I’m tasting the Brora 30 Year 2009 Special Release from Diageo via another 30 ml sample from whiskysamples.eu. I’ve been holding onto this sample for a few months until I got around to purchasing a bottle of Clynelish 14. Having seen other people refer to this 2009 release as being more Clynelish-like than previous 30 year old Broras, I wanted to see what that means. I have tried one other Brora before…a 21 year from Signatory. I like it, but don’t love it. Therefore, I’ve not been quite as anxious to get my hands on a Brora special release as I have been for the likes of Port Ellen, Talisker and Lagavulin. However, having now tried this expression, I realize that I SHOULD have been more anxious to try it.
Brora 30 Year (2009 Release); OB; 53.2%; 2652 BottlesNose: My very first impression is of butterscotch. With some time, it turns into a rich vanilla with oak and smoke. Also some mint. Possibly some fruit trying to break through, bringing peaches and creme to mind. Maybe I just “want” there to be fruit, though. A tiny bit farmy and medicinal during my comparisons to other malts. Palate: A great mouth coating. Very rich, yet gentle. I’m easily brought back to butterscotch here…with some peat and a late pepper entry. With more than this small sample to try, and additional tasting sessions, I could imagine the butterscotch coming across as juicy ripe fruits. Finish: Probably my favorite part of this one. The sweets and oak from the nose come back (oak more prominent than on the nose), but the light smoke is now clearly peaty. An earthy peat reminiscent of Talisker, but dialed way down.
What a wonderful whisky, showing obvious maturity and tons of subtle complexity. The rich butterscotch/vanilla and well controlled oak remind me of the Cragganmore 40 year I bought a while back (G&M Secret Stills 2.2). I’ve heard tales of oak taking over and ruining “old” whiskies, but that’s certainly not a problem here. I would love to have a bottle of the Brora 30 to pour a glass from at night and sit with over a long period, listening to classic jazz. Easily worth 90/91 points if I had more than a 30 ml sample to base my opinion on, so I’ll go with an A- letter rating.
I can’t fault the $400 price tag, as that’s not unusual for a 30 year ongoing releases, let alone one from a closed distillery like Brora. However, as good as this is, if I could pick just one 30 year old in this price range, it would be a stronger offering from the likes of Talisker or Lapharoaig. While the subtle peat in the Brora is exactly the kind I like, I felt like it was teasing me…urging me to seek out that characteristic in a fuller form. Of course, this is an entirely personal reaction.
I got a generous sample of a Signatory Brora 21 year from a friend a while back, and it surprised me with strong mint (as if mint has been infused into the whisky) and a sharp farmy quality. Comparing it side-by-side with this 30 year release, the 21 year isn’t nearly as sophisticated. I wonder if I would have noticed the light mint on the 30 year if I had never tasted this 21 year variant. Some folks would most likely prefer the more in your face nature of the Signatory 21 to the subtle charms of the Brora 30. If it was the peat that was turned up, I might bite, but with the mint and farmy qualities, I’m in the more subtle Brora 30 camp.
I also compared to Clynelish 14 (Clynelish being the active sister distillery to Brora). There certainly seem to be similarities in the underlying spirit. While the Brora struck me with butterscotch first, possibly turning to fruit later, the Clynelish seemed more fruity up front, but I could imagine some butterscotch there. I get a little bit of mint in the Clynelish as well. Clynelish has a little smoke, but lacks the earthy, Talisker-like peat that I got from the Brora (at least in side-by-side comparison). It’s no competition for the Brora 30, but the Clynelish is very nice for the price. I think a slight increase in peating level would do it wonders.
The guys that actually know what they’re talking about are saying this is a less “farmy” Brora than previous 30 year special releases. For me, this one has just the right amount of that particular trait. It sounds like the 2008 25 year and this 30 year are the ones for me (if I suddenly come into some money). Although, I’d love to taste one of the old, more peaty Brora releases (distilled in the early ’70s?).
- Whiskyfun – 91 points from Serge. More Clynelish and less Brora than previous bottlings, he says, but still excellent.
- Malt Advocate – John Hansell really digs this one, and comments on how well it holds up for its age. 93 points!
- WhiskyNotes – Just when I was wondering if the mint was all in my head, good ‘ol Ruben came through with a similar interpretation. 90 points, which means a lot coming from him!
- Whisky For Everyone – Tasted along side the other Diageo Special Releases, Matt and Karen also noted a butterscotch-like sweetness and really enjoyed this expression.
- caskstrength.net – Tasted along side the Talisker special releases, they went the citrus route, over my interpretation of butterscotch. Also stating that Springbank lovers should enjoy this Brora.
- The Whisky Exchange Blog – Perhaps a little closer to my butterscotch…here we get condensed milk and tinned pears. Tim prefers this year’s Brora over last year’s 25 year and the 2007 30 year.
- Whisky Whisky Whisky – Over on the W3 forums, butephoto praised the Brora 30. It sounds like he might have had a 30 ml sample like mine.