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Brora Scotch whisky distillery reopens after 38 years

The iconic ghost distillery relaunches with a £30,000 release of three bottles called Brora Triptych. Laura Foster reports, with full tasting notes

Among the list of Scotch distilleries that were closed during the whisky downturn of the 1980s, a handful have been mourned across the ensuing decades. Brora was one of that small number, known as ghost distilleries, whose whiskies became increasingly sought-after by connoisseurs.

In 2017 an original Brora single malt distilled in 1972 – the oldest official bottle of Brora at that time – was bought at auction by an unnamed buyer for £14,500.

So there was much jubilation when Diageo announced plans to restore the Highland distillery. Less than three years after that announcement, the first cask has just been filled, 38 years after Brora last closed its doors.

Master Distiller Stewart Bowman, who grew up in Brora and is the son of the last exciseman at the distillery, said: ‘In 1983 my father wrote in an old distillery ledger, “Commencement of Brora Distillery silent season (undetermined period)”. Growing up in the village we often wondered whether Brora would ever return, but today we filled the first cask,’ he added.

‘It is with great pride that I can now say to my father, the Brora community, and all the old hands that worked at Brora and helped to craft a legendary whisky, that the stills are alive and we are making Brora spirit once again.’

The restoration at Brora is part of a total £35 million investment by Diageo, which also includes plans to reopen Islay distillery Port Ellen in 2023.

Brora Triptych

Three bottles of Brora whisky called the Brora Triptych

To mark the reopening of Brora, a special release of three bottles called Brora Triptych has been created. It costs £30,000 and celebrates some of the distillery’s most iconic whisky styles.

Elusive Legacy is a 48-year-old distilled in 1972. It represents an earthy expression of Brora that was only made in very limited runs. Age of Peat is drawn from casks of 1977 whisky, a time when Brora was making smoky expressions to be used in blended Scotch. Finally, Timeless Original was distilled in 1982 and is a nod to the waxy character that made Brora famous.

Sold in a presentation case, Brora Triptych is a fitting celebration of a new chapter in the distillery’s eventful history.

Brora Triptych: tasting notes

Timeless Original, Distilled 1982

Celebrating the famously waxy style of Brora, this expression has a deliciously rich, fruity nose of orchard fruits and mangoes, candle wax, honeysuckle and apple blossom. The waxiness is present on the palate, coating the mouth. Apple slices, flapjack and fresh wood shavings are joined by a lick of smoke on the mid-palate, which is quickly joined by beer hops too. Alc 47.5%

The Age of Peat, Distilled 1977

Despite celebrating an era when the distillery increased the peat levels of its malted barley, this certainly is no peat monster. A beguiling nose of papaya, chamois leather, foam banana sweets, bandages, heather and a gentle smoke drifting on the breeze. Tasting reveals a dichotomy of a whisky – on the one hand soft and sweet, with heather honey and a touch of waxiness; and on the other delicious chewy notes of charcoal, creosote, sticky pine resin and a warming chilli heat. Alc 48.5%

Elusive Legacy, Distilled 1972

The oldest Brora expression ever released, this whisky celebrates the earthy style that Brora sometimes made at a time when it was used for blended whiskies. A distinctly granitic aroma is joined by notes of cheese rind, tack room, peppered biltong and ripe banana. The granite continues on the complex palate, accompanied by cigar box spice, coal, dried chilli flakes, cardamom and a whisper of salami on the finish. Alc 42.8%

£30,000/3 x 50cl, www.brora.com

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