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Old Malt Cask Brora 21 YO 1981

Sanctum Sanctorum: Nock on Wood

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@VictorReview by @Victor

2nd Jan 2016


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I have never worshipped at the altars of either Brora or Clynelish, however, when a whisky is outstanding, it deserves to receive its due. Among the 50+ whiskies belonging to @Nock which I have sampled, and which I do not own, this is my favourite. This Old Malt Cask expression of Brora was matured in sherry oak

Colour: this is very light in colour, so I assume that those 21 years were spent in 3rd fill or greater oak casks

Nose: penetrating sharp grassy barley edged with a hint of clover honey. Medium intensity gentle peat is present which combines both sweet and bitter elements. Light sherry wine aromas present mostly as the backdrop. 21 years of oak influence is there, but is discreet and integrated. Water added brings out more peat, wine, and raises the pitch of the sweetness. Score: 21.5/25 points

Taste: full, lush, and delicious. this is rich in sweetness, but that sweetness is excellently balanced by tart-sourness and a little bitterness. The barley remains the main theme, though the peat flavours are quite obvious and strong on the palate. Water added merges the flavours together and emphasises peat and wine over barley. Score: 24.5/25 points

Finish: superb. This whisky maintains the old classic first-tier 1981 barley flavours in a crystal clear and vibrant long and strong finish. Peat remains strong throughout the finish. Water added further emphasises peat flavours on the finish. I prefer the palate and finish without water added. Score: 24/25 points

Balance: good to very good balance in the nose; fabulous balance thereafter. Score: 23.5/25 points

Total Sequential Score: 93.5 points

Strength: medium intensity flavours in the nose; strong flavours thereafter. Score: 23/25 points

Quality: about as good as it gets, in all components. Score: 24/25 points

Variety: plenty of variety of flavours. Score: 23.5/25 points

Harmony: very good to excellent harmony of the flavours. Score: 23.5/25 points

Total Non-Sequential Score: 94 points

This is great whisky. I've had this sample for about 2 years now. I might have reviewed this a point or two higher when I first tasted it. I decided to indulge in polishing off this cherished sample today to commemorate today as my 'big sister's' 73rd birthday

Thanks @Nock! And I hope to see you again soon

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Pierre_W commented

Many thanks for sharing this great review, @Victor! I, sadly, have never had the opportunity yet to sample Brora, but am I right in assuming that a maturation in ex-sherry casks was the exception with Brora rather than the rule? As for the overall review I feel tempted to say that so far I have not come across an Old Malt Cask bottling that would have disappointed me.

5 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Pierre-W, thanks for joining in and for your kind words. I am no authority on Brora, but to the best of my knowledge sherry cask expressions of it would have been less common than would the expressions strictly using bourbon wood.

The only other Brora I have sampled has been the 2009 30 year old. To date, I prefer this one to that one, but I have only sampled the 2009 once, and I still have a large sealed sample bottle of it from a friend to one day investigate with much more leisure.

That is useful information to me that you have had good experiences with the Old Malt Cask bottlings. Thank you.

5 years ago 0

Nock commented

@Victor, I am delighted to finally read your personal review! And I am very glad you enjoy the whisky. For me this is a whisky that can really divide people. It is one I keep coming back to and wondering if it is as good as I think it is. The simple truth is that it is a whisky I just want to drink. I agree that the balance on the taste and finish far out do the slightly disjointed nose. However, it is the nose that keeps me interested in what is going on. For me the nose never seems to resolve.

@Pierre_W My understanding (and guess) is that the wood used for Brora was mostly the dregs. It was always intended for blending in the Walker range. They also were only distilling Brora from 1969 until 1983 which was the height of the whisky glut. No one wanted the stuff, and almost no one cared about it. The few official releases of Brora almost always include a mixture of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Many of the independent bottles of Brora typically seem to be in ex-sherry casks/hogsheads/butts. However, very few are "sherry monsters" out there. I hear the heavily sherried stuff from the early 1970's is fantastic while the heavily sherried Brora's from 1980's typically have sulfur taint to them - again evidence that no one cared about the casks the liquid was going into.

I think that @Victor is correct about this being a 3rd fill sherry cask (not butt) because there were only 360 bottles were produced.

Fear not @Victor, one day I will open another bottle of this precious liquid and we will drink it together!

5 years ago 0

Robert99 commented

@Victor great review, again! It seems like a great one but I am a bit like Pierre_W, it doesn't sound like a Brora to me. Did you get any sea salt or exotic fruits? Brora is a Mythic Distillery that I dream about but didn't get the chance to explore yet. I hope the day will come when...

5 years ago 0

MaltActivist commented

@Victor Great review, old friend.

I've managed to write about a couple of them and maybe drank another couple. Of the lot my favorite is the 2010 release of the 30 year old. Very crisp flavors. I had a 1981 Signatory which was quite unusual.

The only reason I want to drink as many of them is find out what the fuss is all about.

@Nock Wait for me to open up your next bottle please!

5 years ago 0

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