I’ve actually been sitting on this review for a while now, primarily because I thought that it deserved a proper airing at an appropriate time. However, with Diageo stunning the whisky world with the announcement that both Brora and Port Ellen distilleries were to be reopened, that timetable got pushed up somewhat.
While Diageo intends to reopen both distilleries in 2020, the vast majority of us will probably have to wait until at least 2032 before we’re able to taste the first 12 Years Old expressions from both these resurrected distilleries.
Diageo did mention that they may put out some special editions along the way (most likely NAS), but their end goal was to establish a core range with an age statement, hence the long wait.
As we have previously delved into the history of Brora (and by extension, Clynelish), we will not revisit it and that information can be found here: Brora/Clynelish
This expression was distilled in 1981 (just 2 years before the distillery was closed and well after its “heavily peated” phase), matured for 24 years in a sherry cask before being bottled by independent bottler Ian MacLeod Distillers for their Chieftain’s range.
Interesting fact: The day after Diageo announced that they were intending to reopen both Brora and Port Ellen, Ian MacLeod announced that they had reached an agreement with Diageo to purchase the Rosebank trademark and some stock of maturing whisky, while they had separately agreed a deal to purchase the Rosebank site and buildings from Scottish Canals.
So, let’s jump right into the review!
Brora 1981 24 Years Old (Bottled by Chieftain’s, 46% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents lush red f.ruits coupled with mild peat and a certain coastal salinity. The sherry is medium-bodied and augments the fruity and waxy notes of the Brora rather well. A touch of iodine appears with time and the salinity morphs into a more pronounced sea salt note. Late hints of black pepper and camphor emerge to augment the nose further. (23/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents a rich a sweet palate which is redolent with the lush red fruits which have been detected on the nose. If one were to go further, they would be able to ascertain raisins, nectarines and apricots within the mix. Hints of cough medicine complement the salty peat, which is rather delicate in nature.
The peat does assert itself after some time and takes on an ashy note that brings some warmth to the fore. There is a hint of sweetness in the mix, but it is rather understated and prefers to linger in the background. (24/25)
Finish: Long and lingering on the finish and decidedly warming. The waxy notes that one would typically associate with a Brora/Clynelish does make an appearance towards the end and complements the red fruits and salty peat rather well. With time, the peat fades into the background, allowing for drying oak and some cinnamon to come to the fore. (22/25)
Balance: An exceptionally well-balanced dram which exhibits a great amount of complexity and sophistication. The sherry maturation has left an indelible mark on the remarkable base spirit and provides an amazing nosing and tasting experience. The mouthfeel is oily for the most part with the dryness taking over later on. (24/25)
Considering that this was my first experience with Brora, I must say that I was simply blown away. Ian MacLeod have bottled an exceptional sherried expression from this venerable closed (for now) distillery and the multi-faceted nature of this dram makes it stand out rather prominently.
This expression can be savoured at The Auld Alliance ($38++/15ml) and I would highly recommend it as there surely is only a bit left by this point, so get down there and give it a try asap!
Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.
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