This whisky has all the positive aspects of a very mature whisky (depth, complexity) without all the negative ones (excessive oak, one-dimensional). Very clean, but oily in texture, with honeyed vanilla, caramel, citrus (tangerine, orange, lemon), nectarine, olive brine, black pepper, ginger, cut grass, mustard seed, and just the hint of teasing smoke. Briny, spicy finish. Wonderful!
Astonishingly fresh and clean for 30 years in oak, and with incredible depth. Slight oily texture. Appetizing brine, with honeyed vanilla, mustard seed, green olive, Seville orange, and lemon zest. Underlying smoke, damp peat, and seaweed. Put simply, Brora at its finest.
Lombard 'Jewels of Scotland' (distilled at Brora), 1982 vintage, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $200.00
Bottled in 2004, but just recently put in circulation here in the U.S. (Very strange.) It’s worth the wait. It’s fresh (even at 22 years old), appetizing, spicy, and briny. There’s a sweet foundation of vanilla wafer and caramel, with a slightly oily texture. White pepper, seaweed, mustard seed, lime, gherkin, and teasing gin botanicals add complexity. Spicy, salty finish. A vibrant, dynamic expression of the shuttered original Clynelish distillery. Quite stunning, actually. Find yourself a bottle before they’re gone!
Maturation of this 1978 distillate has taken place in European oak and refill American oak casks. Fresh and fruity on the early, herbal nose; a hint of wax, plus brine, developing walnut fudge, and an underlying wisp of smoke. Finally, wood resin. The palate is very fruity, with mixed spices, then plain chocolate, damp undergrowth, gentle peat smoke, and finally coal. Mildly medicinal. Ashy peat and aniseed linger in the long, slowly drying finish. Brora at its very best. (2,944 bottles) Editor's Choice
Though Brora has acquired cult status, it has to be said that for a few years these Special Release Broras went through an off-putting butyric phase, which might well have put off newbies to this legendary closed site, who must have wondered what all the fuss was about.
One nose of the 2010 SR shows that these days have been consigned to the past. This is classy from the word go. Gold in color; the nose manages to be both overtly waxy — I’m reminded of waxed paper — and fragrant. Behind that is coal smoke, rather than the heavy peatiness of earlier vintages (Brora’s peating levels varied in its last years). In other words, this is robust and powerful, with an evocative aroma that speaks of old sea chests, the seashore, and vellum. Hugely concentrated, with massed fruits — quince especially — following behind. This is amplified with a drop or two of water.
The palate is unctuous and heavy. Tectonic plates move more quickly than this does in the mouth. When it does, the oily/waxy textures and flavors move slowly — camphor, peach, membrillo, hints of citrus, and toward the finish a growing brininess (akin to olives) and a hint of smoke. Elemental and one of the best Broras for years. [not available in the U.S.]£280
Previous Broras in the Diageo Special Release series have set the bar remarkably high, and this, the eleventh such bottling, does not disappoint. The component whiskies were distilled during 1976 and 1977 and matured in refill American oak casks. The nose offers lemon and contrasting vanilla and honeycomb aromas. Musty malt and coal in the background. The citrus and honey themes continue into the slightly earthy, peppery palate, while French mustard and coal figure in the drying finish. 1,566 bottles.
Just 160 bottles of 1972 Brora are available through UK World of Whiskies and World Duty Free Group stores. The oldest bottling of Brora to date was distilled using heavily-peated malt. A big hit of oily peat on the early nose, with malt, dried fruit, and black pepper. Mildly medicinal. The palate yields bonfire ash, licorice, honey, more pepper, and well-integrated oak. The finish is long, with peat smoke, plain chocolate, and tannins lingering in harmony. Complex and rewarding. £7,000
Brora 1978 35 year old (Diageo Special Release 2014), 48.6%
Single Malt Scotch | $1250
This is the 13th annual release of Brora, which has been aged in refill American oak and refill European oak casks. Hessian and hemp on the early nose, with a whiff of ozone, discreet peat, and old tar. Fragrant and fruity notes develop, with ripe apples, and a hint of honey. The palate is waxy, sweet, and spicy, with heather and ginger. Mildly medicinal and smoky. Dries steadily in the finish to aniseed, black pepper, dark chocolate, and fruity tannins. (2,964 bottles)
Brora 34 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2017), 51.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $1,700
Distilled in 1982, this expression was matured in refill American oak hogsheads. It is the 16th Brora in the Special Releases series. Ripe pears and vanilla on the nose; progressively more perfumed, with developing toffee notes. Slightly waxy on the palate, with fresh-squeezed lemon and sweet background smoke contrasting with spicy dark berries. Plain chocolate, sultanas, and raisins in the medium-length finish. A relatively restrained Brora. (3,000 bottles)
Another Special Releases staple, this is the fifteenth and oldest Brora in the series to date. The nose offers hemp, oiled brown paper, lemon juice, ashy peat, and sweetening malt. The oily palate boasts sweet fruit notes, peaty toffee, and ginger. Long in the softly smoky finish, with black pepper, plain chocolate, char, and licorice. Diageo Special Releases 2016. (2,984 bottles)
Brora 37 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2015), 50.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $1925
An old Special Releases favorite, this is the fourteenth such Brora bottling. Distilled in 1977 and matured in refill American oak hogsheads, it is the oldest Brora issued by Diageo to date. 2,976 bottles have been released. Leather, ginger, and stewed fruits on the nose, with smoky, dusty aromas. Lighter and fresher than previous veteran releases, with cooking apples, cinnamon, fudge, dried grass, and light peat on the palate. Sweet notes fade, leaving earthy, savory smoke in the long finish.
Quite lively for 25 years, with layers of bright fruit (lemon, nectarine, grapefruit, pineapple) on a bed of vanilla and honey. There’s a peppering of dried spice, smoldering ember, and beach pebbles. Lightly smoky, dried spice finish. Very nice. Brora enthusiasts will not be disappointed, but the prices of the whisky from this shuttered distillery are creeping up.
Signatory (distilled at Brora), 24 year old, 1981 vintage, Cask # 06/656, 60.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $225.00
The distillery closed in 1983, and was replaced by the Clynelish distillery across the street. Classic Brora. Fresh, and exuberant for a 25 year old whisky. Briny, with citrus zest, fruit gum drops, dynamic spices, and a hint of seaweed and smoke. Appetizing finish. All the flavors are well-integrated, and the whisky is very clean. If you don’t have a Brora yet, get this one before it’s gone.
Signatory (distilled at Brora) 18 year old, 1983, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $65.00
Pale gold/straw color. Fresh, appetizing aroma and flavor of brine, delicate peat, gentle sweetness, and a touch of spice and seaweed. Medium in body and slightly oily in texture. Nicely balanced and clean, with a salty, dryish finish. This is a lovely, very appetizing expression of a distillery that has been closed and dismantled. (It was the original Clynelish distillery.) It is a very nice example of a northern Highland whisky, and expresses a great balance between sweetness and brine, youth and maturity. However, I would have liked to have seen it bottled at a higher strength.
Gordon & MacPhail (distilled at Brora), 24 year old, 1982 vintage, 43%
Single Malt Scotch | $250.00
Quite fresh for 24 years old. Invigorating notes of brine, spice (especially pepper and mustard seed), tropical fruit, and vanilla malt, and an appetizing, lingering brine finish. Well-rounded, and a nice balance between youthful zing and maturity. My only wish is to see this bottled at a higher strength and not chill-filtered