Feb 112016
 

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.

Photo Credit: scotchmaltwhisky.co.uk

Photo Credit: scotchmaltwhisky.co.uk

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%).

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

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%.

Conclusion

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?

Feb 102016
 

About two years ago, Bacardi announced ‘The Last Great Malts’, and I was excited, as the range was touted as being presented with age statements, non-chill filtered and at 46% ABV, or at least this was the impression everybody got from the PR. Apart from absolutely scandalous pricing of the higher rungs of the ranges (£330 for the Craigellachie 23 and £300 for the Aultmore 25) all was well with the Craigellachie and Aultmore releases (with the Craigellachie 17 and the Aultmore 12 being my favorites of those ranges which were reviewed here for the Aultmore and here for the Craigellachie).

Photo Credit: Bacardi PR

Photo Credit: Bacardi PR

Then came The Deveron (Macduff Distillery), bottled at 40%, as was this range of the Royal Brackla. It almost seems as if Bacardi made a change in plans after the release of the Aultmore and the Craigellachie, “downgrading” The Deveron and Royal Brackla for “general consumption”, aimed at the Glenfiddich/Glenlivet crowd, while the former are geared toward the anoraks, although pricing seems to still be set rather high.

I’ll admit to being disappointed at this turn of events, as both Macduff and Royal Brackla are not as widely bottled as Aultmore and Craigellachie by the independent bottlers, and I was looking forward to getting some insight as to the distillery character they offer. I tasted an early working sample of The Deveron 18 (at 40%) and was not blown away, and found myself pretty underwhelmed by the Royal Brackla range. What a shame….

 

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Royal Brackla 12 – Oloroso Sherry Finish (40% ABV)

Appearance: Gold, quick legs with a necklace dissolving into rather thick legs.

Nose: Malt and green apples, give way to wet cardboard and some floral notes. There’s some honey deep inside the nose with a vegetal and somewhat oily note.

Palate: Fruity with overtones of spice (black and white pepper), a hit of honey and a touch of citrus oil.

Linger: Short, with some honey on the tongue and spice high up in the gullet.

Conclusion

It’s OK whisky, but not much more than that. It definitely lacks the Aultmore 12’s depth or the Craigellachie 13’s character. I loved the Aultmore and wasn’t all that taken with the Craigellachie, but I have an opinion on it. The Brackla 12, I don’t. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s not memorable in any way.
I whole hardheartedly recommended the Aultmore 12, and I can think of quite a few friends who would really like the Craigellachie 13, but with the Royal Brackla 12, I have to recommend a bottle of Dewar’s 12 year old. You’ll save £10 and probably get some better whisky….