Ga naar de inhoud

Royal Brackla

Scotch Single Malt Whisky Library / The Collection > R
20 years old
Distilled 1970
Bottled 1990
Proprietors: John Bisset & Co, Ltd
Gordon & Macphail, Elgin

18 years old
Distilled 1972
Bottled 1990
Proprietors: John Bisset & Co, Ltd
Gordon & Macphail, Elgin

10 years old
43 %              
Distilled 1982
Bottled 1992
Royal Brackla Distillery, Cawdor, Nairn

Royal Brackla distillery, established in 1812, lies on the southern shore of the Moray Firth at Cawdor near Nairn. Woods around the distillery are home to the Siskin; although a shy bird, it can often be seen feeding on conifer seeds.
In 1835 a Royal Warrant was granted to the distillery by King William IV, who enjoyed the fresh, grassy, fruity aroma of this single malt whisky.

15 years old
43 %                  
Limited Edition
Distilled 14th December 1978
Bottled December 1993
Cask No. 11081
The Master of Malt, The Pentiles, Kent

17 years old
43 %                 
Distilled 26.2.79
Bottled 9.96
Matured in a Sherry Cask No. 1617
386 bottles
Van Wees, Amersfoort

20 years old
59,8 %                 
Natural Cask Strenght
Distilled 1978
Bottled May 1998
Limited Edition
Genummerde flessen
John Bisset & Co, Edinburgh

zonder leeftijd vermelding
40 %
'The King's Own Whisky"
Royal Brackla Distillery, Cawdor, Nairn

'The King's Own Whisky' Royal Brackla Distillery, Cawdor, Nairn
Deep in the Highlands of Scotland lies the historic estate of Cawdor - the original home of the infamous King Macbeth. Here in 1812 Captain William Fraser built the Brackla Distillery to make an authentic Single Highland Malt whisky using the clear waters of the Cawdor Burn. The exceptionally fine flavour of Brackla's whisky attracted the attention of King William IV who granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment to the Brackla distillers in 1835. From that time onward Royal Brackla has been known as 'The Kong's Own Whisky'
In 1838 Queen Victoria made Brackla double royal by awarding her own Royal Warrant. Your own enjoyment of Royal Brackla's exceptional finesse will, we are certain, confirm the judgement of Royalty.

19 years old
61,9 %             
Distilled Aug 75
Bottled Feb 95
Society Cask No. code 55.2
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society,
The Vaults, Leith, Edinburgh

Gelagerd in een sherry vat. Kleur: Rood goud. Fris in de neus zoals een man-zanilla sherry. Met wat water toegevoegd: leer en hout. Zoet van smaak, met hout en peper. Een vurig kruis van whisky.

over 6 years old
43 %                  
Distilled Winter 1994
Bottled Winter 2000
No Colouring
Not Chill Filtered
Douglas McGibbon & Co, Ltd,

11 years old
43 %              
Distilled on:   12.05.1993
Bottled on:  03.12.04
Matured in:  Hogshead Cask
No:  3992
408 Numbered Bottles
Natural Colour
Signatory Vintage
Scotch Whisky Co, Ltd, Edinburgh

10 years old
40 %            
Highland Single Malt
Scotch Whisky
Royal Brackla Distillery,
Cawdor, Nairn

A slightly sweet floral nose develops into a delightfully malty and sweet palate, which builds to a robust fruitiness with spicy overtones.
The Royal Brackla Distillery lies between the River Findhorn and the Moray Firth at Cawdor, not far from Nairn. Founded in 1812 by Captain William Fräser of Brackla House, Brackla was the first distillery to be granted a Royal Warrant in 1835 by King William IV. At that time it became known as Royal Brackla or The King's Own Whisky.

Age  17 years  
57,2 %                                         
Date Distilled: 26th ep 1997
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead / ex Bourbon
Outturn: One of Only 279 Bottles
Society Single Cask:
Code: 5 5 . 2 7
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society,
The Vaults, Leith, Edinburgh
"Sugar and spice"

We, the Tasting Panel, verify that the Scotch Malt Whisky inside this bottle has been
passed under some of the most scrupulous noses in the world and approved for re-
lease as a Society bottling.

Only single cask whiskies that promise to intrigue, entertain and delight our members
are selected, true to our motto: “TO  LEAVE  NO  NOSE UPTURNED “.

Sweet notes to begin; toffee cake with sugar syrup and melting milk chocolate. Porridge
with cranberries came next alongside apricots, marzipan and Cherry Ripe bars.

Our noses then unearthed some old leather, plastic pipes and copper coins.

