Royal Brackla distillery was the first of three distilleries that received royal designation, and was sold by Diageo to Bacardi, with the other Dewar’s distilleries of Aberfeldy, Macduff, Craigellachie and Aultmore in 1998, at the behest of antitrust regulators.
Incidentally, reports have it that no maturing stock was included in the sale, but obviously seeing that all brands have expressions older than the 17 years that passed since 1998, either the report I read was wrong, or provisions were made to acquire stock from Diageo. Either way, bottles are out there for sale, and we’re here to review them.
While I found the 12 year old Royal Brackla to be sub par, the 16 is pretty good. Like the 12 year old, it’s Oloroso sherry finished, but is extremely dry. This hits a positive note for me, and made this dram memorable beyond swallowing. I can only imagine what it would be like at 46%, and I’d venture to speculate that it could have been one of the best whiskies in the whole Bacardi portfolio of “The Last Great Malts” had it been presented non chill filtered, natural colored at 46%. Thus, I find myself nodding my head again and saying what a shame….
Another concern I have with this expression is its price point. It’s priced at £72, compared to the Glenfiddich 15 counterpart – also at 40% ABV – at £34. The whisky geek, of course, would opt for the £45 Glenfarclas 15 (at 46%).
Royal Brackla 16 Year Old (40% ABV)
Appearance: Deep gold, a shade darker than the 12.
Nose: Starts out with fresh green leaves, a cold flower shop, with some dryness on the nose. There’s some sherry here, with sweetness and some honey coming through from under it. Left to breath, a perfumey note comes through.
Palate: Sweet at first, then spicy and a little dry. You get honey and white pepper, with a dryness you can feel on the insides of your cheeks, and a sweetness as it goes down.
Linger: Pretty sweet on the tongue, with a long and very steady spiciness on the top of the gullet. Overall the mouth gets very dry, but the sweetness it leaves stays in the mouth playing a bit with the dryness in a surprisingly long finish for a dram at 40%.
Despite being only 40% ABV, this dram actually works, mainly because it’s so dry. The dryness keeps you thinking about the whisky long after it has gone down your gullet. The finish has a nice interplay between dryness and sweetness – created by the Oloroso sherry finish – leaving the only issue its £72 price tag. Compared to the £45 Glenfarclas 15 or the £74 Bunnahabhain 18 (46.3%, non chill filtered and no E-150)….Do you actually have a dilemma?