Brora 30yo (2009) 53.2% OB 8th Release 2652 bottles
This is a sample I picked up from Master of Malt. I have said it before, and will say it again: I don’t trust sample reviews. It is like trying to decide if you want to marry a girl based on one facebook picture. All it can really tell you is that you might want to ask her out. So take this opinion with a giant grain of salt. That said, I believe this review has some value because I was able to compare it with several other bottles/samples of Brora. Over the years I have been slowing saving up samples from different Brora bottles for my own personal Ultimate-Brora-Tasting. This April I had a whole afternoon and evening to myself . . . so I decided to compare and contrast five different official bottles (and one indy bottle) from this mythic distillery: 25yo (2008), 30yo’s (2005, 2007, 2009), 32yo (2011), and a 21yo Old Malt Cask bottled in 2002. I also used a recent bottle of Clynelish as a base/standard to kick off the tasting.
Very fruity on the front: peaches and pears, but not overly sweet. There is a little bit of malt and grass behind that. It reminds me a great deal of a Tomatin 25yo sitting in my case. Behind that fruit, grass, and malt lurks a hidden peat monster. It seems bruising, but it never comes into focus. Yup, whiffs of smoke are just beyond the horizon. This is intriguing, but not what I think of for Brora. However it is certainly recognizable as a Highland malt.
With time it is more to my liking. Still fruity, but with a deep undercurrent that has both body and a slight peaty tinge to it. Very clean, but dark, gentle and complex; delicate, but with some muscle. It is growing on me. I am getting a slight whiff of what I think of as the signature Brora smell – what I call the “Brora-mustard-tone.” With water: still very fruity but more citrus orange peel is able to emerge. Still only a hint of peat, but more smoke is noticeable.
Very fruity and acidic with tons of lemons and salt. Malty and fruity in a highland malt sort of way – nothing off. With water it isn’t so acidic but not much of a change in my enjoyment.
This is a big floral ending with very high fire tones mixed with salt. It does pack a bit of a kick (which I like), but the floral thing was totally unexpected. At the very end I am getting a hint of that “Brora-mustard-tone” coating I love. Not much change with water: it is still big and floral with the smallest possible peaty ending.
Very interesting complexity. There was quite a bit going on, but I would not have guessed it was 30 years old. I got very little wood (maybe a touch). It was rather complex and it was nicely balanced. However, the finish introduced a new element – floral – in a big way. The taste and finish caught me by surprise by the floral element and acidity. Far from my favorite Brora, but not bad for a highland malt.
I don’t love this bottle design . . . but I wish I owned any bottle from 2002-2007!!! What can you do? Anything that says “30 years old” is impressive. Anything that says Brora is even more impressive. This is an impressive bottle no matter what the liquid is like. And at cask strength this is delightful.
This is probably the least “Brora” of the official bottlings (alongside the 2010 release). I liked it, but it doesn’t have that “thing” that Brora can do well. However, it does have some family resemblances: there is peat and smoke – but you really have to hunt for it – and there is some “Brora-mustard” that seems to be a defining characteristic for this distillery. I would easily drink more, but I would never be tempted to pay for a bottle (even at the original list prices).
Thanks for reading! The best thing that I discovered in my six-Brora-tasting is that while it can be a fantastic single malt . . . I don't think it is worth the hype. I think I finally have the "Brora bug" out of my system. Don't get me wrong - I would buy more if I could! However, I don't think the bottles are worth the crazy prices that they are currently going for. I think there are still extremely good whiskies out there for (at the moment) reasonable prices.
I shoulda got a lil Brora-ette when they were still out there. Only one left now. Had a friend in Jolly Olde a few months ago. Missed my chance for him to bring it on back to my home town. Thanks for the insightful review, as always!