The palate had a sweet chilli spice and hints of charcoal, then a refreshing mint julep
arrived leaving a long, fibrant finish.

The reduced nose appeared lighter at first but soon livened up with toasted herbs,
cherries, Greek salad, caramelised ginger and old Indian rugs. There were now
cardamon pods and toasted sesame seeds to taste, the yogurt, hints pf peach and
spicy toffee to finish.

John Dewar & Sons has announced three new Royal Brackla expressions, a 12, 16 and 21 year old.
The single malt will be available initially in 10 markets from September. They include: nada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and global travel retail (GTR).
Bacardi’s global marketing manager – single malts Stephen Marshall,  said: “This is the one that was described as ‘The Drink Divine’ by the royal household in the 1830s, that’s no small claim, so we had to take our time and the entire team have done an amazing job that really does justice to Royal Brackla’s incredible heritage. There’s only one whisky in the world that can be the first Royal whisky.”
Claiming to be one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, the Royal Brackla distillery was established in 1812 by the a Captain William Fraser who returned to the family farm after military service and took advantage of the  barley it grew. Within 25 years his distillery’s reputation received its ‘crowning moment’ when King William IV bestowed ‘royal’ status to Brackla, in 1835. It thus became the first ever scotch to garner a royal warrant, hence its nickname: ‘The king’s own whisky’.
Tasting Notes:
Royal Brackla 12 Year Old (40% abv): Almonds, vine fruits, opulent spices; steeped in sherried richness.
Royal Brackla 16 Year Old (40% abv): A royal flush of flavour: vanilla, soft caramel, ripe apricots; with sherry tones.
Royal Brackla 21 Year Old (40% abv): Summer berries, dark chocolate, star anise; infused with sherry sweetness.


Nair, Morayshire. Licentiehouder: John Bisset & Co, Ltd. Onderdeel van Scottish Malt Distil-lers Ltd. (S.M.D.) De malt divisie van United Distillers Ltd. Het Eigendom van Guinness.

Omstreeks 1773 zou hier al een mouterij en bierbrouwerij hebben gestaan.

In 1812 werd Brackla distilleerderij gesticht door Captain William Fraser. Aanvankelijk had Brackla had moeilijk om zich staande te houden ten opzichte van de vele illegale distilleerderijen.

In 1821 vertelde Captain Fraser een parlements commissie dat hij nog geen 100 Gallons whisky had verkocht in een straal van 120 mijl rondom de distilleerderij.
Hij ging op zoek naar, en vond afzetgebied in de Lowlands want de produktie groeide van 14.688 liter in 1821 - 1822 tot 95.818 liter whisky in 1833.
Aan accijnzen betaalde hij in die jaren respectievelijk E 1,573 em E 6,128.

Captain William Frasen was de eerste distillateur die een 'Royal Warrant of Appointment' kreeg, dat was in 1835, en werd verleend door Koning William IV, dit werd herhaald door Koningin Victoria op 15 November 1881

Vanaf 1844 was Andrew Usher & Co, te Edinburgh, de handelsagenten van Royal Brackla en dit zou voortduren tot aan het eind van de eeuw.

Andrew Usher geldt als de uitvinder van de Proprietary brands, de eerste blended whisky, die werd gemengd door een handelshuis, als garantie voor kwaliteit.

Het merk bestaat nog steeds.

Usher was ook aandeelhouder in Royal Brackla.

De whisky werd in die jaren met een stoomtreintje naar het spoorwegstation gebracht, ongeveer acht en een halve kilometer van Royal Brackla, die op de terugweg kolen vervoerde ten behoeve van de distilleerderij.
Het water voor de distilleerderij kwam toen van de Cawdor Burn.

In 1890 verleende Lord Cawdor de eigenaars een nieuwe huurovereenkomst,

De eigenaars toen waren Andrew Usher (de zoon van) James Anderson, een wijnhandelaar te Leith en Walter Vockburn te Nairn.

Toen in 1898 Andrew Usher overleed, werd de firma opgevolgd door The Brackla Distillery Co, Ltd die op hun beurt de huurovereenkomst overdeden aan John Mitchell en James Leith, wijn-handelaren te Aberdeen.,    .

In 1926 gingen deze rechten over in de handen van John Bisset & Co, Ltd te Aberdeen. In 1938 ging Royal Brackla over in de handen van Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. Gedurende de tweede wereldoorlog was Royal Brackla gesloten.

In 1964 ging Royal Brackla opnieuw dicht, nu om een grote verbouwing mogelijk te maken. In 1965 werd Royal Brackla weer opgestart.

