This Brora was a real game changer for me. Kind of a touchstone. It was one of a small handful of whiskies that sort of forced a recalibration and an adjustment to earlier scores in some of my reviews. A true-up, if you will.
This malt (along with a few others sampled in and around the same time) made me take stock of what I truly thought a great whisky was. When you taste something like this, you begin to realize just how much is out there and exactly what sort of dazzling heights it can reach. Make no mistake…this is a great whisky. Nearly flawless, in point of fact.
Of all the other Broras I’ve yet tried (great as they may have been), none are as good as this 30 year old 2005 Diageo release.
As you may know by now, the early 1980s saw a rash of distillery closures amidst a far-reaching and heartbreaking whisky recession. While the casualties are mourned by collectors and enthusiasts even today, it was the sound of the gates swinging closed on two distilleries in particular that resonated loudest and longest. The first…Port Ellen. If you’ve been reading here long enough you’ve likely heard me waxing poetically about this loss. Enough so, in fact, that I won’t devolve into another sobfest of Port Ellen sentimentality here. The second however…is Brora. And for Brora…I feel no qualms about sharing a few romantic thoughts.
This whisky is a seriously overwhelming experience. The tightrope walk, balancing a rather hefty peating and the mature waxy notes of age, is brilliantly executed. The nuances are rich and deep…yet still subtle and seductive. This whisky was pulled from the cask and bottled at precisely the right moment. This is apex.
While we do still have a distillery at the site of what was once Brora, it’s impossible not to recognize that the whisky being distilled there at Clynelish is just not cut of the same cloth. That’s no knock against Clynelish, of which I am a fan. It’s just that Brora was a one-off, not to be replicated.
This review has been far too long coming. I was sorta saving it for an occasion, but…whatever…now’s as good a time as any, no? Everyone wants to know what Brora is like – especially as it becomes more and more scare and expensive – so let’s share a few notes…
Nose: Wow. A stunning mature, farmy and salty dram. Peat, smoke and iodine. Leather. Rubber bands. Lapsang Souchong tea. Buttery peat (not far off from Bruichladdich’s signature peating style), and creme caramel. Citrus. Something very fresh. Also something very mature. Brilliantly dissonant from the majority of the whisky world, but incredibly harmonious unto itself.
Palate: As lovely as the nose is…in this case it simply can’t hold a candle to the palate. Beautiful. Big, bold and flawless. Smoke and pepper. Rich and earthy peat. Rubber again. Stunning array of spices. Citrus again, but a little sweeter now, but also with some pith. Salt licorice. Again with the rich smoky Lapsang Souchong tea notes. Like a very, very mature Port Charlotte. Hot and alive, even at thirty years.
I think (and hope) this is where Longrow could end up with enough time in the cask.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt