Royal Brackla is the third leg in Dewar’s single malt portfolio — in addition to Craigellachie and Aberfeldy — and while it’s the largest of the trio, it’s probably the least well-known. The distillery, founded in 1812, has been opened and closed over the years, most recently reopened in 1991. Located in the Highlands on the northern edge of the Speyside region, all of the brand’s mainline releases at present are aged in a combination of ex-bourbon, oloroso sherry, and refill casks. (That said, based on Brackla’s “coming soon” website, these expressions all seem to be in flux, with multiple types of sherry finishes on the way and the 16 year old expression becoming an 18 year old. Stay tuned.)
While we’re waiting, here’s a dive into the lineup as you’re likely to find it on store shelves and bar menus.
All are bottled at 80 proof.
Royal Brackla 12 Years Old – This is a youthful single malt, appropriately grainy with some mushroom and a fair amount of raw alcohol notes. The palate never overly dazzles, coming across as quite grain-heavy with a significant barrel char note. It’s heavy on the alcohol — especially on the finish — but it does offer a pleasant lemon character from time to time. On the whole, it’s inoffensive but not particularly memorable. B- / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Royal Brackla 16 Years Old – Moving up the line, the 16 year old expression still offers lots of grain elements but it’s backed up with a decidedly nutty aroma. A clear lemon note and a slightly pungent furniture polish aroma add complexity, though it’s still a bit unbalanced. The palate remains quite bready with a clear focus on the malt, slowly opening up over time to reveal some almond and coconut notes on the finish. More nuanced than the 12 year old, to be sure. B+ / $130
Royal Brackla 21 Years Old – The terminus of the line surprises by pushing even more malt into the nose and a heavier earth component, though it’s counterbalanced by a sharp sherry note. The palate is quite chewy and toasty, with almond and coconut elements again showing up, this time earlier in the experience. A sesame oil note gives the spirit more complexity via a mix of sweet and savory elements, leading to a more soothing, rounded finish, with Brackla’s characteristic booziness finally tempered here. A handful of crushed almonds round out a satisfying conclusion. A- / $250