Brora 35 Years (1977)

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Distillery/Brand: Brora | Region: Highland | ABV: 49.9% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Brora. The elusive spirit that is fast becoming unobtainable for ordinary mortals like me. Each year Diageo unveils a Special Release of old stock Brora lying around at a price which, if my only child was kidnapped, I would be unable to pay the equivalent amount in ransom.

But that’s OK. If that’s where the industry is headed then so be it. I’ll simply contend my self with a 3cl sample just to satisfy my curiosity.

Not because I’m curious to see what it is that costs so much but that I genuinely like a Brora. Not that I’ve drunk a truckload of them but when ever I’ve drunk one I’ve enjoyed it. I think the flavor profile is truly original.

I have an unopened 30 year old bottled in 2010 which looks very tasty. But given where the prices are going I might hold on to that for a while. Let’s see.

So the dram in my hand is part of the famed 2013 Special Release from Diageo. The 35 year old spirit was distilled in 1977 and is a mix of re-fill American and European oak. It is bottled at a cask strength of 49.9%. I suspect another 10 years and it would not have remained whisky any longer.

Nose: Mild peat. Perfumed wood. White grapes. Pears. Berries. Chenin Blanc. Jute bag. Clove. Rice husk. Digestive biscuits. Green lime. Vanilla. Very strong nose. Stays assertive. Let this one breathe for as long as you like. It stays true and refuses to waiver. Quite remarkable even if not overly complex.

Palate: Quite sprightly. Burnt wood. Citrus. Butterscotch. Juicy apples. Pears. Stewed fruits. Berries. And that mild peat again. The medium bodied delivery is very nice. Quite juicy. Makes you salivate. There’s a hint of spice but that dissipates quickly amongst the fruit basket.

Finish: Long. Oily. Iodine. Hint of spice. White melon. Oak.

Once again this is a very tasty beverage. The 35 years have been manipulated quite expertly. There is not a wrong note any where. My only criticism would be that it’s not as complex as I would want it to be. But that’s OK.

Sometimes beauty lies in simplicity.

Rating: 91

Talisker 27 Years (1985)

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Distillery/Brand: Talisker | Region: Islands | ABV: 56.1% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Diageo has come up with this marketing gimmick designed to bankrupt the average whisky fan. It’s called the Special Release. Every year they release a series of expressions from their portfolio which are increasingly being priced beyond the realm of ridiculousness.

Sure there are a couple of average priced malts in there but by and large expect to take out a second mortgage if you’re planning to procure the lot.

The 2013 Special Release included, among others, a 35 year old Brora (£750), a 34 year old Port Ellen (£1500), a 37 year old Lagavulin (£1950) and this, the dram in my hand, a 27 year old Talisker distilled in 1985 priced at a reasonable £475.

Now I’m not the one to harp on about price because frankly this is a whisky review site and I feel I should stick to reviewing whiskies instead of prices. But I’d like to take a little exception here.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is quite a solid bit of craftsmanship; as you would expect from Talisker. Their Port Ruighe and Storm series notwithstanding this distillery knows it’s strong suit and plays it beautifully.

I refer to the lovely 10 year old, the 57 North, the 18 and the Distillers’ Edition. That means there is no way they were gonna screw this one up. I mean it’s been maturing for 27 years for peats sake. That’s a lot of equity to mess up.

Now this is where I have a problem. This tastes almost exactly like the 57 North or a high strength 18 or a slightly more sophisticated 10. I know I shouldn’t expect a radical new profile but paying close to £500 for something that tastes exactly like something that costs £80 can be a bit disappointing.

That being said this is a very nice single malt. Matured for 27 years in refill American Oak this has been bottled at a cask strength of 56.1%

Nose: Lime. Mild peat. Wisp of smoke. Black pepper. Hint of iodine. Mild chocolate. Understated ash. Cardboard. Wood shavings. Fresh grass. Coconut. Crisp citrusy aromas that stay on point.

Palate: Controlled lime. Lemon. White pepper. Black pepper. Chocolate. Nuts. Green apples. Pears. Crisp peat. Sugarcane. Raisins. Quite an intense delivery with the spices in full force. The sweetness takes a while to come through. Still quite nice though tends to taper towards a slight bitterness mid-palate.

Finish: Long. White pepper. Oily. Woody. Spices.

A very nice whisky which doesn’t seem like it emerged with even a bit of lethargy after 27 years in hibernation. Though, if you want to know what it tastes like I suggest grabbing a bottle of the 57 North.

Rating: 88