In 1970 werd er uitgebreid met twee ketels tot vier, verhit met stoom en de kapaciteit werd meer dan twee miljoen liter spirit per jaar.

De tegenwoordige waterbron voor het proceswater is de Cursack Burn.
Op 28 Maart 1998 verkoopt Diageo het merk Dewar aan Bacardi Martini, dit moest van de Amerikaanse mededingingsautoriteiten om de fusie mogelijk te maken van United Distillers met Grand Metropolitan. Onderdeel van deze verkoop houdt ook in dat Bacardi Martini ook eigenaar wordt van Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie en Royal Brackla.

Het water komt van de Vowdor Burn.

De Mash tun is 11,5 ton.
De zes Wash backs zijn elk 60.000 liter.
De twee Wash stills hebben elk een inhoud
van 22.000 liter, de Spirit stills elk 21.000 liter
en worden met stoom verhit.
De capaciteit is 2.000.000 liter spirit per jaar.

October 2005
Diageo has announced that its 2005 Annual Rare Malts Selection will be the last.

The collection will consist of four cask strenght single malts from closed distilleries; Glen Mhor 28 years old, Millburn 35 years old, Glendullan 26 years old and Linkwood 30 years old.
Dr. Nicholas Morgan, global malts marketing director commented: 'As the Special Releases are now well established, it makes less sence to continue selecting and promoting a parallel series of Rare Malts with his own separate indentity'.
In future, all premium and rare whiskies will be made available in the annual Special Re-leases series.

Royal Brackla Distillery is set in a district of gentle hills and open spaces of heath, broken by belts of pine-wood, and swept by invigorating winds from the Moray Firth, which give (some think) a cleansing purity to its make. In this coastal plain, between Inverness and Forres, Shakespeare set the main scenes of Macbeth.

A map drawn in 1773 for the Cawdor Estate shows a "malt brewhouse" on the site where Brackla Distillery was established in 1812. The founder was Captain William Fraser of Brackla House. In common with other licensed distillers, he had to compete on unequal terms with operators of illicit stills who paid noduty on their products. He told a parliamentary commission in 1821 that he had "not sold 100 gallons for consumption within 120 miles of his residence during the past year, though people drank nothing but whisky". To keep the distillery going, he had to develop markets in the Lowlands. Thus in 1828 an advertisement in the Aberdeen Chronicle announced that Captain Fraser of Brackla had "made an arrangement to have this much admired spirit sent up by land, when a regular supply can be had weekly". There must have been substantial demand to justify the higher cost of land carriage compared with sea transport; and indeed the excise records show that Brackla's production rose from 5,660 gallons (14,688 litres), with duty of £1,573 paid in 1821-22 to 36,924 gallons (95,818 litres), with duty of £6,128 paid, in 1833.

This change of fortune owed much to the Excise Act of 1823, which eased the restrictions imposed on licensed distillers and reduced the duty on spirits from an excessive to a moderate level.

Fraser seems to have adopted a cavalier attitude to the regulations prescribed by H.M. Customs & Excise. They fined him £50 in 1827, £300 in 1831 and £500 in 1836 and fined William Fraser & Co. £200 in 1839 and £600 in 1844. The nature of the offences is not known, but they had no adverse effect on trade. Fraser was the first whisky distiller to get a Royal Warrant of Appointment, granted by King William IV in 1835, as a fulsome advertisement in a London newspaper, The Morning Chronicle, informed readers on 20 January 1835:

"BRACKLA, or THE KING'S OWN WHISKY - His Majesty having been pleased to distinguish this 'by his Royal Command to supply his establishment' has placed this whisky first on the List of British Spirits, and when known should in truth be termed 'The Drink Divine' - only to be had of the Importers, Graham & Co., New Road, facing the Mary-la-bone Workhouse". The "Royal" prefix to the name of the distillery has been used ever since. A Royal Warrant of Appointment to Queen Victoria was granted on 15 November 1838.

From about 1844 until the end of the century, the sales agents for Royal Brackla were Andrew Usher & Co., whisky merchants, of Edinburgh. In the 1860's this firm introduced the practice of blending malt and grain whiskies to produce "proprietary brands" sold under the blender's name as a guarantee of quality. The Ushers, with the Frasers, were partners in Royal Brackla Distillery, so it may be taken as certain that the distillery's make was a constituent of the earliest brands of blended Scotch whisky sold to the public.

