Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Royal Household Scotch Whisky

Taken from my balcony, to prove that it's
my very own bottle!  You can see the
partially completed BHP tower in the
top left corner ...
 I was just browsing through my whisky collection the other day, and remembered that I own this interesting bottle that I picked up at a Sterling Wine auction: The Royal Household Scotch Whisky.  There's a handwritten notation on it saying: "Xmas 1937".

There's also quite a bit of detail in the closure - it appears to be a lead foil cap which you find on older bottles of wine or whisky.  The embossed words say:

H.M. The King
H.R.H The
Prince of Wales
James Buchanan & Co, LTD

Seems authentic enough for a bottle from 1937, since the last male British monarch was George VI who reigned from 1936 to 1952 after his elder brother Edward VIII famously abdicated to marry an about-to-be twice divorced American socialite.

I decided to research the origins of this enigmatic Royal Household Scotch Whisky, but there's surprisingly little to be found about it on the internet.

Jim Murray's 2007 Whisky Bible calls it "a wonderfully sophisticated blend",  I must admit that I have never been a fan of blended whisky, and prefer my single malts (and now my straight ryes too!), but that's still a pretty good endorsement from the world's leading whisky expert.

Note the handwritten words in the top right
quadrant of the label
According to whisky.com, James Buchanan was given the royal warrant to supply a whisky to Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales back in 1898, and came up with a special blend for this purpose.  However, the name "The Royal Household Scotch Whisky" was apparently only used from 1900 onwards. Back in the day, The Royal Household Scotch Whisky wasn't available for retail sale, although there appear to be lucky folk around the place who were friendly with Buchanans, and managed to score small quantities.  Check out this link for an interesting Scottish tale involving The Royal Household Scotch Whisky.

The present-day incarnation of The Royal Household Scotch Whisky is sold only in Japan by James Buchanan, which is now owned by Suntory.  James Buchanan apparently started supplying whisky to the Emperor of Japan back in 1907.

So how much does it cost? The present-day version costs around USD300, it seems, based on a bit of trawling through Japanese liquor websites.  Malt Whisky World advertises a bottle of The Royal Household Scotch Whisky from a battered cardboard box for £2,250.00.  This particular bottle appears to have a screwcap closure.  My bottle on the other hand has some kind of clever hinged closure - as you can make out from the pictures.  The top of the cap itself says: "The Royal Household Scotch Whisky"

What's mine worth?  Who knows, and who cares?  Like my 1990 Mouton Rothschild,  I plan on drinking it on a very special occasion with good friends who are going to enjoy and appreciate good whisky.  You can't take it with you, so you might as well enjoy it.  On the other hand, if someone were to make me an outrageous 6-digit offer, well, maybe I'll consider parting with it.  Otherwise, you're going to have to journey all the way to Rodel or befriend a member of the British royal family for the uncertain chance of tasting it, or be one of my good mates when I crack this baby open ...


  1. MMMaattttteeeee! I'm there when it's opened (be your best friend!!)

  2. You have a pretty rare specimen of Royal Household. Its worth at least £500 to a collector.
    particularly in japan.
    Diageo dont have an example of this in their museum to my knowledge

  3. Thanks for the info, Anonymous! That certainly helps me with the decision! If it's only £500, I'd rather drink it with my friends.

  4. Howdy all, i have a royal houshold, it was part of the queens gifts on her visit probaly 55 years ago when she was on oz. I received it as a gift from mt older brother 35 years ago and now i have moved i found it again. Will sell it i reckon as i cant drink any more, and its just luck it has survived this long. good year to sell with the royal wedding i reckon. george bowden nsw

  5. Good luck George, and sorry to hear you aren't able to enjoy the uisge beatha anymore. Perhaps for medicinal purposes? You might find that it will take time and patience to get the price you want, because this is not something people buy every day. But I hope you're successful - and if you are, please feel free to share the result here.