Brora 30 y.o. 2005 Review

Brora 30 y.o. 2005

56.3% abv

Score:  93.5/100


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

3 thoughts on “Brora 30 y.o. 2005 Review

  1. portwood

    Everyone seems to dump on the current Clynelish – released at 14 years by the distillery and various ages by independents – as being far inferior to Brora. I wonder if some of it survives to ~30 in similar quality casks to those containing Brora – and tasted blind – if anyone will be able to tell the difference!

    IMO, its not fair to be comparing a 30yo whisky made in 1980’s to a current 14yo – even if made by essentially the same distillery.


    1. ATW Post author

      Hi, Portwood.

      Not sure who the ‘everyone’ you refer to is, but I quite like Clynelish, as stated above. It’s naive to think it will be the same spirit as Brora when it is aged to 30 years. Clynelish is NOT produced at the same distillery as Brora. Not the same stills…not the same peating. Different whisky. My point is…it is futile to compare the two, irrespective of their shared history and geography.

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. Skeptic

    Ultimately Whisky ought to be a bit like baseball. A slugger who hit 50 home runs 4 years ago and is negotiating a contract would be asked “what have you done for me lately?”.

    Is Clynelish producing good stuff? If so then buy and enjoy. If not then leave it. Same with “the” Macallan and Bowmore.

    Heck, if someone told me Glenfiddich came out with an affordable AND enjoyable expression I would consider it, though I recognize that may be long in coming…


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