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Friday, December 8, 2017

Royal Brackla 14 year old 1998 Gordon & MacPhail for Binny's

Two years ago, Bacardi released three age-stated (12, 16 and 21yo) official Royal Bracklas, which is good. They bottled them all at the legal minimum 40%abv, which is bad. Seriously, why would they do that, when they released the age-stated Aultmore series entirely at 46%abv during the previous year? That's a weird step backwards.

Previous to the official releases, one had to go to independent bottlers, like G&M, to explore Royal Brackla single malt. Today's G&M Brackla was bottled exclusively for the Binny's chain.

There are two things I really appreciate about reader Florin (a prince). That he'd blindly buy a Royal Brackla in the interest of experience and science and propping up Chicago's economy. And that he'd give to me this sample that was clearly intended for MAO. It's been four years now. I hope MAO can find it in his heart to forgive me for his drinking his whisky.

Distillery: Royal Brackla
Region: Highlands, just on the other side of the western Speyside border
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Age: 1998 - 2012 (I think)
Maturation: probably American oak
Cask number58
Exclusively for: Binny's
Alcohol by Volume: 56.5%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

The nose is fun. Glue, lemongrass, ground mustard seed, green grapes and pineapple. Some late caramel and burnt wood. The hot palate starts on banana, vanilla and orange peel. Then it "develops" into unripe stone fruit, green woody bitterness, mild sweetness and a cayenne zing. Meanwhile, the finish spins off into a different orbit. Bitter char, vanilla, chlorophyll. Fake plastic sweetness.

Now, I'll dunk it down to the official bottlings' strength:

DILUTED TO ~40%abv
The nose still exists. Lemon, fried plantain and something phenolic (diesel?). Then grapefruit and grass clippings. Again, the palate seems to be from a very different whisky. Bitter melon rind, bitter oak. Vanilla, sugar, sour berries and a hint of soap. It has a nice texture, though. Its pencil lead finish is bitter, sour and acidic.

If whisky were only for smellin', I'd recommend this odd thing. The palate is challenging, but rarely in a fashion that leads to success. Too much bitter oak and indistinctive vanilla oak for me. But that's better than the finish proves to be a bit of a horror show, with or without water.

This seems like a cask that was nosed, rather than tasted, when it was offered by G&M, then chosen by Binny's. The Chicago retailer may have had more success with an earlier bottling, and I hope their current Brackla is better than this one too.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 71


  1. Boo! This was a bottle I really liked, and you should stop drinking 4-year old samples. Especially if they were clearly not for you.

    It looks like I didn't write notes for this one, but I rated it at 4* (88-90 points or so).

    What Bacardi seems to be doing with their new releases is a social experiment: the Brackla is released at 40% and if I remember well with coloring. The Aultmore - 46%, no coloring. And the Craigellachie - 46% if I remember, and coloring. My guess is, they want to see what sticks, since neither of the distilleries has any name with the drinking masses (or with refined connoisseurs, for that matter).

    1. O RLY?

      That's the most nuanced reply I seem to be able to come up with at the moment.

  2. Apparently, I should thank you for drinking this whisky for me. Though I have a feeling he did get me a sample eventually.

    Coincidentally, I recently opened a Signatory Brackla for Binny's. Can't say I was terribly impressed by that one either.

    1. Oh hell, the one I recently opened and wasn't terribly impressed by is the one you've linked me giving 87 points to above! Ah, the pleasures of aging! Anyway, I've only had one pour from the freshly opened bottle so I should go back to it and see what I make of it after some air/time.

    2. Maybe you have my sample and it is thus awesome. Looking forward to utilizing the Signatory Brackla for this blog's SECOND(!) Royal Brackla review.

  3. Strange. In many ways your review mirrors what I find but I think this is very good. The difference is in the finish. I don't get soap but there is a slight green woodiness that you mention which is a negative but only just.
    This takes water very well and the mouthfeel is probably the best part. It is so lemony and sweet it reminds me of sugared lemon peels and lemonheads but I get a slight acidity only.

    Gets pretty cloudy with water. Anyway, this review was great as it, for me anyway, illustrates perfectly that scores don't matter as much as the content of the review. Having the same whisky in hand helps with that judgement.

    1. I agree! Scores are pretty silly, and I sincerely hope most folks value the words more than the numbers, not just on my blog but all others as well. Thank you for reading, Anonymous!

      Florin, who commented above, really enjoyed this whisky. And, at this rate, so will My Annoying Opinions. I'm just an accidental pain in the ass with this one, I guess.