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Skip the intro if you have read this before: This is another sample I picked up from Master of Malt. I have said it before, and will say it again, that I don’t trust sample reviews. So take this opinion with a gigantic 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) 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 buttery on the front - rich European butter. Behind the butter you find strong highland fruity notes of pears and peaches, but with much more of an edge to it. It is like a dirty grass and hay farm with an edge of peat. Very interesting how the peat undergirds the hay and grass, which undergirds the fruit, which undergirds the butter . . . fascinating. Now I’m getting some ice cream (cookie dough) and some whipped cream. The smoke is much more prevalent in the background than the 30yo from 2009. This actually reminds me of the way smoke sits in the background of JW Black 12yo (a good bottle if you know what I mean). This 32 year old is both fresh and deep. Now I am getting biscuits and a bit of shortbread . . . and a slight whiff of that “Brora-mustard-tone.” As I plumb to the depth of this nose I get a strong melding of peat and mustard. I would call this a “well crafted Brora.” If this is what JW Blue label smelled like I would buy it by the case. It is a wonderful blend of fruit, malt, hay, wax, and grain on a bed of mustard peat. With time more peat and smoke are coming out. The single malt I am reminded the most of is not an old Islay, but old Talisker. I have a 25yo Talisker and these two whiskies are in the same ball park. With water: more smoke and peat, but also more waxy. Still complex and lovely. I think I’ll bump this score up.
Delicate dark fruit on the mouth. Gentle mouth feel with oranges, pears, peaches, apples, and melons. A hint of gentle peat. Water brings out the smoke and peat a bit more to balance all the fruit.
Nice warming intake of breath with a spreading wave of salt mustard fire (and a hint of peat). Now, leaving a very nice peat and mustard coating on the mouth. The fire has faded from the body of this malt, but the mouth is still on fire. Nice and delicate indeed. You can really tell the age on this one. Wow that salt is lasting for an age . . . With water: no change in score. It is still awesome, but not any better.
Very complex and well balanced. Everything is a very delicate dance of flavors that all serve to balance each other. Nothing really dominates except for the fruit on the tongue. This could almost have been crafted by the greatest blenders at Diageo because of how well everything plays together. Honestly, balance and complexity are not my thing . . . but if they were then this would be my malt.
I love the age (32yo) and I love the change of color on the label and the box. It looks more elegant and regal (closer to purple then brown). I also am amazed at the ABV for a 32 year old! Still, at nearly $800 I will most likely never own a bottle. However, awesome to have in your collection.
This was the Brora that surprised me the most. I expected it to be old, complex and refined (which it was). But I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. That said, I think older Talisker could easily substitute for this bottle. They are surprisingly similar in profile: buttery, fruity on the front; waxy, mineral, and malt in the middle; with peat, farm, and smoke on the back. Personally, I would pick up a few bottles of Talisker 25yo, and 30yo before I would spring for a bottle of this Brora. However, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating greatness.
Total = 92.25 in my book (but 92 here)