A review of the Royal Brackla 21yr old single malt official release.
Established in 1812 by Captain William Fraser (apparently spent 14 yrs in India circa 1783) of Brackla House on the estate of Cawdor Castle, Brackla whisky was selected by King William IV to be his whisky at the Royal Court. In 1833 Brackla Distillery was the first whisky distillery to be granted a Royal Warrant by the order of the King. This made Royal Brackla one of only three distilleries to bear the name 'Royal', the others being the active distillery Royal Lochnagar and the demolished distillery Glenury Royal. The Royal Brackla 12 yo,16 yo and 21 yo are a part of the Last Great Malts range released in 2015 by John Dewar & Sons along with Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie and Deveron.
Currently owned by John Dewar & Sons a subsidiary of Bacardi, most of its 4 million litres produced, goes towards the Dewar's blends. It is also used in the Johnnie Walker Gold Label blend. Incidentally Andrew Usher, who is considered as the pioneer of commercialised blending, used Royal Brackla extensively in his blends and later went on to become a director with them 1887. Royal Brackla with its tall stills, slow distillation and ascending lyne arms creates a lot of reflux which produces a very light fruity distillate. The 70 hour fermentation time is also longer than usual as compared to other producers these days. The 12yo and 16yo are easily available but the 21yo is getting scant. It is still available at Master of Malts for £137.50. On to the review.
Royal Brackla 21yo @ 40%
Sample kindly provided by Hormuz Aderianwalla
Wood-American Oak and finished in Oloroso sherry butt
Caramel added and chill-filtered
Colour: Amber brown
Nose: Sherry notes straight up.Varnish, old furniture, pencil shavings. Red and green apples emerge. Honey and chamomile. Very quickly it becomes grassy(herbal) and sawdusty. That sweet, dusty and herbal note reminds me of Jeshthamadh (Indian liquorice) powder. Some lemon/lime citrus notes follow with overripe bananas. With water the nose get a little more rounded and brings out the flowery side while subduing the woody herbal notes.
Palate: Woody and spicy. Roasted coffee beans, marshmallows with a sprinkling of cinnamon. The sherry influence is quite dominant with orange oils, sweet liquorice and over brewed tea. The woody herbal notes continue on the palate. Surprisingly there is a little hint of brine! Overall it feels a little thin on the palate. With water, while it initially adds weight, the old woody notes get more pronounced and the distillate drowns leaving a very bitter aftertaste. Opposite of what it did to the nose. I would avoid adding water. The low abv doesn't help.
After 20 mins in the glass there is a bit of sulphur/struck matches. It gets a little oily, almost like olive oil.Pushes back the herbal notes bringing the spices to the fore.The morning after intense charred wood sap and bitter herbal notes.
Finish: Medium with bitter almonds, roasted coffee beans and a whiff of wood char.
Impressions: This was my first encounter with a Royal Brackla. The dusty, woody herbal notes were a little unbalanced with the fruitier elements from the spirit getting lost. Its a Royal shame not to have been bottled at 46%, non chill-filtered and natural colour. Pricing is an issue. At £137 I would be hard pressed to recommend this over the magnificent Glendronach 21yr or the Aberfeldy 21yr old both of which offer far better value at a much lower price point. Having said that as a standalone bottle it is a very pleasant whisky and I'm looking forward to trying the younger expressions.