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April 15, 2013


Thirty years later or a few indie Brora

This is the little Brora session I had wanted to do on March 17 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the distillery's last day. A very bad nose had prevented me from doing so but now that everything's back to normal, let's have them! They're all older bottlings, from three distinct periods. Instead of sorting them by ascending strength, we'll have them 'vertically', by ascending peatiness (theoretically)…

Brora 22 yo 1981/2004 (46%, Signatory, Un-chilfiltered Collection, refill butt, cask #1560, 851 bottles)

Brora 22 yo 1981/2004 (46%, Signatory, Un-chilfiltered Collection, refill butt, cask #1560, 851 bottles) Four stars Some sister casks have been bottled at CS but his one's been reduced. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: sure the 1981s were much less peaty than, say the 1972s but this is still a very peaty dram, somewhat akin to a Talisker even if this Brora is more austere and, above all, extremely waxy and mineral. Quite some paraffin too - not obligatorily always a great thing when there's a lot of it - and then more lemon as well as touches of wet dogs (I'm sorry, dogs). Some graphite oil as well, then more grass, lemon grass, angelica… Globally very phenolic and rather austere so far. Mouth: it's amazing how close we are to Talisker! Pepper, lemon, smoke and oysters, then more barley sugar and maybe a touch of sherry (remember it's from a refill butt). This sherry goes very well with the peppery make but it all remains pretty austere. Pleasantly austere…  Finish: long, herbal, salty, smoky and lemony, a perfect profile. Peppery aftertaste, we're still in Talisker territories. Comments: I like it a lot, not all 1981s have been to my liking (and even less 1982s). A big one despite the low strength. SGP:355 - 87 points.

Brora 18 yo 1981/2000 (50% Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 732 bottles)

Brora 18 yo 1981/2000 (50% Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, 732 bottles) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: this one is more difficult, it's even both a little watery (vase water) and kind of chemical (plastic, the interior of a brand new budget car). Having said that, we have also very interesting notes of tequila and white rum, with this unusual grassy side. Also walnut skin, then more butterscotch. This is less 'Brora' and much less smoky than the Signatory for sure, it's not the same distillate. Also something metallic (old tin box). After fifteen minutes, it became cleaner and straighter, with a fino-ish character. With water: iron and rust all over the place. A bag of old nails. A shame because behind all this metal there are nice whiffs of fern and moss. Well, maybe… Also a little sour cream. Mouth (neat): it's a little weird again, bizarrely sweet and sour, with a strange combination of lemon juice and wasabi. Not kidding. The metallic side got even bigger (silver spoon, even aluminum), there's even a little plastic, then lemon jelly beans or something like that. Not an easy one but it's kind of interesting. Some pepper. With water: forget about that, it became too metallic. Finish: quite long, a little sour. Apple juice and beer. Comments: a difficult one that just doesn't swim, but some parts are very interesting. An odd, mindboggling Brora. SGP:273 - 80 points.

Brora 30 yo 1976/2007 (55.1%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 104 bottles)

Brora 30 yo 1976/2007 (55.1%, Douglas Laing, Platinum, 104 bottles) Five stars There was another 1976 in the same series that was quite excellent (57.5%, WF 90) but also incredibly expensive back in 2007 (I think around 400€, a very high price at the time). Colour: gold. Nose: it's peatier than both 1981s, more complex for sure, also with more herbal tones, camphor, old mint liqueur, tobacco and then many coastal notes, seashells, seaweed… It's not a 1972 but we aren't that far. Goes on with a little mustard, maybe even horseradish, ashes, coal, hay, apple peeling and a little lemon… Typical! With water: perfect! It became superbly gamy, extremely tertiary (old liqueurs, various spice mixes, quite some coriander)… And with a superb vegetal smoke (garden bonfire). Some nose! Mouth (neat): huge, heavy, citrusy, herbal and very peppery. It's massive whisky and I like it quite… massively. Huge concentration. More green apples and walnuts after a few seconds. With water: becomes very leafy, earthy, quite bitter, a little acrid and rough… Now, all that goes well with this kind of profile. Maybe a little too much green oak at this point. Finish: long, bitter and herbal. Peated Jaegermeister. Comments: quite a beast, with a heavy herbal and grassy side, but it remains absolutely excellent all along. And this one swims like Mark Spitz (or Michael Phelps if you're too young to remember Mark Spitz ;-)). SGP:366 - 92 points.

And now, after a little break, let's have the two last (if I'm not mistaken) 1972s by Gordon & MacPhail. I strongly believe that these whiskies are the best ever bottled at 40% vol., for example I scored the 1972/1995 95 points and it even defeated last year's official 35 yo (WF 94). But hey, one man's opinion... So, while waiting for a 'not impossible' official 40 yo to come…

Brora 1972/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Brora 1972/1996 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: bottled bliss. It's an extremely complex and elegant smoky whisky, at a perfect age. What's really striking is the combination of a perfect 'precision' with an incredible wideness, which is something that's very difficult to achieve for any spirit or wine. So we have a slightly rounded floweriness (dandelions, pollen), a profound smokiness that combines coal and peat, these tropical fruits that appear in old peaters when they reach a perfect age (especially old Laphroaig and Ardbeg), an incredible herbal side with almost everything you'd find in the most high-end of the most high-end cough syrups for millionaires (c'mon, S.!) and then this mid-farmy, mid-coastal profile that screams Brora. Oysters and hay? All that remains elegant all along, never aggressive, and that's not only because of the low strength. Mouth: you'd think it's a gentle dram but that feeling will last for only a fraction of a second because what happens next is almost a peat blast. It's a waxy, greasy and maybe even herbal kind of peatiness, rather dry, with then bags of ashes, apple peeling and smoked tea (lapsang souchong). Also touches of mustard, maybe salicornia (wikipedia tells us you can also say sea asparagus in English) and then more salty liquorice. It's a deep one, really, too bad it tends to become a little drying, which makes it lose one or two points in my book. Finish: medium, salty and dry. Slightly bitter aftertaste. Again, not the best part. Comments: huge whisky, I love it, sadly it lost it a bit around the finish. But it's well a true Brora 1972. SGP:367 - 90 points.

Brora 1972/1997 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Brora 1972/1997 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Five stars Colour: gold. Nose: we'll keep this short and sweet since this one's obviously very close to the previous 1972. Whether it's the extra year of maturation or not, not too sure but this one's a little bigger, with a little more vanilla and butterscotch, more almonds and walnuts as well… But I'm splitting hairs, we're obviously very close, it's only a notch bigger and rounder. Let's move on if you don't mind… Mouth: exactly the same feeling. Bigger but also rather sootier and ashier, so it's almost a peat monster. A little more cinnamon too and then a medicinal side that was rather more discreet in the 72/96. Iodine. The salty side is quite impressive too, sea urchins? Joking. Salted smoked almonds (not joking). Finish: a notch longer than the previous one's, very salty, smoky, a tad sour (raw cider), with always these almondy touches in the aftertaste. Comments: a little trouble again at the finish but otherwise, what a glorious old Brora again, even if it's probably not the easiest Scotch whisky ever. Ha ha. SGP:367 - 91 points.

(with many thanks to Alexander and Mariska at and Morten)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Brora I've tasted so far







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