Royal Brackla Single Malt Scotch Whiskey 12-Year

Craigellachie Single Malt Scotch Whiskey-13 Year

My attendance at the Universal Whiskey Experience at Encore Las Vegas last month gave me the opportunity to drink like a king. Case in point was the Royal Brackla Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Located in the Scottish Highlands and founded in 1812 by Captain William Fraser, the distillery’s nickname of ‘The King’s Own Whisky’ stems from its distinction as the first single malt to be granted a royal warrant, which was given by King William IV in 1835. Its whisky was also a favorite of Queen Victoria, who when she ascended to the throne a few years later extended the warrant. Made from high-grade barley and water from the Cawdor Burn, it’s slow distilled and matured in first-fill oloroso sherry casks, which enriches it with notes of muscovado sweetness, dates and walnuts. I sampled the 40% ABV Single Malt 12-year, which had a pale gold hue and aroma of vanilla, spices and almond. The flavor brought burnt toffee, more almond and a delightful sweetness with a sherried finish.

Also available for sampling was the 46% ABV Craigellachie Single Malt-13 year, another product of Scotland with a rich history. Taking its name from the craggy rock upon which the village of its origin stands, Craigellachie sits above the confluence of two great rivers in the heart of Speyside, the cradle of much of Scotland’s single malt whisky. Designed by Charles Doig, the pre-eminent distillery architect of the 19th century, Craigellachie began production in 1891 and today is one of the few in Scotland to have retained ‘worm tubs’ to cool its spirit. This old fashioned whisky condensing method involves long copper tubes which snake back and forth through large tanks of water, gradually getting narrower, a process in which the spirit has less copper contact, resulting in a distinctive meaty character to rival whiskies twice its age. Upon pouring you’ll notice a pale straw color with a nose of bright and fresh sweetness resembling baked apples and pears. On the palate I found a chewy thickness and huge malt flavor, and also slight smokiness, nuttiness and lingering sweetness that delivered a very long aftertaste with notes of vanilla.

Both brands are owned by John Dewar & Sons, which is a subsidiary of Bacardi.

Laphroaig

To say Laphroaig is steeped in tradition and history is an understatement. The iconic Scottish distillery last year celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1815. The 10-Year is distilled and aged in American white oak first-fill bourbon barrels the same way today as when Ian Hunter pioneered it in the 1930s. Full disclosure, the first time I tried it I was put off by the overwhelming smoked and peaty flavor notes, but with each successive tasting it truly grew on me and I am now an unabashed fan of this distinctive single malt. The reason for its distinctiveness is the malted barley is dried over a peat fire and that peat is found only on the remote island of Islay in the Western Isles of Scotland, making it stand out from any other. Other flavor descriptors include full-bodied, a surprising sweetness, layers of peatiness and a lingering and complex spicy finish that I can still enjoy a full minute after swallowing. This is not a whisky meant to drink quickly, but one to savor over small sips.