New 40 Year Old Brora Scotch Whisky Unleashed By Diageo - The Whiskey Wash

New 40 Year Old Brora Scotch Whisky Unleashed By Diageo

By Nino Marchetti / August 16, 2019

The old Brora distillery in Scotland, until recently, was part of the so called silent distilleries that were closed over the course of history in this segment of the whisk(e)y world. Brora, founded in 1819 on the windswept Sutherland coast in northeast Scotland, was closed in 1983, with only occasional releases by owner Diageo from dwindling older whisky supplies. A movement is afoot now to bring Brora back to full functioning life by 2020 and, in celebration of the distillery’s two centuries of being around, Diageo has tapped some of that older stock for a new limited release.

The new Brora 40 Year Old, according to those behind it, is one of the oldest ever official releases to come from this distillery. It is drawn from 12 select American oak hogshead casks chosen by Diageo Master Blender Dr Craig Wilson. These casks were laid down back in 1978 and, interestingly, Wilson worked alongside the Diageo Archive Team that had unearthed original Brora production records as part of their ongoing work to assist in the distillery restoration.  This allowed the master blender to identify the years at which a now “revered smoky style of Brora” was at its peak; thus you have here a whisky influenced by peat smoking.

“Of all the stories of Brora,” said Wilson in a prepared statement, “there is one that seemed particularly fitting to tell on its 200th Anniversary. From 1969-83, there was a new experimentation phase in production and the Brora distillers created a smoky malt used heavily-peated Northern Highland barley. Used primarily in blends at the time, the few casks that are left from this Age of Peat, matured remarkably well and what remains is a multi-layered and complex Single Malt of astonishing quality. Little did the craftsmen at the time know, they had created a masterpiece.

Brora 40 Year Old

Brora 40 Year Old (image via Diageo)

“It is emblematic of the varied past of the distillery that makes it so special to all that know it: a humble story of experimentation, craft and happy coincidence.”

A total of 1,819 bottles are being released of the Brora 40 Year Old, each pricing at £4,500 (around $5,425 USD) and bottled at a cask strength of 49.2% ABV. Each bottle is adorned with the Brora emblem of the Scottish Wild Cat – the crest of the distillery’s founder, the Duke of Sutherland, and also is encased in a deep burgundy velvet display case. You’ll find some official tasting notes below for your consideration.

    • Appearance: Clear amber. Fine long beading. Good viscosity 
    • Nose: Cautious, with slight pickle at first, then sweet, smoky-peat wafts of treacle toffee, smoke with iodine. Rich, sweet fruit. Ripe figs. Raisins. Fire and brimstone. With water, hessian sacking, fine tweed, notes of the warehouse; all lightly harmonious, with elements of land, sea and sky. 
    • Body: Medium, smooth. 
    • Palate: An exquisitely smooth, lightly waxy texture and a powerful, rich, darkly sweet, savoury then finally smoky taste, with great balance, length and persistence. Richly winey and fruity throughout, with dried figs and dates. Spiciness and growing smoky warmth; white pepper. Best straight but also deliciously drinkable with a dash of water, which adds to the sweetness and brings up a minty note; suggesting mint imperials, whilst dialling back the darker character. All this is still underpinned by a smokiness that is also held more in check but still very much present. 
    • Finish: Long, rich and sweetly warming, with more white pepper, subsiding to leave a lightly smoky aftertaste. With water, much sweeter and more mint-cool, and at the very end lightly drying.