The make continued to enjoy favour. A native of Nairn, James Augustus Grant, accompanied the explorer Captain Speke on his last journey to discover the sources of the Nile, and wrote to his sister in 1860: "We jog on in that most dreaded of countries, Africa, in the most easy way - feeling after our dinners as comfortable as if we had our legs under your table drinking 'Brackla' ".
Alfred Barnard described the premises in The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, 1887, as "several ranges of old and new buildings, covering upwards of four acres of ground... The proprietors have provided a good house for the manager, and convenient dwellings for the workpeople. The whisky is carted to the station six miles distant by a traction engine which brings back coals from Nairn. It is necessary to have a large supply of this fuel, as it is not an uncommon occurrence in winter to be cut offRoyal Brackla Distillery

from all communication by snow-drifts for a fortnight at a time ... There are three ponds or reservoirs close to the works, and most picturesquely situated, shaded by willow trees and fed by the waters of the Cawdor Burn". Both water and steam power were used, and annual output was 0 gallons.

At the time of Barnard's visit, the owners were Robert Fraser & Co. In 1890 Lord Cawdor granted a lease of the distillery to the partners of that firm: Andrew Usher (the second of that name and the one who gave Edinburgh Corporation the funds to build the Usher Hall), his brother, the future Sir John Usher, founder of the John Usher Institute of Public Health in Edinburgh, James Anderson, wine merchant, of Leith, and Walter Cockburn of Nairn. The distillery was rebuilt in the same year.

In 1898, when the second Andrew Usher died, Robert Fraser & Co. was succeeded by The Brackla Distillery Co. Ltd. which in turn made over its rights in the lease to John Mitchell and James Leith, wholesale wine merchants in Aberdeen. A further change of ownership took place in 1926 when these rights passed to John Bisset & Co. Ltd. of Aberdeen. This company obtained a feu charter in 1938, and sold the distillery to Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. in 1943.

Brackla had to close for three years in the course of the second world war as a result of Government restrictions on the supply of barley to distillers. It closed again, in 1964, for major reconstruction and re-planning. When it re-opened in 1965, its two hand-fired stills had been converted to internal heating by steam from a coal-fired boiler. The number of stills was increased to four, all steam-heated, and the boiler converted to oil, in 1970. New racked warehouses, built in 1975, contrast with the older warehouses of the traditional type still in use on the site.

Water for distilling and mashing purposes is drawn, as it always has been, from the Cawdor Burn. An underground supply, created when an airfield was built in the course of the second world war, was acquired by SMD in 1965 and is used exclusively for cooling spirit vapour.

The distillery stands on a site of 12 acres (5 hectares). SMD owns 10 houses for occupation by employees. The distiller's licence is held by John Bisset & Co. Ltd., of Edinburgh, a member of The Distillers Company Limited Group.

Royal Brackla first received a Royal Warrant of Appointment by King William IV in 1835,
establishing Brackla as 'as the King's own whisky', then a Royal Warrant from Queen
Victoria in 1838, Royal Brackla holds the distinction of being the very first distillery to
receive the regal seal of approval.

Built in 1812 by Captain William Fraser of Brackla House and sitting proudly on the Cawdor
Estate, the setting for Shakespear's tragedy Macbeth, Royal Brackla Distillery is steeped in
history. It was and remains to this day, a popular blending malt and was at the heart of the
very early Scotch whiskies sold to the public.

The distillery has a unique element in that there are no other distilleries in the area, the nearest
being Forres some 13 miles away.

In 1821 Captain Fraser complained to a Parliamentary commission that he was not able to sell
whisky within 120 miles because of a number of illicit stills in the area.

Despite this, Captain Fraser developed markets in the Lowlands and excise records show that
Royal Brackla produced 36.924 gallons = 167000 litres in 1833.

On approach to the distillery, the entrance road is defined by tall trees on either side, leading
to the site office, where Distillery Manager Stewart Christine sits proudly  overlooking the
attractive distillery dam.

Following in his father's foorsteps, Stewart began working in the distillery in 1990 as an Operator;
his father was the Manager there from 1983 - 1985 then from 1991 - 1995.

Among Stewart's collection of historical distillery artefacts is an old aerial photograph of
Brackla airfield, which was built on the estate during the Second World War, and operated
as a relief landing ground for R A F Dalcross. In 1945 hundreds of surplus aircraft including
Halifax bombers were ferried to the airfield and scapped. Taken on 9th October 1946, by the
Royal Air Force during the post - war national aerial survey of the U K, it clearly shows
232 Halifaxes, 129 Wellingtons and 3 Lancasters.Gaps in the rows of aircraft and a sizeable
pile of scrap to the Southeast indicate that the breaking process was well under way by this date.

