The Brackla distillery, or more commonly known as the Royal Brackla distillery is not always wearing the prefix “royal”. It was given to the distillery by the King of United Kingdom, King William IV in 1833. How did it come about and what happened between those years and now?
History of Brackla Distillery
Captain William Fraser of Brackla House founded the Brackla distillery on the Cawdor Castle estate in 1812. He was a hugely unpopular man, but his whiskies were received as one of the best in its time. King William IV came to hear about it and tried it personally. He loved it so much that he decreed the whisky to be his chosen drink in the Royal Court in 1833. The King granted a Royal Warrant to Brackla Distillery. That warrant gave the distillery the permission to add a prefix “Royal” to its name. Therefore, Brackla distillery became Royal Brackla distillery since 1833.
Royal Brackla distillery is one of the three distilleries in Scotland to ever bear the prefix. The other 2 distilleries are Royal Lochnagar (active) and Glenury Royal (mothballed).
William Fraser passed the distillery to his son Robert Fraser in 1852. He disposed it to the firm Robert Fraser & Co in 1878. The firm promptly changed its name to the Brackla Distillery Co Ltd the following year. The distillery remained with the company until 1919.
Royal Brackla in the 1900s
John Mitchel and James Leith of Aberdeen bought the distillery in 1919 and sold it to John Bisset & Co Ltd of Leith in 1926. The Distillers Company Ltd took over John Bisset & Co in 1943 and the distillery went along with it. Shortly after that, the distillery closed down due to the restriction on the use of barley for distilling during World War II.
Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1945. During this time, it became closely associated with blends. The distillery closed again in 1964 to 1966 due to renovations and rebuilding, where the owners changed from direct firing of the stills to internal heating. The distillery also expanded the number of stills from 2 to 4 in 1970 and built new warehouses in 1975.
Royal Brackla distillery closed again in 1985 but the whisky remained on site where they continued to mature and use for blending.
The Royal Brackla distillery reopened in 1991 with John Bisset & Co Ltd getting the license to the distillery in 1992. It remained with them till 1998. During the short period, 2 expressions were released – a semi-official 10-year-old by Fauna & Flora and a 20-year-old UD Rare Malt.
In 1998, the Royal Brackla distillery was sold to John Dewar & Sons – the subsidiary of the Barcardi. The distillery released an official bottling of Royal Brackla in 2004 and that was probably the end of it. Nonetheless, older bottles released during the 1970s and 1980s are available. One such example is our review of the Royal Brackla 12 Years Old.
The distillery continued to be a producer for the Dewar house blends such as Johnnie Walker and the various Dewar blends all through the 1990s.
Royal Brackla Today
Dewar announced a surprise for Royal Brackla’s fans in 2014 with a range of single malts that released in 2015. Among them were the Royal Brackla 12, 16 and 21 years old. The originally closed to public distillery are also open to the public with distillery tours. We believe that more plans for Royal Brackla may be underway. Let’s wait for it!