There are two names that dominate discussion on old and rare whisky: Port Ellen and Brora. The former I will discuss tomorrow but it is Brora I want to address today. What is special about both of these whiskies is that they were closed not because they were producing bad whisky but because of the economic environment of the time. So what we are left with are two excellent whiskies, aged to perfection and with no more to ever be produced. This is a recipe for expensive whisky, and usually I am quite critical of expensive whisky. I believe for a whisky to push the £150 barrier, it has to be able to justify itself. However with Port Ellen and Brora I can't even pretend they are unnecessarily expensive, they are top notch whisky, they aren't lavishly packaged and they are old (i.e. Warehouse costs). Worst of all, with depleting stocks they are soon to be extinct and this is very sad indeed.
Brora, for me, is a connoisseur's whisky. It has layers of flavour, some may not be to everyone's taste, but for anyone who wants to sit and consider a dram - this is the one. When I found out I was going to get to try this intricate malt again I was of course excited. In fact that's an understatement, I was whipping myself into an ecstatic frenzy of excitement, frothing at the mouth like a cappuccino machine, hallucinating glencairn glasses on the Tube, etc. Of course through all this anticipation, I thought it was going to taste similar to last year's release... I was very wrong. Last year's release had a tobacco and chlorine dominated nose, a smoky and peppery palate and a sherry forward finish (see here for this review). This Brora was very different, and I have to say... better. I have a preference for coastal malts and as soon as I tried this year's release I was immediately taken back to sampling Clynelish and Springbanks - whiskies I rate very highly. This Brora is a dram for drinking, not analysing to death. It is what a whisky should be, and I hate that it's collectable.
54.7% - 1,404 Individually Numbered Bottles
Nose: Coastal, reminds me of Clynelish and Springbank. Grape arrives first providing vitality and vibrancy. Next, smooth waves of oak smoke and a sprinkling of salt giving a mineral backdrop to this whisky. Finally sherbet lemon gives a sweeter character that mellows the nose into a cohesive whole.
Palate: I got a slight medicinal character (maritime?). The saltiness returns giving it a drying mouthfeel. The grape notes are still present but become more spicy and dense.
Finish: Infinitely long, mint holds the fort from here with smoke and a touch of pepper. Incredible.
Overall: Where last year's release may have had more complexity, this year's is carefully woven and satisfying, with the peat working more elegantly with the spirit. The aromas and flavours make me want to drink it and enjoy it. For me this is the mark of the best whiskies. Deserved of its high regard.