Scottish Ballet and Diageo have announced the release of a unique cask of Royal Lochnagar whisky. Laid down in 1994, this single cask features a cask end painting from Scottish artist Norman Edgar portraying Scottish Ballet Principal dancer Nicci Theis in the iconic role of The Sleeping Beauty. Part of Diageo’s Casks of Distinction range, just 470 bottles of the limited edition Scotch have been created and will be sold at auction on Whisky Auctioneer between September 9 and 13.
The unique cask was laid down in 1994 at the instigation of Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden, who was at the time Chair of United Distillers and Vice Chair of Scottish Ballet. Edgar was commissioned to paint the cask end portraying Theis in the iconic role of Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty. It was to be a donation with a difference, an investment in the future of Scotland’s national dance company.
Twenty-six years later, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ has been awakened and the whisky bottled as part of the prestigious Casks of Distinction range. It is now ready to be shared with whisky lovers and ballet fans alike, with every pound raised at auction contributing to the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund. All bottling and auction costs have been donated by Diageo and Whisky Auctioneer in support of Scottish Ballet.
The first auction lot will include bottle number one and the unique cask end painting by Norman Edgar depicting Princess Aurora, the sleeping beauty. The first ten lots will also include exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences with Scottish Ballet.
“It is deeply gratifying that this Royal Lochnagar cask, which I presented to Scottish Ballet in celebration of its 25th anniversary in 1994, is now being awoken,” said Lord MacFarlane of Bearsden. “I am delighted that people will now be able to taste this extremely special whisky, but even more importantly the legacy of our donation will be continued through the funds the cask will raise for the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund.”
Bottled at 56.3% ABV, ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ is a single-cask Highland malt whisky. The top notes are of dried fruits and kitchen spices, which evolve into Christmas cake, plum pudding and mince pies on a bosky (bramble thicket) base. The taste starts sweet (treacle toffee, burnt toffee) and finishes dry and spicy (Szechuan pepper), with a long, warm finish. A little water changes the toffee taste to tablet and introduces notes of sticky malt loaf, finishing with a clove-like, mouth-cooling effect. “As good an example of Royal Lochnagar as I have ever tasted,” said Charles MacLean MBE, Master of the Quaich and whisky writer.
“It is marvellous to know that this unique gift has been bottled and will now be offered for sale in support of the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund, ensuring a lifelong benefit to all those who love ballet and who love Scotland,” said HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay and Patron of Scottish Ballet.
“Like all arts organisations, Scottish Ballet has endured a challenging eighteen months unable to perform live, and this income will be vital in ensuring the company’s long-term future and capacity to inspire future audiences, on stage and beyond,” noted Christopher Hampson, CEO/Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet. “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has played their part in bringing this whisky fairytale to life.”
James Mackay, Head of Rare & Exceptional Spirits at Diageo, added, “It is with great pride and pleasure that we have bottled ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ Cask of Distinction, beginning a new chapter in this beautiful story, and to offer lovers of Scottish craft and fine arts a chance to appreciate this unique single malt Scotch whisky, while benefiting Scottish Ballet.”
Joe Wilson, Head of Auction Content at Whisky Auctioneer, said, “It’s a privilege to support the Scottish Ballet Endowment Fund by hosting the online auction of this incredibly distinctive Royal Lochnagar release. This whisky has a story to tell and an important cause to support, so we are sure that both whisky and ballet lovers, as well as collectors around the world, will be excited to have the opportunity to acquire such an interesting expression.”
Artist Norman Edgar added, “A great fan of the artist Edgar Degas, I had never painted any ballet paintings and enjoyed creating the pose after watching a performance of The Sleeping Beauty in Glasgow, with the shape of Aurora’s dress following the circular barrel ends. As a relatively young man at the time, I would also still be around to sample the result!”