By Richard Thomas
In Royal Brackla’s repackaged regular line-up, the 21 Year Old expression is the crown, but it’s got a bit more sparkle than just a high age statement. Some whiskies are finished in old Sherry casks, but this one draws on three different types of Sherry wood stock: Oloroso, Pedro Ximenez (PX) and Palo Cortado.
I don’t think a whisky review is the proper venue for the lesson in Sherry wine that would be necessary to explain what makes those three types different. Moreover, whisky enthusiasts should already be quite familiar with the broad characteristics of Oloroso and PX Sherries. It’s the Palo Cortado that stands out in the mix, so a brief word about that wine, especially seeing as how it is a happy accident. It’s bottled at 46% ABV.
Palo Cortado was intended to become a Fino or Amontillado Sherry. However, for some reason the wine loses its cap of flor along the way, starts oxidizing and becomes something more like an Oloroso Sherry instead. Emphasis on the “more like” there, because it brings along some of its start as a Amontillado or Fino with it. The inclusion doesn’t quite double down on the Oloroso as add another Sherried dimension.
The multi-Sherry finish really shows in the glass, as the whisky has a bourbonesque amber cast to it. The nose leads with fruity, floral and damp pipe tobacco, backed by ginger cookies. The flavor layers that up with rum-soaked raisins and a dollop of vanilla. The finish is long, but faint. It’s the main deficiency in what is otherwise a flavorful and sophisticated dram, since it’s not substantial enough to make me want to sit with it for a spell.
Expect to pay $600 a bottle for this single malt.