Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
The Diageo brand, John Walker & Sons, is the “scotch whisky distiller by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”. The brand was first awarded a royal warrant in 1934 by King George V.
At Royal Lochnagar distillery, on the edge the Queen’s Balmoral Estate, David Gates, ‘grantee of John Walker & Sons’ royal warrant’, will oversee the filling of the Queen’s decanter, as well as 60 further editions for sale around the world. The profits from the sale of these editions are being donated to the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) with a guaranteed amount of at least £1million.
The Diamond Jubilee blend was created by Walker master blender Jim Beveridge and his apprentice Matthew Crow who have overseen the search, selection and blending of the whiskies. The final, traditional step of marrying has been carried out in casks made by the Walker coopers using oak provided by the Queen from her private Sandringham Estate.
Diageo says John Walker & Sons has harnessed the skills of more than 60 artisans, including fellow royal warrant holders and QEST Scholars who are creating bespoke pieces to present and accompany the whisky.
The diamond shaped Baccarat crystal decanters stand on a crystal base with six radial legs to reflect the decades of the Queen’s reign, and are adorned with Britannia silver, selected for its purity. Leading Scottish silversmiths, Hamilton & Inches, has fashioned the collars set with a half-carat diamond, the Royal Arms, John Walker & Sons monogram and individually numbered seals.
Each edition also includes a pair of lead Cumbria Crystal glasses engraved by Philip Lawson Johnston and a commemorative artefact book, hand bound by Laura West at herIsle of Skyebindery and personalised for each owner by Sally Mangum, ‘calligrapher by appointment to the Queen. All the elements will be housed in a chest made by the cabinet makers at NEJ Stevenson, incorporating oak fromSandringhamto echo the whisky marrying casks and Caledonian pine from The Queen’s Balmoral estate.
Chairman of QEST, Richard Watling, said: “The creation of this beautiful work, a monument to the skills of its craftspeople and the definitive tribute to 60 years of Her Majesty’s reign is of enormous significance to QEST. The donation will enable us to significantly increase the number of scholarships we award, helping to secure the preservation of vital craft skills for generations to come. For this, QEST is extremely grateful.”
Two further editions created for the John Walker & Sons archive, will embark on a tour around the world in Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee year.