Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Review / The Brora Triptych

This collection of three rare single malt whiskies are from the north Highland distillery of Brora, which has reopened today (May 19, 2021). The Brora Triptych is designed to celebrate the rebirth and renovation by looking back to the distillery's pre-closure days of the 1970s and early 1980s. The collection has been collated by Stewart Bowman, the Master Distiller for Brora, and Dr. Jim Beveridge, the Senior Blender for owners Diageo. They will only be sold as complete sets. 

The Brora Triptych is formed of the Timeless Original 38 years old, the Age of Peat 43 years old and the Elusive Legacy 48 years old - the oldest ever official release of Brora by Diageo. 

The Timeless Original was distilled in 1982 and has been matured in re-fill American oak casks. It is bottled at 47.5% ABV. The Age of Peat was distilled in 1977 and comes from a period when Brora was using heavily peated malt. It has been matured in re-fill American oak and European oak casks, and is bottled at 48.6% ABV. The Elusive Legacy was distilled in 1972 and matured in re-fill American oak and European oak casks. It is bottled at 42.8% ABV.  

The Brora distillery was founded in 1819 by The Marquis of Stafford and is located in the coastal north Highland village of Brora. It was originally named Clynelish and only became known as Brora in 1969. This was to avoid confusion with the new distillery built next door, which was also called Clynelish, and to differentiate it. However, it closed in March 1983 and many thought the distillery lost to whisky history.

The renovated Brora distillery is back after 38 years and looking fabulous.

That is until now. Today the first cask of new make spirit was filled at the distillery following a sympathetic three-year renovation. Cask #001 is the first for almost 40 years and will be matured in Warehouse No.1 at the distillery. The renovation by owners Diageo has seen their teams of archivists, whisky makers and blenders working together. Their aim is to produce single malt as if the doors of the distillery had closed yesterday, but utilising modern technology where appropriate.
The result is a distillery that will have an annual capacity of 800,000 in time - the same as the previous capacity of Brora. The renovation has seen the original stills refurbished and put back into operation, along with traditional production equipment such as wooden washbacks for fermentation and wormtub condensers for bringing the spirit vapour back to a liquid. Visits will be available by appointment only from July.
"When people walk into Brora distillery, we want them to feel a connection to the past; to be able to understand the history of the place and to understand why we have put the distillery back together in the way that we have. We can continue Brora's legacy for future generations."
Stewart Bowman - Master Distiller at Brora.

The Brora Triptych is presented in bespoke hand blown decanters designed by Glencairn Crystal and these are housed in a handcrafted wooden casket made from ash by esteemed cabinetmaker N. E. J Stevenson. The Brora Triptych will cost £30,000 ($41,200 US) and is available in luxury and specialist spirits retailers worldwide. There are just 300 sets.

Our tasting notes

Timeless Original 38 years old / 1982
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is packed with aromas of manuka honey and tropical fruits - think of mango and pineapple especially. Further aromas of cinnamon spice, scented candle wax and honeysuckle contibute to a heady experience.

On the palate this whisky has an intense fruity sweetness - imagine juicy and over ripe tropical fruits as on the nose, plus notes of golden syrup and heather honey. It has an oily and mouthcoating feel with a creamy texture. The juicy fruits give way to a delicate savoury quality and a hint of soft peat smoke, which was not detected on the nose. This has an ashy and slightly medicinal edge to it. Late notes of cocoa powder, waxy furniture polish, cigar wrapper leaf and apricot tart tatin add incredible depth. What a stunner.

Age of Peat 43 years old / 1977
The colour is deep gold and the nose is dark and brooding with smoky and earthy aromas. This comes from a time in the 1970s when Brora was using malted barley with a much higher peating level than usual. Golden syrup and blackcurrant cordial are also detected.

On the palate this whisky hits with a peachy and apricot-like fruitiness to begin with. The creamy mouth feel is accentuated by notes of vanilla custard and milk chocolate ganache with a hint of praline. Then comes the phenolic and ashy smoke, and this gives an earthy and slightly dusty feel. This dustiness is highlighted further by plenty of wood spice notes - this includes toasted oak, dried cinnamon stick and a pinch of white pepper. Hints of liquorice, fresh blackcurrant and ginseng root round things off.


Elusive Legacy 48 years old / 1972
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is earthy and complex, but with some delicious fruity aromas present - think of pineapple and mango combined with peach and apricot. An underlying gentle peat smoke drifts around everything, along with hints of aromatic baking spices and boiled fruit sweets.

On the palate this whisky has a creamy and buttery feel with distinct initial notes of candle wax and furniture polish. Notes of milk chocolate and those confected sweets then come through and are joined by vanilla pod, orange oil and hints of mint and menthol. Then comes the savoury notes - first the gentle peat smoke, then something reminiscent of an old cigar box and finally wood and baking spices. These include cedar and sandalwood with cinnamon and a hint of gingerbread. Refined and elegant.

What's the verdict?

To be part of Brora's virtual celebrations today - firstly as the inaugural cask was filled this morning and later during an exclusive tasting of the Brora Triptych with those that created it - has been a true privilege. The three whiskies are all exquisite and yet different from each other. It is almost impossible to choose a favourite. 
We, like most whisky drinkers, have only ever tasted older expressions of Brora due to the lack of production. It is going to be so interesting to see how the new spirit matures and tastes at a younger age. We may have to wait for some years before a new release comes to market. We wish Diageo and all those involved in the Diageo renovation project of Brora every success.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it worth the 30k?