By the 1860s Andrew Usher & Co became partners in the distillery, and the lease changed
hands again in 1898, when the company sold the distillery to John Mitchell & James Leict
of Aberdeen. After completely rebuilding the distillery, is wa sold in 1926, then again in 1943,
before being rebuilt once again in 1966 under S M D (Scottish Malt Distillers) at
which point the floor maltings were closed and most of the original buildings were demolished.

In 1968, the number of stills were increased from two to four and continued steady production
up to 1985 when Royal Brackla distillery was mothballed along with many others as a result
of S M D's stock take findings.

The distillery reopened again in December 1990 under United Distillers, with coopering
and cask filling ceasing in 1995

Two years later in 1997, United Distillers gave the distillery a complete overhaul, installing
New grain handling, a full Lauter mash tun and new vessels. The whole process control was
also computerised to help keep consistency with the character of spirit

In 1998 during the merger of United Distillers - owned Guiness and Grand Metropolitan,
the Dewars brand was sold as a requirement set down by the Monopolies Commission.

Royal Brackla Distillery along with 3 other Guinness owned Distilleries were then sold to
Bacardi and the company John Dewar & Sons Ltd was reignited.

Bacardi have invested in all of their sites since 1998 which is evident by looking at the dis-
tilleries, with each Manager taking ownership of their own individual site and taking pride
in all that they do.

At Royal Brackla the water for distilling is fed from the Cawdor Burn and the mashing water
is fed from natural springs within the Cawdor Woods.

The Porteus mill produces 12.5 tonnes of grist, which is then transferred into large stainless
steel, Lauter mashtun. Using slurried yeast the wortd are then left to ferment in 6 wooden
and 2 external stainless steel wash backs for a minimum period of 70 hours. The stainless steel
wash backs were introduced to allow longer fermentation, which assists in ensuring a light
character. Each washback receives 60.000 litres of wort. Two wash stills with a working capacity
of 20.000 litres stand proudly beside 2 traditionally shaped tall spirit stills, with a
working capacity of 22.000 litres, all of which are cooled by upright Condensers that work
together to encourage a lot of reflux, producing a light, grassy and cereal noted new make

The distillery is currently (2010) running at full capacity with 17 mashes per week and 3,9
million litres of alcohol per annum, which is filled into tankers and matured elsewhere.

In 2003 under new consents laid down from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency,
Royal Brackla Distillery became one of the only three distilleries to have a copper extrac-
tion plant installed to facilitate the extraction of copper from the spent lees before it is
transferred direct from the distillery to the Moray Firth

Recent focus has been to reduce energy usage with various heat recovery systems being

The year 2012 will see her Majesty the Queen celebrate her Diamond Jubilee - 60 years
as Britain's Ruling Monarch. To mark the event it is expected that Britain will throw the
London Olympics. But whilst the nation celebrate 60 years of the Queen's reign, anniver-
sary celebrations will also grace Royal Brackla Distillery, given that 2012 will see the
distillery celebrate its 200th anniversary.

John Dewar & Sons launches Last Great Malts collection
September, 2014

John Dewar & Sons has announced plans to release a range of new expressions and single malts.

Aultmore, Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla will be launched under the "Last Great Malts" title - each release featuring an age statement.

The single malts will be released in phases as a complete set of five or in various combinations of the expressions in 10 initial markets around the world including Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and Global Travel Retail.

Stephen Marshall, single malts global marketing manager, said: "We have been patiently reserving casks and are now ready to share the five distinguished malts with whisky lovers around the world.

"Up until now, these amazing liquids have been Scotland's best-kept secret, known only to a few. Now we're appealing to single malt drinkers - people who like stories and enthusiasts who are interested in exploring the aromas of the world's most complex spirit."

Marshall told  "If you ask whether we are doing it, the answer is probably yes."

Aultmore 12-year-old will be available from November with a 21-year-old Travel retail and 25-year-old released in limited qualities.

Aberfeldy is repackaged and available globally as a 12-year-old and 21-year-old, with an 18-year-old Travel Retail exclusive. A 16-year-old sherry finish and 30-year-old is set for a 2015 launch.
Craigellachie - a portfolio released for the first time - will be available a 13-year-old, 17-year-old, 19-year-old travel retail and limited 23-year-old.
In summer 2015, The Deveron 12-, 18- and 25-year-old single malts will be released.

Previously released as a limited edition 35-year-old £10,000 a bottle, Royal Brackla will be released in March as 12-year-old, 16-year-old and 21-year-old expressions.

