As Brora becomes more and more scarce on the scene, the odds of most drammers having an opportunity to taste it are becoming more and more stacked against us. It’s a sad fact in a world ruled by free market and supply and demand.
The good news, however, is that we’re in an age of more potential ‘Broras’ than ever. Not in the literal sense, of course, but figuratively speaking. Back in its day, Brora was just a peated spirit from yet another Highland distillery, and not necessarily recognized as the legendary elixir it is now often given to be. As we speak, there are well over a hundred operational distilleries in Scotland and apparently a whole bunch more in the early stages of planning, permitting and construction. Where I’m going with this? There are many opportunities to discover the ‘next Brora’.
Any folks out there who may be wanting to approach the flavour profile (as near as I can figure it) but are unlikely so score their own bottles of Brora…I’d suggest maybe saving your money for older Longrow releases. The oldest OB Longrow released to date has been an 18 year old, but fingers crossed that at some point we see 25 and 30 year variants. I think they’ll reach a similar profile. These and maybe Port Charlotte when it finally approaches its early 20s.
For those not in the know, Brora was a Highland distillery that closed its doors in 1983, amid the rash of distillery closures tied to whisky world’s version of the Great Depression. I’m not sure what the young Brora malt was like at that point, but what little was left to slumber in the warehouses gradually took on a flavour and mystique of epic proportions. It was also generally bottled at a healthy two or three decades of age. Rightly or wrongly this is the standard to which Brora is held to today. You can see the unfairness of holding what we contemporarily think of as a standard Brora (if there is such a thing) in the same league as most other distilleries on the menu, which are usually served up at a whopping old age of…12. Or if you’re splurging…18. Hmmm…if all whiskies were allowed to hit 30 years, I’d bet the farm we’d see a lot more ‘Broras’. Just my speculation.
Anyway…these annual Diageo special releases are probably the most accurate representation of true Brora, as they are a vatting of multiple casks, whereas most of the others you’ll find (if at all) are liable to be single cask variants by the independent bottlers, and highly subject to variations. Make no mistake due to the rambling nature of my lead-in, though…this is Brora. And it’s fucking awesome stuff.
Nose: Much lighter than the only other 30 year old OB I’ve tried (2005 edition)*. White pepper. Lightly aromatic farmy, peaty and smoky notes. Musk. A perfume-iness meets some floral influence. Vanilla is fairly up front. Orange and lemon. Fresh ground spice (dry, dusty and somewhat exotic…shorthand for ‘I can’t quite put my finger on it). Paraffin. Soft, chewy cookies with mild baking spice.
Palate: Quite some peat and dry pepper are mashed up with some syrupy sweetness. Anise and flint notes follow in step. Peat and heat follow a moment or two after that. Smoky, as to be expected. A neat little bit of tartness. Utterly delicious.
*Oops…that was a lie. I was one of the guilty few at Andrew Ferguson’s place who helped speed up the evaporation rate on a bottle of the 2010 edition. It wasn’t my fault though! Blame the Maltmonster.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt