The story of the Brora distillery is a confusing one, so for the benefit of the great unwashed I will try and explain. The Clynelish distillery was born in 1819 in Brora, Sutherland and operated under the name Clynelish distillery until 1968, after which the owner changed the name to the Brora distillery. It then operated under the name Brora distillery until it was permanently closed in 1983.
Congruently in 1968, a new larger distillery called the Clynelish distillery had been built across the road by the same owner as the old Clynelish distillery, now the Brora Distillery. The new Clynelish distillery was using the same production personnel, accessing the same water source and copied the same still design as the old Clynelish distillery.
The old Clynelish distillery, now called the Brora distillery, was not needed and was to be mothballed. Because of drought conditions on Islay, the Port Ellen distillery could no longer meet the evil owners’ demands for peated whisky used in their blends so the Brora distillery was then used to produce a peated style of whisky to satisfy that requirement. In 1983 such a surplus of whisky existed in Scotland that the Brora distillery was deemed surplus to demand and was finally put down, along with the Port Ellen distillery and a few others by the evil minions of Diageo.
Name changing is not new; history is full name changes. In the case of the Brora distillery the owners changed the name for a reason, which I believe was to keep the well-respected name of Clynelish alive. The past is full of other notable name changes to serve a purpose, some good, some twisted, while others are not so easily understood. Some examples of other prominent name changes are:
- Gordon Matthew Sumner, after a run with the law, changed his name to Sting
- Anakin Skywalker was forced to change his name to Darth Vader
- Franc/Deutschmark/Peseta/Drachma/Kroner/Punt/Lire became the “Euro” and then became paper worth a little less.
- Prince Rogers Nelson was born a Prince, then abdicated to become a former Prince, then symbolized himself and finally we hope, kissed a frog and turned himself back into a Prince
- Marion Michael Morrison road into the sunset with the name John Wayne
- Brad’s Drink fizzed into Pepsi-Cola
- After the death of (Phil Krundle ) Landfill, his brother Gil Krundle took his place and then he changed his name to Landfill
- Ralph Lifshitz metamorphosed into Ralph Lauren
- Ernesto Guevara de la Serna had cause to become Che Guevara
- Cigarette brand giant Philip Morris Co. Inc., changed its name to the soothing and friendly Altria Group
So to honor this once great and now lost distillery, we gathered the Gang of Four (named after a failed attempt to gain control of Diageo through the voting stock at an annual meeting of the shareholders) together and sat down on a rainy June evening in Calgary to enjoy a range tasting of Brora malts. We assembled together six wonderful Brora malts but the more things change the more they stay the same, which is why we included a Clynelish malt in with our Brora malt range tasting. With each malt, we openly discussed tasting notes, mostly enjoyed each other’s company and noted our top four malts of the night.
Clynelish 14 year old
NOSE: Candy sweet, citrus fruits, fresh cut grass, waxy. Pepper and a hint of varnish.
TASTE: Tart, ginger, again some citrus notes, salty and nutmeg.
FINISH: Medium and drying at the end.
ASSESSMENT: A change to a more peated version would do you good; yes a change would do you good.
Brora 21 Year Old 1977 / 1998
Rare Malts Series Bottle #2758
NOSE: Creamy caramel, bit winey. Lemons, oranges and some spice.
TASTE: Lemon drops, soft wood smoke, black liquorice and very honey sweet at the end.
FINISH: Medium-long. Lovely delicate dram.
ASSESSMENT: Ch-Ch-Changes pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older, time may change me but I can’t make Diageo reopen the distillery and produce a great younger malt as this. Tied for the second place malt of the night with the 32 year old.
Brora 30 Year Old 1975 / 2005
Special Release Series Bottle #2155 of 3000
NOSE: Caramel, musty, elegant smoke and lemons.
TASTE: Pepper, citrus, peaty, black liquorice and a hint of eucalyptus.
FINISH: Long and lingering. The English refugee in the gang said “you like this because it reminds you of Port Ellen”, mocking me for my love of Port Ellen (Note to self…must check with Canadian immigration to see if he’s in the country legally).
ASSESSMENT: Don’t go changing to try and please me you never let me down before, release 2005 I said I love you and that’s forever and it’s a promise from the heart, I couldn’t love you any better, I love you just the way you are. Have tried numerous bottles of Brora over the years, and the 2005 has always been my favorite and was again rated hands up the number one favorite of the night.
Brora 25 Year Old 1983 / 2008
Special Release Series Bottle #352 of 3000
NOSE: Farmy and floral, burned butter, oranges.
TASTE: Very herbal, smoky, citrus and bit briny.
FINISH: Medium and little salty at the end.
ASSESSMENT: Diageo now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over and had me believing it was always something that Calgary had done and I don’t wanna live that way now, Brora you’re just a distillery that I used to know.
Brora 30 Year Old 1979 / 2009
Special Release Series Bottle #893 of 2652
NOSE: Cherries and oranges, vanilla, candied fruit, sensuous smoke and a little farmy.
TASTE: Liquorice, green apple tart, lemons. Where did that complex nose go.
FINISH: Medium to long and a little oaky at the end.
ASSESSMENT: We love the peated malt so we keep waiting, waiting on the distillers to change it’s hard to be persistent, when we’re standing at a distance so we keep waiting, waiting on the distillers to change.
Brora 32 Year Old 1979 / 2011
Special Release Series Bottle #1353 of 1500
NOSE: Sweet cherries, lots-o-fruit, lemon and eucalyptus. Farmy and grassy with infused smoky notes.
TASTE: Very herbal, pepper and briny. Citrus notes. Oily and lots of tannins. Lots of focused layers to be found on the palate.
FINISH: Medium to long and a touch briny at the end.
ASSESSMENT: There were times when I thought the Brora stocks would last for long but now I think they can’t carry on it’s been a long, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will and Brora will live on only in our memories. Tied with the 21 year old as the second favorite of the night, although the 32 year old had more number 1&2 votes combined.
Brora 30 Year Old 1976 / 2007
Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum Bottle #63 of 109
NOSE: Succulent ripe cherries, lemon & lime. Farmy and a little musty.
TASTE: Black liquorice, delicate peat smoke and a bit briny. Citrus notes and some raisin. Waves of taste.
FINISH: Medium to long. Little oaky at the end, although still very pleasant.
ASSESSMENT: If the stocks of Brora were to leave here tomorrow, would you still remember the taste and if Brora were to reopen things just wouldn’t be the same cause this new Brora would be a different malt and this malt you shouldn’t change, lord knows it shouldn’t change. Great showing for this malt and was rated a strong number four of the night.
- As always, your humble drudge, Maltmonster
A Calgarian went to see a judge in order to change his name. The judge asked what his name was. The man said, “My name is John Edmontonsucks.”
The judge says, “I can see why you want to change your name, but what do you want to change it to?”