Behind the Label
Royal Brackla, 2012, 9 Year Old, 57.3% Abv, from Singaporean indie bottler M&E Drinks, selected by The Single Cask Singapore. It was finished in first-fill PX Sherry casks. Total outturn of 150 bottles, individually numbered. This bottle is the first in their Seasons of Love series and has a really lovely bottling story, having been distilled on Valentine's Day 2012, before being bottled in March 2021 at cask strength. How timely!
Royal Brackla Distillery is set in nondescript buildings in the quiet Scottish town of Nairn. Look's like a pretty scenic place to be huh? I'll try and sneak this bottle into the distillery and try it there when travel resumes. The ambience has got to matter right? (Image Source: BEXONN)
Cracked this open last night out of curiosity, as a good buddy of mine and I have had little experience thus far with Royal Brackla. In fact my most common experience with it has been the often touted story of how it was the first whisky distillery to be granted a Royal Warrant by the King of the UK, subsequently to have it renewed by Queen Victoria, who was rumored to really love the whisky. There are 3 other distilleries bearing the "Royal" in their name. Pop quiz time: Can you name them all?
The distillery's set up is quite deliberate - with the goal of creating a whisky that is fruity, perfumery and light. As such, it's unsurprising that all the "fruity" cards are in play - long fermentation times (70 hours), tall distillation stills that enables lots of reflux, with long distillation cycles, as well as lyne arms (the upper half of the distillation still) that are angled upwards - all to catch those sweet, sweet esters.
For the amateur chemists, this is what the making of a fruity, perfumery whisky looks like. Don't try this at home. (Image Source: ScotchWhisky.com)
As far as on paper, this is right down my alley. That said, my less than ideal depth of experiences with the distillery should be unsurprising. Up until a couple of years back when Bacardi decided to revitalise the brand, having taken over from Diageo (specifically its predecessor, DCL) , the distillery's whiskies were mostly used in Dewar's White Blend, so not much came in the form of single malts.
Anyway, let's get down to tasting it!
Color: Very deep rich copper. Nose: Spicy! I'm gonna let this simmer alittle, for what is usually known to be a very gentle whisky, this one's alot hotter. Swirling it, I get lots of red fruits, cherries, pinot noir grapes, then some dried fruits, raisins, sultanas, prunes. There's a white pepperiness to it.
Cherries galore! (Image Source: Women's Health)
There's also honey syrupy sweetness and a bit of espresso note. Quite nice! Makes me think of a Spanish seafood dinner with a view of Salsa dancing 💃🕺!
Palate: Medium bodied, not as heavy as the nose would suggest. Mm, it's sweet and bright. The same fruits come forth, mostly the red fruits, cherries particularly. Good dollops of honey as well. It's starting to be more brunch appropriate.
Quite fragrant I must say! There's an oaky dryness along with some nuttiness, macadamias I'd guess. So you get this flush of sweetness, which then recedes into a nice drying acidity that doesn't allow it to get too cloying. I mean after all, PX is a dessert wine.
Nice honey sweetness to balance out the tartness. This went from Spanish seafood dinner to brunch real quick. (Image Source: Recipe Land)
Finish: Fairly long, the sweetness carries through along with the nuttiness.
This was good! I really enjoyed how it weaves in and out and has a good amount of complexity. Went from Spanish-style seafood dinner to brunch, which is what you want: a good dram to have a conversation over. By the end of the night, we'd knocked off half the bottle, so this goes down as a score in my book.
Of course, some age would have helped simmer it down more, it is still fairly hot at the offset, though you wouldn't think so on the palate, which shows alot more vibrancy. But certainly some mellowing could be good. I suppose it is befitting of the theme of young love and the spiciness that entails. Don't let age fool you, age matters to some extent but aside from that it really is just a number. Ultimately, you have to believe that it is bottled when the liquid is ready, not just when it hits some arbitrary date. It's not a time capsule.
Overall, I enjoyed it thoroughly! It's a good balance of sweetness and acidity but maybe what really takes the cake for me is that it's cask strength, high proof, versus the OB bottlings. I'm looking forward to the next chapter!
PS. If you think this might be your dram, they've still got some over at M&E Drinks, you can even pick your favorite bottle number.
Full disclosure: We're not sponsored, we just really enjoyed the bottle and the amount of effort and thoughtfulness that went into this.
Enjoyed it! Took me from Salsa dancing to a mellow brunch - young, but vibrant af. Good amount of nuttiness though, made me think of the squirrel in Ice Age the movie. Looking forward to Chapter II.