...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Single Malt Report: Brora 30 year old, 6th release

On Saturday, my daughter turned 0.5 years old.  And on Monday, my wife and I ended our dietary cleanse.  It was indeed time to celebrate and reflect and--

Yes, there was Brora last night.

My previous experiences with Brora were okay.  But "okay" was disappointing because I expected the sublime.  Peated Highland malt is probably my favorite sub-sub-sub category of scotch whisky.  And Brora's reputation (and pricing) are sky high.  But, again, "okay".  Meanwhile, its Diageo dead stablemate, Port Ellen has never let me down.  All four of the PEs I've tried were excellent.  The best Brora I had previous to last night was kinda good.  With my expectations lowered a full step, how would this one (my first Brora OB) fare?

Many many many thank yous to Eric S. for sharing this sample with me!

Distillery: Brora
Bottler: Official (Diageo), 6th Release
Age: 30 years (bottled in 2007)
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry caks (per Whiskybase)
Limited Bottling: 2577 of 2958
Region: Highlands (Northern)
Alcohol by Volume: 55.7%

Its color is medium gold, slightly lighter than classic DiageoGold™ though possibly more legitimately gilded.  The nose leads with seaweed and band-aids held in very graceful American oak.  A nice farmyard element lingers throughout: manure, hay, and soil on denim.  There are also gentler notes of dandelions, sea air, rosewater syrup, and an apple/pineapple syrup.  With additional time in the glass, the whisky starts to develop some dusty book page notes.  The farm and fruit notes rise in intensity together.  The ABV is more apparent in the palate, though there's a very aromatic note, perhaps old peated malt merging with good oak.  The progression happens something like this: salty peat → mango & pineapple → umami → floral peat.  There are also notes of vanilla extract, broken rocks, rock salt, ink, and something industrial.  It's a sharp attack delivered with a creamy texture.  The finish has barnyard hay, seaweed, ink, and caramel sauce.  There's a big note of snuffed bonfire and a smaller bitter one.

Well, here's my first great Brora.  It beats the snot out of the Old Malt Cask and Connoisseur's Choice versions I'd had.  It's both bigger and subtler.  It's one to nose for an hour.  I'm clearly no Brora expert, but this whisky is what I imagine folks are referring to when they opine on classic Brora.

If I'm to pick nits amongst the whisky heights, then I'd say the nose is amazing, the palate very good, and the finish merely good.  I'm grading this the same as the 2011 edition of Laphroaig 25 CS, but I might take that Laphroaig over this Brora if the prices were the same, even through one could get two or three of the Islays for the price of this Highlander.  Nonetheless, this Brora is excellent.  If you can get your mitts on a sample or a pour, I recommend it.

Now, back to fatherhood...

Availability - European shops and auctions
Pricing - could originally be found for $300ish, now is over $1000
Rating - 92


  1. I tried it as part of a tasting Ralfy hosted and found it... uninspiring? Admittedly it was amidst a bunch of other whiskies and I didn't get to spend a lot of time with it, but the charms must be subtle. As it was it read like a decent but not over-the-top peated whisky. So I will probably stay off the Brora train for now.

    1. The Brora train is some expensive s**t. For one grand we can still get a slew of super whiskies as opposed to one secondary-market-plus-Diageo-inflated bottle. Well-aged Laphroaig and (some) well-aged Talisker beat this bottling, but damn it if those whiskies' prices aren't skyrocketing too.

  2. I only had two or three Broras in my life and none of them made a great impression. I liked the 25yo 1975 Rare Malts version, but I would not buy it (it was gift my grandfather gave me) due to price / value ratio. Maybe I should give it a try with one of those annual releases... we will see.

    1. While I won't crab about this particular whisky, I think the romance of the 'dead' status has plumped up Brora's reputation. I have had lovely Port Ellens, though, and do mourn its pass and pricing. Still, I'm pretty darn sure that your collection holds gems that can whup most Broras.