All posts by Anchal Kaushal

About Anchal Kaushal

Anchal Kaushal is a whisky mentor by profession, she spent eleven years in the corporate world, of which seven years were dedicated towards the alcoholic beverage industry brand marketing. This change in career was born out of the love for whisky and the desire to dedicate herself to the passion of seeking a deeper knowledge into this water of life ! She now runs a fabric called LIQUID SUNSHINE, with tastings and appreciations to help you discover and refine your palate. She believes in enjoying the evocative, sensorial journey of whisky discovery and having some great conversations along the way ! anchal@liquidsunshine.in

On the Rocks – Royal Lochnagar – Anchal Kaushal

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[highlight]Distilling this legendary distillery experience[/highlight]

Before you clap your hand and squeal with joy over any Indian connection, I’d like to pause and say no. This is no desi ‘nagar’. Scotland’s famous Royal Lochnagar, whose ch is a kh (that’s right, from the epiglottis), and nagar is a jet-lagged nagaar, is a quaint distillery in the highland region of Scotland.

But for me, the long drive from Speyside to the Highlands was for 3 selfish reasons – to experience the Royal Games – Breamar Royal Highland Gathering, and if lucky enough, catch a royal glimpse of Her Majesty The Queen, a patron of the games. Finally, the most important – a visit to the Royal Lochnagar distillery.

Braemar a small village in highlands known for its sporting event, Breamar Royal Highland Gathering. Athletes, musicians, dancers from across the world compete with one another at this annual event that puts Aberdeenshire’s only highland village on the world stage, this year following close on heels to the commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

My euphoria of reaching the gathering was a bit short-lived, for between the pipes, fanfare, marches and games, was a spell of rain, rendering it quite a slushy fare. Beef hotdogs, fresh cream and strawberry and rain soaked boots is a memory I will cherish forever. And the fact that I did manage to spot Her Majesty’s car. I am sure she saw me waving madly at her! Bucket List, box number two – check.

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THE DISTILLERY VISIT

From sports to spirits, the distillery, outlined by a dense green forest, is a short drive from Braemar and has been set by the Balmoral estate, one of the private residences of the British Royal family. The prime location is its vantage point, one that bagged it the Royal Warrant in 1848 when John Begg, its founder, invited Prince Albert to visit the distillery. The following day, the distillery played a happy host to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children.

If you ever venture from Speyside, one cannot spot signature pagoda atop the distilleries there. Instead a long stone walled building, housed within manicured green surroundings is a captivating sight. However that’s not where the romance lies, it’s in the small production quantity where the magic is. One almost forgets that this tiny unit is a part of a gigantic group called Diageo. Much of its whisky is released as a single malt, although it is also a key component of high-end blended whiskies, such as Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

The visit also revealed intriguing chapters from its history – the first Lochnagar distillery was burnt down under suspicious circumstances in 1824, by illicit distillers and a replacement again burnt down in 1841. In 1845 John Begg built the “new” Lochnagar. They also claim, “if Glenfiddich has the largest production in Scotland, then we produce annually as much as they produce in two weeks.” Wow – if craft distilling has ever been equated to scale, this sure would have qualified.

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THE WHISKIES

Light, sweet and delicate is the hallmark of all Royal Lochnagar whiskies. With maturation in Spanish sherry casks, the affair gets a lot more regal, especially with the expression – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve. The filling up of the cask happens 100% at the distillery, a rare practice that highlights the level of craft here. The infant spirit un-matured out of the distillery when tasted, almost tastes like the Walker short bread, since it is a bit malty in addition to being sweet and elegant.

We tasted 2 variants, Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old and Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve.DSC00319

 

I found the 12 Year Old refreshing, fruity, a spicy malt, sweet on the palate, reminding me of apples, bananas, malty and dry at spaces. Overall, elegant and delicate enough to give whisky newbies a go or for those moments when you need a refreshing and clean drink.

The Select Reserve, on the contrary, has a big sherry influence. An un-aged variant, this malt is dark, with an exceptional fruitcake-like influence on the palate, the rum and raisin lending the effect of a Christmas pudding. It’s such a bold contrast to the earlier expression that it almost wipes the distillery character off one’s head.

I’d make this an after dinner or a dessert malt, and if paired smartly to scoop the flavor out, could accompany the main course like a mutton shank or Tenderloin of Beef. Though my most divine pairing with a malt, such as this, is dark chocolate with a big swig of the Selected Reserve.

Bring on the Christmas cheer, intense, dry, vintage and regal!

Anchal Kaushal

 

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On the Rocks – Whiskies of Campbeltown – Anchal Kaushal

Single Malt and the Beatles

45 years ago when the Beatles broke out, Paul McCartney and his wife Linda left for Scotland to rejuvenate and relive the next phase of their lives. The little town of Campbeltown allowed them to flirt with mother nature, set about writing some of the best post-Beatles songs and live an almost reclusive lifestyle. Some of the people even called them the worst dressed people in the town ! However, when Linda died of cancer, there was a memorial set up, for the love, charity and kindness she shared with the locals. It was the simplicity of the people and the place that left a mark !

Today you ask anyone at Campbeltown along the harbour, which are the places to see,

“weel naethin’ much….Linda in the garden (her memorial !), “few auld fellows like me at th’ harboor” & Springbank distillery.

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Springbank Distillery

A region that could once swagger under the prolific comfort of 34 working distilleries was reduced to two, owing to the economic depression across the Atlantic, supplemented by prohibition era and also some distilleries spoiling the region’s reputation by relaxing their quality standards. In the last decade, owners of Springbank restored and reopened Glengyle Distillery, raising the count to three.

