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

July 29, 2022




The 20th Anniversary Sessions, today Brora

It was unimaginable not to taste some Broras to celebrate this wee website's 20th anniversary. Without Brora, it's not impossible that Whiskyfun wouldn't even have existed, as it started as a few pages about the famous small Distillery in Sutherland. We've tried many Broras along and over the years but there are still some that we haven't written any tasting notes for. I find it also funny that WF would turn 20 exactly in the year when Brora Distillery would have started 'burning' again. No?  




Brora 1972/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice)

Brora 1972/1994 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice) Five stars
Bottled under the 'old brown map label', or whatever we used to call these back then. All the other 1972s by G&M have been fantastic, despite the meagre ABVs. I also remember my first visit in Elgin, when some Director (no names) opened the company bar and said 'please have whatever you like'. All releases of these Broras were there and… I still feel shame. By the way, current standings, 72/92: 92/100, 72/93: 93/100, 72/94: let's see, 72/95: 95/100, 72/96: 90/100, 72/97: 91/100. Colour: gold. Nose: your majesty! It's sumptuously dry whisky, terrifically mineral and earthy, with as much coal as peat, camphor, yuzus, Barbour grease, fresh oil paint and putty, old tools and whatnot. In fact, it's incredibly pure and yet fat and wide, with that waxy side that was also to be found in neighbours Clynelish (I was about to write daughter of Brora). Mouth: the body and the strength are very impressive, after almost thirty years in glass at only 40% vol. Some kind of miracle has happened here, but we're also reminded of 'many' old high-malt-content blends that used to share a part of this wonderful profile. Stunning smoke, minerals, metals, earths and small citrus, cough syrups and assorted liquids that do much good to you. Moves on towards sweeter bouillons, possibly something Japanese. And menthol, umami, miso… Well it is just endless. I'm just wondering why G&M have never bottled a Brora within their 'CASK' range back then. Finish: incredibly long, and even more magnificent and complex. What we always called 'doing the peacock's tail', with myriads of waxy, salty, mineral and citrusy notes invading the entirety of your body while we just give up and abandon ourselves. Comments: this indefatigable whisky is a friend. In the old days, we would have quoted actresses, but that's become totally out of fashion, and very rightly so. Immense. A great riesling ;-).

SGP:565 - 95 points.

Brora 32 yo 1970/2002 (58.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 297 bottles)

Brora 32 yo 1970/2002 (58.4%, Douglas Laing, Platinum Old & Rare, 297 bottles) Five stars
These 1970s are very rare, as the old Clynelish Distillery had only started functioning again around one year earlier. I have to confess I do not quite remember this one, even if I've already tried it – and did not take any notes (boo!) Let's simply add that Douglas Laing and not the Distillers, as well as compadres Gordon & MacPhail and Signatory Vintage, have been totally instrumental in the building of the legend of Brora. Without those three, I'm not sure we would still be talking about Brora in 2022… (and to a lesser extent, Blackadder, the SMWS, Ian MacLeod or Cadenhead). Colour: light gold. Nose: we're diving into a bucket of pitch and almond oil, with many crushed zests and menthol cigarettes thrown in (but who would do that). Behind that, quite some metal polish and fresh paint, some hay, beeswax, toolbox and coins, a little copper and a little leather cream. Incredible complexity and yet oneness. Everything was there already. With water: strictly no changes. Mouth (neat): full body and stamina, perfect voltage, bags of crystallised and dried citrus, some leather and tobacco, a little pine resin, and probably a need for a little water. It is almost a little brutal! With water: water is both further opening it and making it a little narrower. I agree, that's strange. Citrons and bergamots, even more tight citrus, a 'greener' peat and a medicinal side. Finish: long and both fat and citrusy. Very candied aftertaste, with also mushrooms, pepper and a little black nougat. Comments: they had tried to replicate Lagavulin in the very early days, and it is said that their top noses couldn't differentiate them. I don't think these batches were of '1972' level yet, but they were getting there for sure. Love it, naturally.
SGP:566 - 92 points.

… and a new one for good measure…

Brora 1981/2021 (44.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, American Oak hogshead and European Oak Sherry butt, 393 bottles, 2022)

Brora 1981/2021 (44.1%, OB, Prima & Ultima Third Release, American Oak hogshead and European Oak Sherry butt, 393 bottles, 2022) Five stars
The owners say this is the last 1981. If they have zillions of 1972s on the side, I not sure that's a big deal, according to most other 1981s I could try. Oh well, I know what I'm trying to say. Colour: gold. Nose: not so fast, S., this sure isn't a 1972, but it's full of charms and subtleties, such as wee vegetal oils, then small citrus and tropical fruits that some very famous old peaters from Islay's south shore could be jealous of. I'm especially thinking of 1960s 'L', or even 'B' on Loch Indaal. Mangos, passion fruits, grapefruits, petroly riesling, shoe polish, putty, plasticine… All that is simply working a treat on the nose – and like a charm indeed. Mouth: sweet Vishnu, this may be the nicest 1981 I've tried. Wonderful nutty Turkish delights, full of pistachios, a feeling of putty again, smoked marzipan, bitterer fruits then, oils again and again (sesame), and even a little butterscotch that could make me believe that some kind or smart re-racking was done with this one. Not too sure. Finish: medium, this time with mints and smoky old herbal liqueurs. Lovely citrusy signature, on bergamots and kumquats. Like. Also a little demerara sugar. Comments: this side of Brora was extremely charming too, even if these vintages have always lived in the shadows of the mighty 1972s. Let's treat them right.
SGP:563 - 92 points.

A last one just for fun. Many moons ago, I had done some kind of 'masterclass' (oh well, just a tasting session, I'm neither Pablo Casals nor Miles Davis mind you) in London, around the idea of comparing Clynelish with Brora (as far as I can recall, it's getting hazy). What I remember is that Diageo had provided me with some bottle-sized samples of very sherried 1972 from their warehouses, which have been duly tasted during that 'masterclass', naturally. But I had kept a very wee sample and I would say today is a good day to down it quick, straight, dry, and easy.

Brora 1972 (cask sample, sherry, drawn circa 2010?)
Colour: look at this colour! This is almost coffee. Nose: in the style of the Brorageddon and, to a lesser extent, to The Whisky Shop's own 1972. If that rings a bell… Incredible mix of walnut stain, crème de menthe, pipe tobacco and just liquid tar and liquorice. Rarely has thick sherry tangoed this well with heavy peat. Mouth: very concoctiony, thick, piney and mentholy, rather full of absinth, chartreuse and crazy coffees. Finish: extremely long, heavy and massive. Comments: I think I've tried all officials and I would say they never bottled this one, at least not as a single cask. Do they still have it?
SGP: 376

(photograph Jon Beach)

(Thank you Derek, KC and Nick!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Brora we've tasted so far







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