A Brora for the Ages – Silent Distilleries III

The Brora was the only peated whisky in the Gone But Never Forgotten tasting, and was the anchor against which all other whiskies were nosed. Diageo’s Colin Dunn is not one to do things by the book, and his tastings leap all over the place between the whiskies in the glasses. There’s method to the madness, mind you, with a point being made with every leap. And thus, we found ourselves comparing the strange Glenesk (see here) with the very distinctive Brora.

Clynelish-Brora Employees Photo Credit: Diageo

Clynelish-Brora Employees
Photo Credit: Diageo

Brora was also different not only because it was the only peated whisky, but also due to the fact that it is the only closed distillery, alongside Port Ellen which wasn’t represented in this tasting, that is regularly bottled in the Special Releases, and is now on its 14th annual release (15th for Port Ellen). By far, these two distilleries dominate the silent distilleries scene, and at least as far as Port Ellen goes, stocks are nowhere near depletion. There’s a lot less Brora around, and yet every year a new release appears 🙂

Brora in 1930 Photo Credit: Diageo

Brora in 1930
Photo Credit: Diageo

Brora was the old Clynelish distillery, mothballed after a new distillery was built across the road to increase Clynelish’s capacity. The old distillery, first named Clynelish II, was pressed back into service in 1969 after a drought on Islay caused a shortage of peated whisky for the Johnny Walker blends, and until 1973 Brora produced a heavily peated whisky, switching to a much lighter peat style for the next decade. Unlike most of the lost distilleries, Brora’s stills, receivers and spirit safe remain on site, so once stocks are depleted, Brora could theoretically be up and running once again.

Clynelish/Brora in the 1930s Photo Credit: Diageo

Clynelish/Brora in the 1930s
Photo Credit: Diageo

The expression tasted at the masterclass was the 2010 release of a 30 year old bottled at cask strength. This expression is considered to be one of the most classic Broras you’ll find, with a very strong waxiness and a lighter hand on the peat.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Brora 30 Year Old, 2010 Special Releases, 3000 Bottles (54.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Dull dark Gold, very slow legs with a lot of residue in the glass.

Nose: The wax hits you right away, then honey and flowers. Almost no peat on the nose, then it increases gradually. Vegetal notes of fresh green leaves, and a shortbread, which is quite distinct.

Palate: The palate on this expression delivers exactly what the nose promised with wax, much more peat than the nose suggested, a perfumy-flowery note, honey, a shortbread and a concentrated sweetness on the tongue.

Linger: Extremely long with spice down the gullet and dryness on the tongue. The waxiness permeates leaving the mouth, well, waxy…


I honestly haven’t had enough of the post Rare Malt Selection official releases to actually comment on how iconic this specific expression is. I can say that it’s good. You wouldn’t confuse it with anything else in a blind tasting.

I often wonder what the stills at today’s Clynelish would produce if fed peated wash….

The pictures from the Diageo archives were provided by Colin Dunn, who led this outstanding masterclass. Thanks, Colin!

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