John Burke, dark spirits category director, said: "The single malt category is one of our industry's great growth opportunities. We are blessed with five of Scotland's finest, high-quality whiskies.
"We have great respect for the category and are confident that each of the Last Great Malts will be a fitting addition to the repertoire of the most discerning single malt enthusiast."
The first showing of the Last Great Malts single malt collection will be at Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival starting on September 25

Dewar launches new Royal Brackla expressions
August, 2015

John Dewar & Sons has announced three new Royal Brackla expressions, a 12, 16 and 21 year old.
The single malt will be available initially in 10 markets from September. They include: nada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and global travel retail (GTR).
Bacardi's global marketing manager - single malts Stephen Marshall,  said: "This is the one that was described as 'The Drink Divine' by the royal household in the 1830s, that's no small claim, so we had to take our time and the entire team have done an amazing job that really does justice to Royal Brackla's incredible heritage. There's only one whisky in the world that can be the first Royal whisky."
Claiming to be one of Scotland's oldest distilleries, the Royal Brackla distillery was established in 1812 by the a Captain William Fraser who returned to the family farm after military service and took advantage of the  barley it grew. Within 25 years his distillery's reputation received its 'crowning moment' when King William IV bestowed 'royal' status to Brackla, in 1835. It thus became the first ever scotch to garner a royal warrant, hence its nickname: 'The king's own whisky'.

Tasting Notes:

Royal Brackla 12 Year Old (40% abv):
Almonds, vine fruits, opulent spices; steeped
in sherried richness.
Royal Brackla 16 Year Old (40% abv):
A royal flush of flavour: vanilla, soft caramel,
ripe apricots; with sherry tones.
Royal Brackla 21 Year Old (40% abv):
Summer berries, dark chocolate, star anise;
infused with sherry sweetness.

The distillery set up is all about creating and then capturing esters – the fermentation is long, the lyne arms of the stills are angled upwards, the copper conversation a long one, the reflux plentiful. As well as having this fresh perfumed fruitiness Brackla also possesses a clean acidity, and it is this which allows it to cut though the powerful flavours given during ageing in ex-Sherry casks, the maturation style chosen by Dewar’s for its single malt release.

Whisky making has taken place on this site since 1817 when the irascible Captain William Fraser took out a licence for his Brackla distillery – mainly it would seem to put a stop to the rascally moonshiners who were making a fine living in the surroundings lands.

Fraser may have been a deeply unpopular man, but his whisky was well received. In 1835, it was the first Scotch to be granted a Royal Warrant and the rights to call itself Royal Brackla. This seal of approval from King William IV led to Brackla being known as ‘The King’s Own Whisky’.

The Fraser connection lasted until 1879 and, like so many other 19th century distilleries, it became closely associated with blending. Andrew Usher, who is recognised as having made the first commercialised blend, was agent for Royal Brackla and became a director in 1887. It passed into the hands of Mitchell & Leith of Aberdeen who sold it in 1926 to fellow Aberdonians John Bisset & Co. (a subsidiary of Booth’s the gin distiller) and, when that firm was purchased in 1943, it became part of DCL.

The industry giant increased production in 1964, but was forced to close it down between 1985 and 1991 due to an industry surplus. Four years later, it was one of the distilleries sold to Bacardi-Martini when the then newly created Diageo had to offload Dewar's and attendant distilleries.

It remained a quiet producer of malt for blending until 2014 when Dewar’s announced that a five-strong range of single malts would be launched in 2015. Among those from Royal Brackla initially rolled out are a 12, 16, and 21-year-old.

A distillery visitor’s centre is also planned.

Brackla distillery is founded by
Captain William Fraser
The distillery receives a Royal Warrant
and prefixes the word 'Royal' to its name
Robert Fraser & Co takes over the distillery
The distillery is refurbished and registered
under the Brackla Distillery Co.
Royal Brackla is sold to
John Mitchell & James Leict of Aberdeen
Mitchell & Leict offload the distillery to
John Bisset & Co
Scottish Malt Distillers buys the distillery
The distillery is extended and the maltings
are decommissioned
Two additional stills are installed
Royal Brackla falls silent for six years
as demand wavers
United Distillers releases a 10 year old
Royal Brackla in the Flora & Fauna series
The distillery is given a £2 million
The distillery is bought along with the rest of
Dewars by Bacardi-Martini
A 35-year-old expression is released to mark
the distillery's 200th anniversary, albeit two
years late
A new range 12,16,21 years old are released
A 20 years old Limited Release is launched
and new Travel Retail 18 and 20 years old
Capacity: 4.100.000 Ltrs
Output: 4.000.000 Ltrs
18 year old palo cortado finish, and 20 year old with
finishes with 3 different sherry types are released

