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Issue 33 - First of the royal malts (Royal Brackla)

Whisky Magazine Issue 33
September 2003


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First of the royal malts (Royal Brackla)

Ian Buxton discovers the charms of Royal Brackla, also a RAF base at one time

Few, if any, distilleries can claim the historical importance of Royal Brackla, yet few are as little known. Located right in ‘Macbeth country' (Cawdor Castle is less than a mile along the road), around four miles from Nairn, Brackla was founded in 1812 by Captain William Fraser, owner of nearby Brackla House.

Today, separated from the house, it is owned and operated by John Dewar & Sons, itself part of the giant Bacardi group, so the family connection has been lost – but the distillery's future is looking bright.

Bacardi acquired Royal Brackla as part of their June 1998 purchase of the Dewar's brand from Diageo (formerly UDV) but this is only part of its interesting history.

Curiously, Diageo never exploited it, preferring to use Royal Brackla almost exclusively for blending, though limited quantities were available as a 10-year-old in the Flora and Fauna series, and a 20-year-old Rare Malts edition was also bottled.

With no shortage of single malts to promote, and with a worldwide demand for its blends, such a low-key approach no doubt made sense to the previous owners, but, on my visit, I sensed the potential at Royal Brackla will not remain locked up forever.

The story begins in 1821. Having established the distillery some nine years prior to this, Captain Fraser found that he could not compete locally with smugglers and illicit distillers.

The Cawdor Burn was widely used for the production of bootleg spirit and, such was its quality, Fraser famously complained ...

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