Brora has become my own personal rabbit hole. My red pill, if you will. I was lost to it completely upon first taste (an almost incomparable 2005 30 y.o.), and have continued to fall end over end with each subsequent expression I’ve tried.
Malts like this remind me of the double helix of a DNA strand, intricately weaving together the nuance of spirit itself with the complexity of historical context. Those two pieces become inseparable in whiskies like this and are an intrinsic part of what makes them unforgettable. It’s arguably part of the rationale used in justification of pricing schemes and collectability. Let’s face it, Scotch is a drink built on history and tradition. And Brora has an infinitely fascinating story. Let’s not get too deep into it here, but do head over to our friend Serge’s Whiskyfun site to learn a bit more about Brora’s backstory. Well worth the effort.
For now though, quick and dirty must suffice: Brora was a Highland distillery that last flowed in 1983. It has subsequently been partially dismantled and now languishes dead in the shadows (literally) of the Clynelish distillery, its sister/replacement/pseudo-doppelganger/what have you. The last remaining drops of Brora have crept further and further away from the laymen’s tax bracket, but nearer and dearer to our hearts. Ergo we end up with a bunch of sentimentalists dying to try the malt, but an ever-decreasing chance of that happening. Sad times indeed.
Is this the best Brora I’ve ever had? Nah. It’s exceptionally good, but we’re talking degrees of greatness now. Like trying to pick the greatest quarterback of all time (Tom Brady) from a field of other great QBs, then looking back in prespective to see all of the hundreds of thousands of never-rans that can’t even compete at that big league level. Make sense?
This 2008 Diageo official release was limited to just 3,000 bottles. I feel blessed to have drunk my share. And a little guilty ’cause I probably drank a few others’ shares as well.
Nose: Great nose, built on fruits and more earthy, organic notes. Peat, yes, but faint and very secondary to the dominant profile. Pistachio, marzipan and cream. Apple and orange and lemon. Wet rock, grass and damp barley. A light floral note and wisps of smoke. Closer to Clynelish than the older, peatier Brora I lean toward. Very multi-dimensional.
Palate: Way bigger on the palate than the nose. Oily and thick. Waxy and flinty. More smoke and peat here. A nice toast/char note. Also a dry nuttiness that reminds at once of almond and oaky Chardonnay. Caramel apple and lemon. Popsicle sticks or tooth picks. Quite drying. Leaves behind notes of old cask, herbal tea and green apple.
Thoughts: Not in the same league as the 30s or 35s, but special nonetheless.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Love your blog, been reading it for a long time now.
As Brora is way out of budget for me, I was wondering: are there any recent, more affordable bottles or even distillers you can compare to the Brora profile?
Greetings from Holland!
I wonder if anyone thinks a home vatting of 90% Clynelish and 10% Connnemara Turf Mor would do the trick. Rugged Highland-style maltiness with a dollop of farmyardy peat, right?
That’s probably nonsense.
But I am going to try it when I open my Turf Mor, even though I have no Brora samples or memories to compare it to.
Thanks, Wouter. Appreciate the kind words. Good question. Brora is a fairly singular dram. Not a profile you’re likely to find elsewhere due to both the uniqueness of the spirit itself and the age at which it has typically been released.
I’d say your closest approximations would be older Clynelish (somewhat comparable to the lighter peated Brora), and older Longrow (shares similarities with some of the more heavily peated Brora.
And as to Ol’ Jas’s question…I’d try mixing the oldest Clynelish and Longrow you can find at a ratio of maybe 60/40. Just a guess. Think I may try it myself now!
I’ve been reading ATW for some time but have never commented until now. And the reason is because I saw this review and it’s a remarkable coincidence – I just happened to sample this very same whisky (well, same series at least) here in Edmonton almost two weeks ago. I saw a bottle at the Wine & Beyond sample station and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the legendary Brora.
I would have scored it a couple points or so higher than Curt did as it was truly one of the best whiskies I’ve had the pleasure of sampling, but then again I have no other Brora frame of reference upon which to gauge this particular bottling. Though I didn’t write any tasting notes I do recall it being nutty, oily, very subtlety peaty with a bit of fruit. The most remarkable aspect was how smooth it was, even at cask strength. Not the burn that I expected. Definitely out of my price range but I’m glad I was afforded the opportunity to finally try Brora.
As for me, I’ve been a Scotch fan for many years. I’ve tried many though certainly not as much as most folks that post on whisky forums – and I’m probably less discerning than them too hehe. I look forward to future reviews and comments from fellow whisky enthusiasts here on ATW.