The Magical History of the Great Brora Distillery

    The first sample is pleasing but experiments with various peat levels are still made, while the new and the old distilleries work in tandem. The distilleries are referred to as ‘Clynelish I’ for the new one, and ‘Clynelish II’ for the old one.

    In May, the output is finally regarded as indistinguishable from the output of the three Islay distilleries. Later on, D.C.L. starts to look for a new name and decides on Brora at a meeting of December 2.

    It is to be noted that both distilleries use and will always use the water from one and only source, piped from a weir on the Clynemilton Burn on the shoulder of Colbhein, a local hill (contrarily to what Jim Murray writes in his Complete Book of Whisky, i.e. that ‘Brora was peatier, perhaps because its water came from a different source’.)

    I never came across any single Brora distilled in 1969.

      Not much production apparently but Douglas Laing issued some excellent single casks bottled at cask strength in their ‘Platinum’ series. The 32yo 1970/2002 (58.40%, 297 bottles) is beautiful, bold and peaty, quite marked by the wood, with a salty finish. Quite Ardbegish, this one! (92 points). Douglas Laing also released a 34yo in 2004, which I still have to taste.
Plenty of other labels from the 1970's and 1980's here.
      Some excellent malts, again from the Laings'. For instance, a 28yo 1971 bottled in November 1999 (50%, Old Malt cask, 283 bottles) is very peaty and even rubbery, somewhat a la Port Ellen. (90 points).
    The old Clynelish distillery gives the world some stunning, heavily peated malt, never to be recreated to that extend of quality again, like the legendary 22yo issued in 1995 in United Distillers’ Rare Malts series, at different ABV’s.
For instance, the one bottled at 54.9% is just fabulous, on tangerines, peat and pepper (97 points), while the version at 61.1% is more lemony, yet just as peaty and peppery as it’s ‘lighter’ brother (96 points). There’s also been the recent 30yo OB ‘Limited Bottlings’, all extremely good (especially the one bottled in 2004 at 56.6% that I rated no less than 95 points), although no vintage is specified. I guess there’s a great, great deal of 1972’s in it. Gordon & MacPhail had many excellent casks ‘that stood the test of Elgin’, and which have been bottled each year from 1992 to 1997. The 1972/1993, for instance, is extremely refined and elegant, yet extremely peaty. Most possibly the best G&M ever in my book (93 points). Douglas Laing bottled some great ones too, especially a very austere, yet stellar 29yo 1972/2002 ‘Platinum’ (59.50%, 240 bottles) worth 93 points in my book, or a 30yo 1972/April 2002 (46.60%, Old Malt Cask, cask strength, 204 bottles for Germany) which I rated just the same.
And finally, there has also been two very heavily sherried ones bottled by Douglas Laing for PLOWED (The Broraggeddon) and for the Whiskyshop in 2003, both very good (95 and 88 points respectively). Quite funnily, the new Clynelish distillery makes some superb whisky in 1972 as well. A matter of planet alignment over Sutherlandshire?

    By July 1973 DCL has increased its production of Islay whiskies and there is no need to produce an Islay type whisky at Brora distillery anymore. The peat content of Brora malt is gradually reduced and the product slowly returns to that of a normal Highland distillery.

    I never saw any Brora from 1973 bottled as a single.

      ... Or early 1975: the old distillery is closed for rebuilding of the mash-house. There has been very few bottlings from 1974: a 27yo bottled in 2002 by Wilson & Morgan at 46% has a refined peat and is very maritime (89 points) while a 26yo 1974/April 2001 (50%, Old Malt Cask, 258 bottles) is very aromatic and grassy, peaty but already less than the 1970-1972’s.