1998 Royal Brackla 17 Year Old "Hepburn's Choice" Single Barrel Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky (750ml)
The Royal Brackla 17 year old completely caught us off guard on our recent trip to Scotland. We'd of course heard of the Bacardi-owned distillery, known for its role in blended whiskies, but we'd never tasted one quite like this. Joining us for the first time this year during the meeting was Hunter Laing's master blender Tom Aitken who used to blend for Dewar's back when Bacardi first bought the brand. Tasting samples with a veteran who understands the inner workings and the history behind some of these lesser-known distilleries is invaluable. Tom explained that former owner Diageo used the distillery as a sort of experimental lab during the nineties. They made all sorts of different styles back then apparently and the quality could be wildly variant. This particular cask was absolutely stunning. It was straw colored and light to the eye, but packed with so much flavor it was deceiving. There were definitely phenolic elements at play; very subtle hints of peat that worked as an undercurrent to all the sweet stone fruit and vanilla. The combination of grain and fruit was like a burst of classic malt goodness, but on the finish it turned savory with hints of sage brush and white pepper. All in all, this is an incredibly dynamic malt for the price and a great introduction to the distillery for newcomers. Bacardi has since turned Royal Brackla into its own single malt brand that should be on American shelves soon.