March 10, 2015

1977 Brora 35 Year - Oh Yeah We WENT THERE

experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person.
"I could glean vicarious pleasure from the struggles of my imaginary film friends"

You have two choices at this moment: A) Go spend $1,000 on a bottle of scotch (that's $83/glass or $40/ounce) and sip it slowly while you cry yourself to sleep or... B) Live vicariously through us. Unless you wear a toupee that resembles a blond hyena and write your name in gold letters on the sides of buildings, we recommend the latter.

Yes that's right, beasties, it's time for another unicorn bottle.  Today's selection is Brora 1977 35-Year.  If you know scotch, you've heard the legend that is Brora, though chances are you've never tasted it.  Brora is perhaps the most coveted of malt whisky, being one of the most prized brands that has been closed since the early 1980's, it's getting more and more impossible to acquire.  Along with Port Ellen and Karuizawa, these are some of the most collectible bottles in the world.

Clynelish Distillery

Clynelish Distillery, 1968 - Brora, Sutherland, Scottish Highlands

Our Donald Trump reference above wasn't entirely without purpose.  In nineteenth century Scotland, the most notorious land owner and deal maker was one Mr. Levenson-Gower, aka The Marquis of Stafford, aka the Duke of Sutherland.  He was famous for the "Highland Clearances", which were basically large scale robbery of the lands of more than fifteen thousand local farmers in order to create the first modern day industrial farming.  In this case, sheep.

Aside from sheep the Marquis owned vast plains of barley, which local moonshiners had used to distill spirits for a few hundred years.  The Marquis had a brilliant plan to kill two birds with one stone.  In the early eighteen hundreds he founded the Clynelish Distillery - a way to monetize his stocks of barley while simultaneously putting the moonshiners out of business by being the only licensed spirit producer in the region.  Clynelish built a name for itself by being very exclusive, only selling to private customers and not supplying it's stock for blends.


The Clynelish Disillery changed hands many times over the next hundred and fifty years but eventually ended up in the hands of Distillers Company Ltd.  DCL built a new distillery in the late 1960's named, creatively, "Clynelish B", but to avoid confusion they changed the name of Clynelish A to "Brora".

Around this time there was a drought in Islay and so major brands like Johnnie Walker were seeking contracts for peated whisky to mix into their blends.  Brora started producing a peated malt and became one of the main suppliers. Sadly in the 1980's the market had another shift.  The drought in Islay was over and the market for whisky was in decline, so Brora was mothballed never to reopen.  Well, evidently they were doing something right with those peated batches because when Diageo stopped using Brora for blends and started releasing it as a single malt, it quickly became a massive cult favorite.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  Wow this one is very complex and unmistakable.  It starts off with salty sea air and light smoke.  Then there's a lot of apple cider and lemon cake.  The sweetness takes over with dripping honey.  Then we get the oak and leather.  It all sort of comes together into a lovely perfume.   It lives in the middle place between Islay, Highland, and Spey, we've given it ten minutes to open up, spent five more nosing it, and are now simply dying to take a sip.

Palate:  On the tongue it's sweet and nutty.  Lots of citrus, like hard lemon candies.  The apple cider is back in a big way.  Apricots.  Coconut.  There's some nice oily texture and it's a front of the tongue sweet fruity palate.

Finish:  Back to the smoke and iodine on the finish.  It's really surprisingly smoky and leaves a nice little spirit burn on the back of the throat.


Ok first of all we'd drink this all day.  It's rich and nutty and sweet and smoky and a lot of good things.  And all the good things magnify the goodness and integrate together magically. BUT, it's tough to imagine spending a thousand dollars on this bottle. Ok, granted, it's tough to imagine spending a thousand bucks on any bottle. But there are some that we feel are forgivable. Some vintage ryes that will never exist again, some old Stitzel-Weller bourbon, a vintage Lagavulin or Port Ellen. But this one, dunno, it just doesn't make our list. It's great, but it's not life-changing. It's delicate and, we hate to say it, but it's a little bit forgettable.  We hate to sound unimaginably jaded here...  If this was a $200 bottle we'd be nutzo for it. But for this outrageous exclusivity, forgetting for a moment that it's a piece of history, there are bolder flavors that hold more of a place in our whiskey bucket list.

Have you tasted Brora? What are your thoughts? Does it burn a hole in your soul and leave you craving more? Let us know.      Cheers/SB


  1. Love the blog. Lots of good info here. I’m a big fan of whiskey as well as coffee. So I started sourcing and aging beans in whiskey barrels. Now I can get the nice finish of whiskey anytime! Would you be interesting in reviewing our coffee beans for your readers? I can get some free samples out to you. Let me know. Great site!

    1. Hi John,

      Let's get this straight, you age coffee beans in whiskey barrels? Well duh we definitely need to try that!

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