Whisky Review: Royal Brackla 16-Year-Old - The Whiskey Wash

Whisky Review: Royal Brackla 16-Year-Old

Royal Brackla 16-Year-Old

image via Joshua St. John/The Whiskey Wash

In 2014, John Dewar and Sons along with parent company Bacardi announced their intentions to release what they termed The Last Great Malts of Scotland. What sounds downright ominous to my ears turned out to be a series of single malt whiskies which have otherwise been more or less lost in the blends that make up the Dewar’s catalogue. Within this series, malts from Aultmore, Aberfeldy, Craigellchie, The Deveron, and Royal Brackla would be unveiled in various vintages and price points.

An earlier limited bottling of Royal Brackla was released by Bacardi with a 35 year age statement and a suggested retail price that was knocking on the door of $15,000. Within the Last Great Malts series, Royal Brackla would be released with 12-, 16-, and 21-year-old versions available at suggested retail prices which were significantly less likely to induce coronary episodes. Perhaps Bacardi was looking to frame the general release as reasonable, considering it is much more difficult to purchase a reliable used car for $130.

While the label may be relatively new to store shelves, Royal Brackla itself is not a new operation. The distillery was established in 1812. A royal warrant was bestowed upon the label in 1833 by King William IV in what was a first for the industry. From this honor is where Royal Brackla gained their slogan, “The King’s own whisky.” In 1838, Queen Victoria renewed the mark of distinction. Royal Lochnagar is the only other distillery in Scotland operating with a royal warrant today.

The current version of Royal Brackla 16 Year Old is finished in first-fill ex-oloroso sherry casks and bottled at a standard 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof).

Tasting Notes: Royal Brackla 16-Year-Old

Vital Stats: 40% ABV (80 proof), aged 16 years, 100% malted barley, available around $130 per 700 ml bottle.

Appearance: Honey amber like a medium tea. Strong, this legs coating the glass.

Nose: Lightly spicy nose with notes of ground peppercorn. Sweeter notes of green, underripe banana. Decent amount of alcohol on the nose. Subtle charred oak. As the nose opens, I get distinct and amusing notes of wooden shavings from colored pencils. Overall, fairly clean.

Palate: Sips very cleanly, as the nose would suggest. Full fruity notes of dry sherry without being overly sweet. Quite dry. Malty cereal grains and dried fruits. Bit of prune and baked fig. Coats the inside of the mouth like a fine amaretto. Dryness carries over into the finish. Cocoa nibs arriving late. Burn of medium to light intensity, but lasts a fairly decent amount of time. Fairly straightforward and not overly complicated, but with good flavors and balance.

Final Thoughts & Score/Buy A Bottle:

Score: 85/100

Buy NowRoyal Brackla is one of “those” labels. You know the ones I mean. The ones where it is fairly uncommon to stumble upon, but a friend of a friend swears it is the only spirit worth drinking. In my previous experience, I found their 12 year old release to be far too uneven for my taste. With the 16-year-old version, I was much more pleased with the overall experience.

The whisky is easy sipping and clean. It is what many would describe as an “everyday whisky,” though I feel a $130 price point tends to frame this as a more premium release before popping the cork. A little more bang for the buck would be welcome here. Sadly, not bottling this version at 43% or 46% ABV feels like a sorely missed opportunity.