Friday, 12 August 2011

The Lost Distilleries Chapter 1: Brora

Rarity comes in many forms: Anne Widdecombe’s sex appeal, the skeletons still in Ryan Giggs' closet and Boris Johnson’s self-awareness. Rarity in whisky is often synonymous with collecting, a divisive trait among whisky lovers. To collect or to taste, that is the question? The compromise of course is both but - alas, few of us can afford such a luxury. My approach has been to collect tastings. I try to add as many new whiskies to my collection of tasting notes and this way at least I don't have to invest in a cellar. Even better for me is that there are more whiskies than I could possibly taste. The Benriachs, Longmorns and Tullibardines still elude me, as do many others. Hence it has become my noble quest to taste as much of the whisky that this planet can provide for me. However, I couldn't just set about this quest, this mission, this journey without adequate preparation and planning. There have to be priorities. Some whiskies knocking around today may not be in ten, fifteen, twenty years and at least if they are, they are going to be rather pricey and probably locked and bolted in someone's vault. Although I am sure I am capable of an Ocean's 11-style heist to free such whiskies from the dastardly collectors, I have neither the will nor the want.

Brora Distillery
So my priorities are the whiskies of the Lost Distilleries. These distilleries fall into a tragic chapter of the Scottish whisky saga. In the eighties thanks to the damn economy (déjà vu anyone?), many distilleries had to be closed. The reason was often because the distillery didn't contribute to a major blend or didn't have the tourist appeal of another (Rosebank being a good example here). So this led to perfectly good or dare I say it perfect whisky falling out of production. Port Ellen, Rosebank and Brora are just a few examples of these. Of course 30 years down the line, some of the better whiskies have aged rather nicely and have become very popular indeed, hence their rarity. Brora is the one that became my initial target, as I had already tasted Port Ellen thanks to my girlfriend's vain fixation with her namesake. Then came the day that I had the opportunity to help host a fine and rare tasting, and top of the list was Brora - and I would not be disappointed.

Brora 30 Year Old
54.3% - Bottled 2010 - Distillery Release

Nose: Tobacco and chlorine intermingle first with light peat following. Caramel and treacle then take to the stage with phenol dancing in the background. Next raspberry and fruit compote enter stage left with an encore of nettle.
Palate: The smoky embers of a beach-side fire provides structure whilst there are layers of flavour including white pepper, roasted peaches held together with a slight acidity.
Finish: Soft and creamy with dry sherry wood and peach. The finish continues in waves, softness then fruit comfit recurring.
Overall: An enthusiast’s malt, complex and intriguing. Rare and collectable it may be, but this is a whisky for drinking. Now where are the dregs of that bottle?

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