There is a reason why the Scotch Whisky Association reinstated Campbeltown as a separate whisky region. Scotch whiskies from this region have a peculiar style, you could picture a hybridised version of Highland and Lowland style Scotch whiskies, a dry pungent smoke with the briny maritime burst. These scotches are individuals in their own right, however some of them have acquired more of a temperament and disposition thanks to the spirit of innovative production lent by the respective distilleries.

Springbank Distillery
Springbank Distillery

So what is it that made brands like Longrow Red 11 Year old, a delight at the latest World Whisky Awards and a winner in its own category or Springbank 19 Year Old (Master of Malt series), which got the Liquid Gold Award 2014 by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]

100% On Site production

A visit to Springbank distillery makes you realise that it’s perhaps the only unit in Scotland with a production process 100% on site. So in this quaint town of Campbeltown, the distillery happens to be quite busy, with a human touch at each stage. Absolute floor malting, on site bottling plant and even a whisky school. The most fabulous aspect of this distillery is its flirtatious nature with these processes to yield not one but a triplet of single malts, all with a fanfare of distinctive characteristics. So whisky lovers can expect a mix of varied tastes, finishes and body.

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Distilled – Double or Triple?

There is a lot to choose from, a two and a half times distilled, medium peated, Springbank Scotch Whisky, Double distilled, generously peated Longrow, triple distilled and non-peated Hazelburn. You can now put at rest the popular belief and myth that only Irish whiskies are triple distilled, Hazelburn is one of the few peculiarities to the rule.

 

While the malt from Glengyle distillery, Kilkerran is rather new in its release, most of them even being termed as WIP Sherry or WIP Bourbon, the other two in the region, Glenscotia and Springbank distillery releases can be described as complete antitheses to one another. Springbank, with its marked smoke, brawny character in contrast to Glenscotia’s archetype light and grassy nature. Given these differences you cannot negate the aura of the proximity to the sea and hence its wee bit of similarities that come along.

Aside of the whiskies, Campbeltown makes you feel like a lonely traveller at times. The flybe flight I took from Glasgow to Campbeltown had 3 of us in it, giving us the feeling of a private little jet of ours. The landing was smooth except that I realised there is nothing like cabs there !

Aerial View of Campbeltown
Aerial View of Campbeltown

You maybe a lonely traveller, however, the town makes you feel rather special. One of the fellow travellers was gracious enough to drop me to my destination. He and his wife kept cracking jokes on the way, most of which they seemed to be enjoying amongst themselves, I’ve always wondered, how do people of Campbeltown laugh so much, is it the air, life or something else their smokin’ up.

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On the Rocks – Oban – Anchal Kaushal

The Distillery that carved out a town!

If you’re a distillery architecture romanticist and a lover of the signature pagoda roof top, then you will be alarmed to see what is ahead of you! The Oban distillery is quite an antithesis to anyone’s idea of a typical distillery. Ask me… I love the imperial look and the possible unintentional quirk.

Its been on my list of distilleries to visit and i finally made it after a few hours of train journey from Glasgow.

On the Rocks - Oban
On the Rocks – Oban

A black and grey big block of stone building with a cave like entrance, it’s possible to stand within half a block and not be able to locate it. The fuss to this however is when you watch the distillery from a distance, the McCaig’s Tower, a colosseum look alike seems like a tiara adorning the distillery. Phew! finally the misty romance we were looking for.

McCaig Tower
McCaig Tower

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Oban Genesis

The Stevenson brothers created the Oban distillery in 1794. It was the time of flourishing trade, end of the clan era and a climate of opportunities. A town which was once just a fishing port soon became a popular destination, especially with the Victorians travelling on their steam ships from Glasgow. It is said that at one time a trip from Oban to Staffa was priced at 15 shillings and 2 bottles of whisky. I am sure there were a bunch of happy & spirited sailors! Well, what this did was that the town grew up around the distillery. Now Oban is the capital of the west highlands & the distillery is at the heart of this town. Today you can reach Oban by coach courtesy ScotRail, in just 2-3 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow, or by Air, or better still take a ferry from any of the Islands around.

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What makes Oban special

Many close friends often tell me that they quite like Oban, however hardly get to lay their hands on the bottle. A distillery which is mid sized in its production capacity and yet produces a distinctive malt, you’ve got to be real lucky to get your hands on this one.

Our production tour was short and honey sweet. Oban is very popular for its small pair of stills and one of the longest fermentation processes running into 4 days. Now you may wonder, what’s in the prolongation, well it’s here that the malt acquires its signature aroma of oranges. The high contact of copper given the stills creates a rich spirit with a lot of character.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″]

On with the Oban tasting

On the Rocks - Oban
On the Rocks – Oban

With so much said during the tour, I was like an eager soul ready to taste this one. Mr. Oban 14YO – Signature Malt, don’t break the fantasy world of perfectionism I am on.

Oban Nose – Nicely aromatic, malty, vanilla notes, hailing from the American oak maturation. Oranges, salt, smoke – I am struck by this freaky combination and can’t wait to take the next step.

Oban Taste Review – What impressions the nose leaves you with, your taste buds accentuate it further. Rich, medium bodied, citrus, honeyed sweetness, spiced a bit fruity.

My overall opinion on this one and the reason for its differentiation is that, Oban is like a meeting place between the land & the sea. You have the honey, citrus and fruits on one side and peat, salt & spice on the other. !

I really recommend adding water to this one, since it enhances the touch of peat and intensifies the smoke & salt !

In addition to the standard 14 year old there is one other edition which comes from Oban, a Distillers Edition finished in a montilla fino sherry cask. The distillery exclusive bottle, released in 2010, was exasperatingly sold out.

Is this in the list of distilleries to visit before you die, well I’m not sure, however if you lay your hands on the dram, you must give it a try.

Recommended serve, try with some crystallised ginger – a taste sensation, as they say.

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