry. Slight drying alcohol. Soft apples. Malt chocolate. Water adds choc toffee. Soft apples. White chocolate and lightly nutty notes.

Conclusion: This is good at giving pleasing first impression. Very good. It is smooth, sweet, with fairly standard honey and vanilla notes soothed out by more interesting apple and strawberry fresh notes. Combine that with low alcohol burn – the alcohol is present but mainly just warming – and a solid malt chocolate body and you have a lot to enjoy already and this is just on first sip.

It is a whisky very much intent on setting you at ease. You don’t even have to work for those initial notes, they are just there easing out of the smooth but filling mouthfeel of the spirit. Because of that I was not sure if water was even needed, so I was wary and well.. it definitely changes with water, I’ll say that.

The body lightens, emphasising the vanilla toffee notes, but more than that the soft apples notes are now so very clear. With water it becomes one of the easiest whiskies to give to a newcomer for them to be able to see the lighter subtleties that you can get from a spirit.

However, with that said, in a rarity for me , I prefer this neat. All the same notes are still there, just with a bit more force , bigger mouthfeel and more honeyed style. It is just as easy to examine, you just need to let it sit and seep for a few moments and there it is. So easy to examine – so will just be a manner of preference for water, but will never need much.

This is a wonderful spirit, easy to drink, rewarding and with good range. Why this distillery isn’t better known in the UK I have no idea. A hidden gem, now given a bit more exposure that it deserves.

Background: Game Of Thrones! Ok, I’m a tad behind on the show. By which I mean I am up to where the books end. Please no spoilers. Anyway, Game Of Thrones themed whisky amused me, especially as six of the 8 bottlings are new expressions. Turns out this is one of the two that are not. It is exactly the same as the standard Royal Lochnagar 12 but with new packaging. Ah well. Never tried any Royal Lochnagar before, which is why this is one of the ones I grabbed, so no harm no foul there. I had just found out about the passing of Keith Flint from Prodigy, so put on Fat Of The Land in his memory. Bloody awesome tunes. Not much else to add, another one got in by Independent Spirit.