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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

February 28, 2014


Tasting Brora 40 years old and friend

In an ideal world, the owners of the remaining casks of Brora 1972 would organise a large competition, inviting all genuine whisky enthusiasts to answer a good 500 questions such as ‘when was old Clynelish distillery converted to steam heating?’ or ‘when was the very first official bottle of Brora issued?’, or better yet, ‘where was the first distillery manager buried?’ Then the best scores would simply win a bottle. Just a regular liquor bottle bearing a simple one-colour label (granted, with the drawing of a wild cat). And all bottles and their new owners would be numbered and recorded, of course, to make sure that no discourteous punter would put his/her bottle up for auction. Or am I a complete innocent indeed? Right, right… And I won’t deny there is some kind of panache as well in selling a luxury Decanter of 40yo Brora carrying a £7,000 price tag, but it’s just not the same kind of panache. I also think it’s the first time a Brora – or Old Clynelish for that matter – comes in a container that’s as catchy as its content, but it’s also true that we’ve already seen much, much sillier decanters elsewhere. But enough babbling and stupid ideas, let’s simply try this new Brora, along a 1981 of similar strength that should make for a perfect stepping stone, or maybe even a worthy sparring partner. Let’s see…

Brora 26 yo 1981/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1520, 391 bottles)

Brora 26 yo 1981/2007 (57.1%, Signatory, sherry butt, cask #1520, 391 bottles) Five stars Signatory had quite a few 1981s and some close sister casks such as #1519 have been much to my liking, although they haven’t all been totally stellar in my opinion. Colour: amber. Nose: a very earthy sherry, how does that sound? Brora’s earthy smoke really does give a very ‘old amontillado’ character, with also a lot of cigar smoke, touches of mustard, some kind of smoked prunes and the obligatory walnuts. It was a pretty active cask, most sister casks have been shier, it seems. I also find hints of heavy rum. With water: yes! Flowers come out (roses, lilies of the valley), a little musk, Seville oranges, pack of Camels, leather polish…

Mouth (neat): first, it’s peatier than expected, and second, that peatiness manages to stand up to the heavy-ish fino-like sherry. Both mingle very well in fact, which makes for a big, big dram. I rather tend to like Brora au naturel but I have to say this one works perfectly. Tobacco, leather, cinnamon, walnuts, sweet mustard, bitter chocolate, a little curry, a saltiness… It’s all dry, beautifully dry. With water: hurray, the citrus comes out more. Tangerines, citrons, also lemon balm, drops of chartreuse… Finish: long, ample, wonderfully balanced, smokier than other 1981s, elegant, with some pepper in the aftertaste as often. Comments: it’s one the best 1981s in my opinion, whether sherried or not. Much more than just a stepping stone for the new official 40 years old! SGP:565 - 92 points.

Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014)

Brora 40 yo 1972 (59.1%, OB, decanter, single cask, 2014) Five stars This very lovely decanter is available for pre-order at World of Whiskies, but you'll have to collect it from one of the travel retails shops in the UK from April 21, 2014. So you may have to spend £6,995.00 on the whisky plus around £29.99 on an air ticket (Easyjet or Ryanair, your call). Or you rent a jet if you’d like the whole experience to be more prestigious. Something that I really like, also, is what’s written on the bottle, “Proud survivor of a legendary distillery”. If it’s proud, it’s got a soul, and I always thought great old whiskies were having a soul… There, new evidence! Colour: gold. Nose: oh, no! I remember when we were downing the various 22yo Rare Malts like if there were no tomorrow (I may well be exaggerating a bit here, I’m a bit like Stirling Moss and his famous line ‘the older I get, the faster I was.’ The older I get, the more Brora 1972 I drank, haha), so yeah, when we were having Brora 22 72, they were all utterly brilliant, but always a little rough around the edges… Well, the nose of this 40 is utterly brilliant and its edges have been wonderfully polished with all sorts of precious waxes and oils. What strikes me as well is that we’re getting very close to the best old Ardbegs from the same era. Maybe even above them if, like me, you enjoy a kind of tenseness in your whisky. I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling… Maybe that’s these stunning resinous/sappy notes, or this medicinal side that was less obvious in the younger 1972 Broras.

Other than that and because we haven’t gotten all day, let me just mention olive oil, cigars, menthol, teak oil, smoked oysters, drops of diesel, Spanish ham, special brine, vetiver, verbena, sugar cane… So a truly fabulous nose, a real movie. With water (because you see, we must): astounding clarity and freshness, that’s all I’ll say. Mouth (neat): amazing. A tidal wave, the arrival’s incredibly smooth for Brora, and then it never stops growing, getting bigger, hitting harder, invading your palate and leaving you totally breathless (which could even be a little dangerous, seriously). It’s a symphony, or a long suite by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. You don’t control anything, the whisky controls you, which is a weird feeling I have to say. A wonderful, but weird feeling. Excuse me? Flavours? I’d say grapefruits, oysters, peat smoke, beech smoke (smoked salmon), touches of ink, wasabi, earth, samphire, lemon curd… And bags and bags of other flavours, the list is just too long, someone could build a whole website just for this baby. Full maturity but absolutely no signs of tiredness, quite the opposite. I don’t know why, Tilda Swinton’s name pops in my mind, probably because she’s Scottish. With water (which might be useless but we do follow procedures at WF Towers, mind you): a.m.a.z.i.n.g. Waxy and smoky citrus. Utter perfection. Finish: it’s the freshness that’s impressive here. An endless list of flavours, all coated with the most refined smoke in Scotland. Comments: I don’t think I’ve mentioned oak, have I? That’s whisky, when you don’t feel any oak. I’d add that I actually started because of Brora, and this expression is the kind of whisky that keeps me going. I think this has been too long, apologies. SGP:567 - 98 points.

PS: Un-PC alert! Please don’t let only wealthy people snaffle all the bottles! Of course £7,000 is way too expensive, but if seventy friends buy a bottle and share 1cl each, I can guarantee that the whisky’s so big and so memorable that those £100 will be better spent than if you buy one full bottle of worthless new-oak-doped-no-age-statement Glenwhatever. Because you’ll remember that little centilitre forever…


Pete McPeat and Jack Washback








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