Each year I am brought out to The Feathers Pub, Toronto for my birthday. Some years multiple times. This year, just once, and that’s okay by me. Too much of a good thing and that.
When selecting a Highland, I have to say that, assuming money is not a concern, my typical question is: What Brora do they have?
Here again we see a distillery that is being reopened, and we ask the same question: Without the people who were there before, will it be the same?
Brora was popularized after it was closed. It was used as a secondary place to make peated whisky for blenders. It’s the original Clynelish, before Clynelish was Clynelish.
However the sheer amount of barrels that were allowed to sit about for long periods of times and picked about means that we ended up with yearly whiskies from Brora that have now hit legendary status.
So when 2020 comes around, and the first malts come out after that, what will the new Brora taste like? Will it be as good as the old one? Can it be? Or will it be something new?
And which Brora will it taste like? The heavily peated version made from 1969 to 1973, or the less peated version after 1973?
Most people don’t have the chance to try Broras. So today I add to my reviews of them with Brora 29 1971 Old Malt Cask Douglas Laing. This will be the oldest Brora I’ve had, and was made during the heavily peated years, that was used to make up for the shortage from Islay.
So let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Number of Bottles: 285
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Freshly cut cedar, dandelion, caramel, lime pie
Initial nose has kept it’s wood elements from the peat. This isn’t an oak smell; rather it’s that freshly cut wood smell.
Nice amount of floral elements here. I expected a little bit more though, given the age, and the peat.
Taste: Chocolate, brine, honey, grilled watermelon, Milles feuilles
We have a dram that has taken the peat and turned it to chocolate. Water brings out more pastry, like me having a panic attack (get it, I eat to deal with my stress! Isn’t that hilarious!)
It’s a bit too sweet on the taste, that all said. Balance is not going on here. It’s eating 4 courses of dessert, twice, with some fruit to avoid scurvy.
Finish: Maple syrup, mushroom, radish, purple donut filling, S’mores, violet
Finish is where it’s at. If the nose was missing something, and the taste wasn’t as complex or balanced, the finish brings in a Brora character.
Yes, purple donut filling. I stand by it. It’s showed up once or twice. It’s still insane.
Conclusion: There’s two different ways to view this whisky.
First, by itself. Imagine it was just a 29 year old peated Highland. And by that standard, it’s nice. An okay nose, a nice taste, and a good finish. Personally that how I took it.
Fans of the big, well picked over peated Broras though? They’ll be let down. And frankly it’s hard to live up to the legend that is Brora or Port Ellen at this point. It’s not developed enough on the nose. The taste is unbalanced. And the finish, while great, isn’t going to blow your mind.
I wish whomever is in charge of Brora all the luck making something new with that name on it moving forward. It’s not going to be easy.
Scotch review #825, Highland review #132, Whisky Network review #1336