How to Drink Like a Royal

From England to Japan, royal families are into the booze business.

Wines and spirits
Photo: Getty Images

There are royale drinks, as in those boosted with a loving touch of sparkling wine, and then there are royal drinks, which come from the official ruling households and estates of the world. Yes, the latter do exist, and yes, you can try them.

From England to Japan to Liechtenstein, there are numerous examples of royal drinks across the spectrum of wine and spirits. This includes offerings made directly by the family itself, as well as those made for them, or on their behalf. This is all before getting to the domain of royal warrants, with a sweeping range of high-end global brands receiving such honors from various sovereigns. That notably includes the U.K., which has provided 118 royal warrants to food and beverage producers, including no fewer than eight Champagne houses, five Scotch whiskies, and assorted tipples ranging from Cognac and gin to port and sherry.

Consider this your guide to imbibing like a monarch. It's good to be the king. Or queen, president, prince, or emperor, as the case may be.

Prince of Liechtenstein Winery

For your first taste of the royal life, head to Liechtenstein. In the tiny country sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, you can visit the Cellars of the Prince of Liechtenstein, which the royal family has owned since 1712. Princess Marie von Liechtenstein, a trained sommelier, helps manage the winery, and the vineyard (which began switching to biodynamic production in 2019) is the most prized and pristine in the country. The winery focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the winery's online shop ships "Princely Wine" to most of Europe. Still, it may be worth coming in for a visit yourself –– Liechtenstein is a short train ride away from Zurich, and makes for a charming and bucolic alpine getaway.

Buckingham Palace Gin

The Queen of England is a noted imbiber, which is why it's surprising that she didn't have any official spirits available on the market until recently. Buckingham Palace Gin was released in summer 2020, and the initial batch sold out in eight hours –– whether that buzz is due to the public's love of royals, pandemic chaos, or just a wildly excellent gin, is anyone's guess. The expression includes botanicals hand-picked from the 16-hectare Gardens at Buckingham Palace, including hawthorn berries, mulberry leaves, and lemon verbena. It's available for sale from the official Royal Collection Shop, with shipping available to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. An official Buckingham Palace Sloe Gin has since been added to the portfolio., Proceeds from both benefit the nonprofit Royal Collection Trust.

The Japanese Imperial Household's Sake

Nihonsakari's Souhana is the official sake of the Japanese imperial household. It has been served at official banquets and ceremonies for the past century, including for the coronation of four emperors. More recently, in 1970, the sake was made available for sale to the public in limited quantities. There are several variations of Nihonsakari Souhana, including a Junmai Daiginjo (which has a 38% polishing ratio) and Junmai Ginjo (55% polishing ratio), both made with yamadanishiki rice from the Hyogo prefecture. The sake is touted as well-balanced and rich, and made from traditional practices. Limited bottles are available from assorted online retailers.

Bhutanese Royal Whisky

Maybe it's not a coincidence that a country which is known for its Gross National Happiness Index also makes its own whisky. The King of Bhutan authorized the Army Welfare Project to produce a range of whisky and spirits at the Gelephu Distillery, the only one in the country. The top-tier bottlings tend to be made in homage to the leaders and important occasions, such as Prophecy, made in celebration of the 60th birthday of the fourth King of Bhutan, and 1907, a 12- year old single malt named for the year when Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuk became the first King of Bhutan. K5 Himalayan Whisky, named for the fifth and current king, has been produced in larger quantities, and is a blended release featuring malt whisky from Scotland and triple-distilled grain whisky from Bhutan.

George Washington's Distillery

George Washington may have fought for independence from a monarchy, but the first president of the United States was also one of the foremost whiskey distillers of his time. While this offering is technically presidential rather than royal, George Washington's Distillery at Mount Vernon deserves its moment in the spotlight. This a faithful, painstaking recreation of the distillery on its original grounds, operating with the technology and technique used on-site circa 1799, when the distillery produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey –– a more than sizable sum for the era. Limited edition bottlings of George Washington's Rye Whiskey along with fruit brandies and rum are made available for sale at Mount Vernon, and with limited shipping online.

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