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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