Here’s another review of a whisky from a closed distillery, this time Scottish, not Japanese. Or at least this distillery was closed when this whisky was released, and indeed until a couple of years ago. Brora, as you will recall, was revived by Diageo—along with Port Ellen—a few years ago. When I visited Clynelish briefly in 2018 work was already in progress on the zombie Brora plant; I’m not sure where things stand now—do write in below if you know. God knows what the spirit from zombie Brora will be like but I’m sure Diageo needs its cash cows to produce more milk—they must be close to running out of casks they can charge $3000 per bottle for. Of course, it’s going to take a long time for the new spirit to get to the age of the whisky I’m reviewing today, leave alone the age of the bottles that command the high prices. This is a very young 19 yo by Brora standards—most of its whisky was bottled at higher ages well after the distillery close. Then again, Diagep knows as well as I do that there are a lot of people with a lot of money to burn who just want to have bottles with Brora labels in their cabinets. I am not among them but I can tell you what this one is like.
Brora 19, 1981 (43%; Signatory; sherry butt 1082; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Mustard, coriander seed, slightly damp earth, sackcloth, lemon. Some mild peppery peat as well. On the second sniff there’s a big hit of brine and the lemon expands as well. Softens and gets a bit sweeter (vanilla) with time. A few drops of water and there’s more vanilla and the lemon turns to citronella. Gets quite (malt) biscuity as it sits.
Palate: Most of what’s on the nose, sans the lemon, but the texture and depth of flavour are both lacking. Not much sign of the sherry. With each sip the smoke seems stronger but it’s not very interesting on the whole: sort of like artificial smoke flavour and increasingly acrid and astringent. With more time still some orange peel begins to emerge and it begins to improve. Water is good for the palate as well, improving the texture and also making it less acrid on the whole.
Finish: Long. Surprisingly, the intensity builds on the finish but there’s not as much happening here: acrid smoke and paper (like licking an envelope). As on the palate with water.
Comments: The nose is very good but the palate is not so very good at first and then not very much more than decent with time and water. This I’m pretty sure is down to the 43% abv which seems to have blunted everything but the smoke (though, as often happens, adding a few more drops of water fixes some of the problems). A pleasant-enough whisky, on the whole, but if this were the only Brora you’d tried you might wonder what the fuss is all about.
Rating: 86 points.
Thanks to Steven R. for the sample!