Shell and tube
HFO burning boiler providing
heat to stainless steel elements
Plain malt, 0ppm
Tall with rising lye pipe
Tall with rising lye pipe
6 wood, 2 stainless steel
Natural spring & field drain (process water),
Burn & field drain (cooling)
Kerry MS1

1998 - present
John Dewar & Sons
1997 - 1998
United Distillers
1986 - 1997
Distillers Company Limited
1943 - 1986
John Bisset & Co
1926 - 1943
John Mitchell and James Leict
1898 - 1926
Robert Fraser & Co
1852 - 1898
William Fraser & Co
1812 - 1852

John Bisset & Company Ltd owned the Bisset’s Finest Old, Gold Label and Glenlogie brands of blended Scotch and also bottled single malts, including Lagavulin, as a 1909 bottling from that Islay distillery is extant. The firm was leaseholder of Royal Brackla distillery prior to its takeover by The Distillers Company Ltd subsidiary SMD, and was subsequently listed as licensee of the distillery until its sale to John Dewar & Sons Ltd in 1998.

John Bisset & Company Ltd was established in Aberdeen during 1828, and acquired the lease to Royal Brackla distillery, near Nairn in 1926, having previously moved its headquarters from Aberdeen to Leith. By this time, Bissets was owned by Booths Distillers Ltd, which went on to merge with William Sanderson & Son Ltd in 1935. Booths Distilleries Ltd was acquired by The Distillers Company Ltd in 1943, taking John Bisset & Company Ltd with it.

October 2019
Royal Brackla is to relaunch its core range of whiskies next year with new 12-, 18- and 21-year-old single malts, each finished in different ex-Sherry casks.

Royal Brackla 12-, 18- and 21-year-old whiskies
New lineup: Royal Brackla’s revamped range replaces its 12-, 16- and 21-year-old whiskies
Each expression in the Highland distillery’s new range will be bottled at a higher strength of 46% abv (as opposed to the original 40%), and without caramel colouring.

The three new expressions will be matured in American oak casks and finished in a selection of first-fill ex-Sherry casks.

Royal Brackla 12 Years Old, finished in ex-oloroso Sherry casks, is said to contain ‘the full bodied spice of oloroso and the bright summer breeze of Royal Brackla’ and will be priced at US$79.99.

The range’s 18-year-old is finished in ex-Palo Cortado casks and is said to be ‘enticing and complex’ with ‘big, succulent soft fruits’ on the palate, priced at US$154.99.

Royal Brackla 21 Year Old, finished in a combination of ex-Pedro Ximénez, oloroso and Palo Cortado casks, is said to contain ‘syrupy toffee notes with richly fragrant summer berries’ and will be priced at US$279.99.

The revamped range, which replaces Royal Brackla’s original 12-, 16- and 21-year-old expressions, will be rolled out gradually from Spring 2020, with a one-month exclusive launch at China Duty Free Group stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Gaurav Joshi, regional director for Asia Pacific global travel at the distillery’s parent company Bacardi, said: ‘China is such an exciting market for our single malt whiskies – the Chinese whisky connoisseur is discerning and makes decisions driven by a taste for refinement.

He may very well have been arrogant and stubborn, but Captain William Fraser’s refusal to give in to adversity enabled Royal Brackla distillery to flourish, become the first distillery to gain a Royal Warrant, and ultimately stand the test of time. Iain Russell reports.

Royal Brackla distillery was founded by the Captain in 1817.
According to whisky lore, Captain William Fraser (1767-1846) was an arrant villain. The founder of the Royal Brackla Distillery has gone down in history as aloof, arrogant, spiteful and dishonest.

Joseph Pacey, the Excise officer stationed at the distillery in Nairnshire in the late 1830s, painted a vivid picture of this ‘tall, muscular, big-framed man. His eyes were large and full, but not clear nor expressive. His voice was deep and somewhat husky, and when he spoke it was in a commanding way, especially to those of an inferior position in life to himself.’

‘I was not charmed by his manner; I felt that he was no common man I should have to deal with in my official transactions with him.’

Fraser had earned a reputation for clashing with the Excise authorities and Pavey complained that the ex-army Captain was accustomed to command and unwilling to accept instructions from mere civilians. Most especially, he did not enjoy paying Excise duty.  

