...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Single Malt Report: Royal Lochnagar 10 year old 2002 Faultline (K&L exclusive)

After last week's OF THE MOMENT reviews, I'm shifting gears.  The next eight (I cannot count) seven reviews will be of K&L exclusive whiskies.  Now, because I can't be timely with all of these, this first whisky was probably sold out a year ago.  But I'm just warming up.

Royal Lochnagar, Diageo's smallest distillery, goes into the Pinch, Windsor, VAT 69, and Johnnie Walker blends.  And I've heard third- or eighth-hand that it's one of the main malt components for Blue Label.  So there's a chance that many folks have had it, but not on its own.

I'm not sure if I've ever had a Royal Lochnagar single malt before, so I'm just going to say that this is my first.  Though K&L drew rightful criticism for overstating the rarity of independent Lochnagars, indie RLs can be a challenge to find.  Whiskybase has 110+ RL indies, but only 10 have been released since 2013.  And this Faultline was the only one of those to make it to the US.  The only other one I've seen on the shelves is the Dewar Rattray one that BevMo! released 4-5 years ago.
Distillery: Royal Lochnagar
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Faultline
Retailer: K&L only
Age: minimum 10 years
Region: Middle Eastern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 58.2%
Chillfiltered: No
Colored: No
Thanks to SmokyPeat for the sample!

Its color is very pale.  The nose starts with a load of ethyl with buttery oak behind it.  Give it a couple minutes...and......Floral perfume.  Lots of soap.  Lots of vanilla.  Lemons.  A little bit of saltwater.  The palate is REALLY hot.  A little bitter and soapy.  Lots of sticky sugars, flower petals, and vanilla.  The finish is heat. Barrel char, vanilla, and woody bitterness.

Okay, that was not what I'd identify as pleasant.  I'm going to water it down...

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose is still perfumy, but clearer now.  Limes, roses, a hint of malt.  Kasugai peach candy, caramel, and confectioner's sugar. Still some ethyl in there.  The palate is pretty malty and mild now.  Sugary and grassy.  Some lime zestiness and a slight farm note.  The finish is clearer too.  Better bitterness.  Lots of woody vanillaness.  Perfumy.

As noted above, I received this sample from Smoky Peat.  Mr. Peat is more of an optimist about current whiskies than I am......and he gave this whisky one of his two or three lowest scores ever.  The reddit review of this Royal Lochnagar is not kinder.

I'm not sure if I've ever written the following: I do not recommend even trying this whisky neatly.  Water is a must.  While that still doesn't turn it into a great whisky, hydration does cool its crazy heat and washes away the soap.  It still seems like a very young malt once it's reduced, which while that is not a bad thing, it may not be to everyone's taste.  It's sugary, grassy, and perfumed.  It's drinkable at 46%abv, perhaps even more so at 40%.  So keep that in mind if you have issues with your bottle once it's opened.

Availability - Sold out  :^|
Pricing - $50-$60
Rating - 74 (with water only)


  1. I'm right with you on this one. My notes:
    Somewhat hot, relatively thin & neutral, some malt (cereals), not unpleasant. 2.5*
    I'm glad I split the pain - I mean, bottle - with Smoky Peat.

    I had another bottle of RL, in 2011, which may or may not have been the same as the AD Rattray you linked to: It was a 14yo and bottled by ADR for Bevmo, but I have it written down at 55% (not 56.3%) and I don't remember it being ex-sherry. I do remember it being unpleasant - I could only drink 1/3 of it. So for now I'm fine if I don't buy another RL soon.

    1. I missed out on that ADR RL, but now I feel better about that. The only Lochnagars I'd be curious to try (though probably not buy) are the official bottlings. Of course those are watered down (40%abv), filtered, and dyed but I'm still curious to find out what Diageo thinks represents an acceptable version.

  2. Yep! Every once in a while I will forget exactly what it tastes like and end up trying some more. Once in the middle of the summer I even had a craving for its ultra austere profile. Creamy lime at its best, hot garbage at its worst. Finding the right water balance is key but in the end it is not really worth it. There will still be some at my house the next time you visit. You can have some more if you like. ;)

    1. Thanks! Thanks? I guess this one could be utilized for home blending/vatting though definitely only when it's reduced. Maybe some sherried and/or peated stuff being added?

  3. Another one of those picks where you have to wonder what the Davids saw in it.

    1. My best guesses are exclusivity (We're the only ones who have a Royal Lochnagar!) and the ability to bring a cheaper CS single malt to their customers. Or maybe the cask sample was better than the final result? I'm kinda at a loss beyond that.

    2. I agree. There aren't too many $50 cask strength single casks out there, especially RL, so this fit in well with their strategy (i.e. will it sell?). And truth be told when you pay $50 instead of $80 you know you're taking a risk and you're not so sorry if it doesn't work out, especially if you share the risk. I even thought the Dailuaine that Michael reviewed today was a gamble (why did they bring it down from $80 to $60?) but it turned out to be a winner. Not to mention the ex-sherry Signatory Bowmore...

    3. Why some bottle stay on the shelf is difficult to determine. Inherently bad quality? Skepticism of particular distilleries? Saturation of purchases? Burned too many times before by K&L selections? It's a complicated calculus.