I've had maybe 4 tiny wee bottles of this lovely ale in my life. Well, three of the Traquair House Ale and one of the rarer Jacobian Ale. Traquair's website indicates they brew other ales now as well which is quite the thing given that they are working with somewhat out of date equipment:
The brewery (photograph up and right) was originally an 18th century domestic brewery producing beer for the house and estate workers. It was disused some time after 1800 but the vessels and equipment remained untouched until it was rediscovered in 1965.Traquair House, history tells us, is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland with references to Royal visitors dating back to 1107. Brewing started in 1573 and the current brewing equipment dates from the 1700s and is largely made of wood and copper. One oak fermenting vessel, left, dates to 1811, the other dates to the revival of the brewery in the 1960s. The boiling vessel, referred to as the "new copper" is 269 years old. Open coolships, broad shallow containers providing pre-refrigeration cooling, are also used.
Michael Jackson in his Great Beer Guide says that the Traquair House Ale "has a light oaky aroma; touches of fresh earthiness, pepperiness and nutty maltiness in the palate and some woody rooty tartness in the finish." Gregory J. Noonan, owner of the Vermont Pub & Brewery, in his book Scotch Ale, after suggesting the likelihood that Bonnie Prince Charlie drank the ale in 1745, describes it as follows:
OG 1.075, FG 1.012 to 1.015, 8% ABV. Deep burnished-copper color. Redder than other Scotch ales. Amber and ruby tones shine brightly. Very full and round flavour. Great depth of maltiness is dominated by alcohol, hoppiness and hop biterness. Caramel/burnt undertones. Short Dry finish. Harsh flavors in the young ale are not evident in more mature casks. Candilike flavor increases over time.It is a classic in the best name beer style of all, Scots wee heavy, which are all ales to age and develop sherry nut and roasty peaty flavors in cool cellars over a year or more. My bottle of Traquair House Ale was a Merchant du Vin import bought in Maine. It poured mahogany with a rich light beige head that quickly fell back to a lively surface foam. The sweet malt flavour is fairly to the forefront but it does not cloy, cut by the combination of burlappish hops, bright effervescence as well as warm alcohol. The yeast is somewhat Belgian spicy but much creamier and not nearly as bold as in, say, a dubbel. Caramel and chocolate notes as well as pale malt huskiness combine with a bit of smoke and a bit of roast. Really quite complex and thoughtful, definitely having a sherry vineous tone.