Pavey explained that because Brackla was aged for longer than other whiskies, the Captain lost more than others to the ‘Angel’s Share’ and would regularly attempt to evade paying duty on the ‘missing’ spirit. The Exciseman refused to turn a blind eye: the Captain was fined heavily on several occasions for his serious breaches of the regulations.

According to Pavey, the vengeful Captain became ‘haughty, imperious and tyrannical’.  He forbade his workers from having dealings with the Exciseman and his young family, and he took legal action on some petty issue. Pavey won the case but only after spending a small fortune on legal fees.

Royal Brackla became the first distillery to be awarded a Royal Warrant by King William IV, which was renwed in 1838 by Queen Victoria.

William Fraser was born in Brackla in 1767. At the age of 16 he enlisted in the army and went to India. He served with the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot in the Third Mysore War against the fearsome rocket-launching armies of Tipu Sultan. Although wounded at the Battle of Seringapatam in 1792 and again at the siege of French-held Pondicherry the following year, he participated in the British invasion of the Dutch colonies in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1795-96.

After 14 years in India, Fraser was forced by ill health to return to Britain. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) and then in 1805 secured a transfer to a Royal Veteran Battalion stationed at Fort George, near his birthplace. He married that year and, near the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in 1814, he retired on a full military pension to live and farm at Brackla.

The Captain was concerned that farmers on his estate were turning to illicit whisky distillers to find buyers for their barley. The passing of the Small Stills Act in 1816, however, encouraged many local landowners to set up small licensed distilleries and the Captain joined four other men to build one at Brackla. They struggled to compete with the whisky smugglers and his partners gave up after two years of heavy financial losses. The stubborn Captain continued alone.

The Brackla distillery business was turned around by what might, today, be called clever marketing.  Accepting that there was little demand for his product locally, the Captain appointed an agent in Aberdeen to take orders from local dealers and families. The orders were shipped to the city from Inverness twice a week – an early example of a direct mail order business. Subsequently, agents were appointed in Dundee and other Scottish towns and cities. The Captain looked even further afield.

Inverness was one of the few Scottish ports which was permitted at the time to ship whisky to London. In 1826 the Captain sent his first consignment of 900 gallons of Brackla to the capital, where he had entered into an exclusive agency agreement with an enterprising wine and spirit merchant, Henry Brett. Brackla was soon the best-known whisky in the capital.

No one knows how the Captain obtained the first Royal Warrant for a Scotch whisky. Perhaps it was through the good offices of his friends in London, or some contact from his soldiering days. In 1833, however, King William IV granted the Captain the privilege to ‘use the Royal Arms on everything connected with his distillery, as a mark of approbation for the complete success which has attended his efforts to produce Highland whisky by licensed distillation…’.

An extract from Royal Brackla’s barley book showing the distillery buying the good Captain’s barley in the 19th century.

The Captain immediately renamed his distillery Royal Brackla, and Brett placed a series of advertisements in the leading London newspapers offering to supply Londoners with ‘The King’s Own Whisky’.

The effervescent Brett informed his customers that ‘Every North Briton is aware that Malt Whisky attains the peculiar mellowness, which constitutes its chief excellence, only in casks; we have therefore determined not to bottle largely, but to draw the Royal Brackla whisky from the original Highland puncheons’.

He claimed Royal Brackla was ‘perhaps the only Malt Spirit which proves alike congenial to the palate and constitution of connoisseurs of every country! It is peat-flavoured, but far from rank; strong, but not fiery.’ If only modern tasting notes were so concise.

The whisky was sold at £1 per gallon or in bottles at £2 and 4 shillings (£2.20) per dozen. The price was right, and the Captain prospered. Then, in 1838, the young Queen Victoria granted the distiller her own Royal Warrant. By the time the Captain died in 1846, Royal Brackla was famous throughout Britain.

So, was this pioneering distiller really such a monster? Even Exciseman Pavey admitted his old foe was warm hearted and generous to his friends and employees. Newspaper reports reveal he was a popular chairman of many local dinners and celebrations, characterised as ‘an excellent neighbour and a kind-hearted country gentleman’.

Pavey, meanwhile, confessed that he had himself earned a reputation as inflexible when serving as the Exciseman in Campbeltown in 1834, where he ‘was blinded somewhat by official zeal’.  He had never wanted to go to Brackla in the first place, to live in a remote, Gaelic-speaking Highland community. A suspect witness?

The evidence suggests that the Captain got a bum rap from the pettifogging Exciseman. William Fraser of Royal Brackla is surely one of the unsung heroes of Scotch whisky history. Albeit a very grumpy one

Terug naar de inhoud