Thursday, February 28, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #259

Brora 20yo, 1982
Rare Malts Selection
Highland Single Malt Whisky
58.1% abv

We'll have a couple of closed distilleries to finish off this peaty week on the Malt Mission. Built by a real bastard whose exploits in a position of peerage made him the wealthiest man of the 19th century and his family one of the wealthiest landowning families in the UK, Clynelish/Brora has a complex and fascinating history.

Brora is the name of of the old Clynelish distillery once it began to produce spirit alongside the new Clynelish distillery from 1969-1983. When old Clynelish was closed in 1967 to build a more modern distillery just up the hill(which took the same name), there was a surge in the demand for peatier, Islay-style malts. Old Clynelish fired up her stills producing a peaty spirit(40ppm) under the name of the town where the distilleries were located, Brora.Times were good in the 1960s and 1970s for the whisky industry and by the late 1970s it was bursting with maturing stock. The increased production and investment had been miscalculated and the closures came quick and fast, especially with the bigger companies. DCL closed Brora in 1983 and the whisky world has indeed been the poorer since. Let us hope the recent investments based on market predictions in good times do not result in another whisky loch. I suppose one way the companies are ensuring this are the gradual price increases over the past year all across the industry. A small price to pay, I suppose, for greener distilleries and a secure future for the industry; we all just hope they aren't taking the piss by, I don't know, repackaging and charging 10-20% more for their entry-level bottlings...

The Duke of Sutherland, George Granville Leveson-Gower, took active part in the Highland Clearances between 1811-1820(quite late in the history of land-clearances in Britain), a territorial if not ethnic cleansing that began with the forced relocation of farmers to coastal settlements, to new lands(Canada, America, New Zealand) or indeed, into the sea itself (see just one tragic story here). All this was to make room for massive sheep farms, much more profitable than human crofters who could not be trusted to pay their rents nor pay them with their heads as sheep could.

While still the Marquess of Stafford, the prick eventually known as Duke of Sutherland built Clynelish Distillery on a farm in Brora as a way to ensure the use of excess grains and hence deter the farmers selling these excess grains to illicit distillers. This also guaranteed that rent was met, and if it still wasn't, off to Nova Scotia and in with the sheep!!!

This was the last Brora to appear in the Rare Malts range and was released in 2003. See all Clynelish/Brora had on the mission HERE.

* - this figure is my guess at the bottle's worth based on rarity, demand, and precedent and should not be taken as an absolute value.


Creamy and a bit sweaty, floral and oily with a typical bourbony sweetness. Abv is quite apparent.

Coal and peatsmoke, candied apple, apple-flavoured lollies, some spice and a chewing gum creamy sweetness. Strangely dense but light, like smoke.


Not the best Brora I have had, but who knows what sorts of casks they were filling in those final years of production? Pleasant but obviously edgy, like having lunch with an employee that knows you are about to make him/her redundant. A drop that grows on you and still has that special salty, oily, vanilla-ed creaminess that makes the Old Clynelish distillery one of the most missed of all of Scotland's lost distilleries.

Malt Mission #256
Malt Mission #257
Malt Mission #258
Malt Mission #260

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