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This was another sample that I was able to obtain from whiskysamples. I had passed on this bottle at Binny’s back in 2010 . . . and I have agonized over that decision ever since. I really thought I was saving up for an earlier release of Brora . . . which never really happened. Oh well. So for my Brora tasting in April I was delighted to put this sample up against five other bottles from this mythic distillery: 25yo (2008), 30yo’s (2005, 2007, 2009), 32yo (2011), and a 21yo Old Malt Cask bottled in 2002. I was really excited to try the 2007 against the 2005 with the 21yo OMC as a known reference point. I ended up having a large enough sample from this bottle to try it on two occasions. The second occasion I put it up against the Flaming Heart 4th Ed, Talisker 25yo (2005), Ardbeg Uigeadail, and Ardbeg Supernova SN2010. This review represents both tastings.
Very deep, muddy, and farm animal-ish (horses, goats, sheep and rabbits). There is plenty of peat here . . . but it is very mellow. Maybe a 5 or 6 out of 10. Still, the peat is very deep with tar, diesel, and mineral. I can see how people might mistake old peated Brora for old Ardbeg! However, there is a very distinct “different” tone from the Islay monster – so maybe more like Talisker? There is fruit (oranges, apples and persimmons, with a hint of strawberries) mixed in with mud, oak and farm animals. This is the nose of “brown.” I can only call this other note “mustard.” It isn’t like yellow mustard, but ground mustard seed. The peat is a magical dark black substance that has tons of muscle at 30 years. Now iodine, wax and hints of sulpher (the kind I love). A magical nose to be certain, but it doesn’t have quite the unbridled farmyard (“animal manure”) like I get in the 2005 Brora and the 21yo OMC. It is slighty more subdued than either the 2005 Brora 30yo or the 21yo OMC. This has a very mild and mellow sweetness to it that is nice.
With water: more of the animal farm and mustard Brora tone. Still great . . . but even more subdued. I am not sure if water is worth it. I also compared this to my Talisker 25yo from 2005 with an ABV of only 1.5% more. And this Brora had way less attack on the nose – and water only subdues it more. This is like an all mahogany guitar: very little cut; all warmth.
Sweet peat like Ardbeg (without being so sweet). This is big powerful and searing like an Islay should be. Huge “Brora mustard” in the mouth. However, this is all midrange compared with the high and low tones of Ardbeg. That mustard tone is so alluring . . . and the peat is a delight.
With water: Lovely sexy mouth feel: heaps of that mustard Brora thing. It is both sharp and powerful even with a good bit of water – takes water well on the palate.
Medium large wave of iodine, salt, peat, fire and ocean. This has all that you expect from one of the Big Three on Islay at 30 years. The only difference is that it has a distinctive note of that Brora-mustard-tone.
With water: Even more of that mustard Brora tone. A good heap of peat tinge (smoke and fire). However the dominant tone is mustard . . . now some oak is appearing. The oak is a little strong but not bad. A very fine finish with water, but not amazing. I think a better finish is had without water. It is a little on the short side for tonight’s line up. I believe that Jim Murray criticized this bottle for having too much oak. I really didn’t get that much oak until I added water, and while I didn’t find it that bad it was apparent.
This has tons of complexity and muscle for a 30yo. The deep peat and diesel really add to the minerality, fruit, wax, and mustard tone that is standard Brora. The uniqueness of Brora’s animal stable and mustard is a sheer delight. It is hard to dislike this whisky. Is this a stand out example of Brora? Not quite. It is a bit subdued for 55.7%, and I can see why Jim Murray hates on it for having too much oak (but I don’t think there is too much). I might go so far as to call this a good example of the “classic Brora” taste. The only thing that might be missed is the “full farmyard effect” which isn’t found in all Broras.
Love the 30yo, the ABV, the name. Hate Diageo, and the style of the bottle could be a bit more classy. For a 30yo this could have been done better (like the Talisker or Lagavulin style). Still, for what it is it is fantastic. I would pay $300 for this bottle . . . but I would not pay the going prices these days.
This was a really great bottle. It isn’t my favorite Brora. But I think it is a great example of a 30yo a Brora. If you love this there are bigger examples of peat, farm, and complexity out there. If you don’t like it . . . you won’t like Brora. It has fantastic complexity and balance. You get the wax, fruit, farmyard, peat, and the Brora-mustard-tone. However, it is all subdued by 30 years in casks. So nothing really overpowers. In the line up with other Broras it came in third behind the 30yo from 2005 and the 21yo Old Malt Cask. That night I scored this bottle a 95.5! However, in the second line up I enjoyed the Talisker 25yo from 2005 more. And both bottles finished behind a good batch of Ardbeg Uigeadail and the Supernova SN2010. On that night I scored this Brora a 92.5. It is true . . . I am an Ardnut. In my book it proves to me that as amazing as Brora is . . . I honestly prefer a good bottle of Uigeadail most days of the week. I absolutely regret not picking up a bottle when it was $300. However, there is no way I would shell out $800-$1000 for this bottle. In some ways the first tasting was more “objective” while the second tasting was more about me putting this bottle up against bottles I already knew I liked. This is all just my own personal opinion. I make no claim to objectivity; I am an unashamed peat freak.
as an average from the two tastings of 95.5 and 92.5