Brora 1978 13th Release 48.6%

35 Year Old Diageo Special Release

All of my recent Clynelish reviews have lead up to this last and final dram. Brora 35. Distilled in 1978 and bottled in 2014. A rare and coveted bottle of a long since closed distillery. One of those bottles you cannot pass up the opportunity to try especially at retail cost.

I tried not to let hype determine the outcome and tempered my expectations. This is the oldest single malt that I’ve tried to date and a dram I’ve really been looking forward to.

Tasting Notes

On the recommendation of many, I sat with this uncapped for a very long time. I nosed it over the course of an hour before taking that first sip. I ended up adding ~10 drops of water throughout my nearly hour and a half long tasting. A burnished and deep copper color that glimmers in the light, with medium to thick legs.

One simple descriptor for the nose: “Rich”. It’s like walking into an old hunting lodge with a decades old, well worn leather smoking chair. Oiled leather and pipe tobacco. A hand-me-down weathered baseball mitt in a musty garage. Damp forest floor. Moss, sage, rosemary, and pine sap. Cigars. Pecans, corn syrup, vanilla. Almond cookies. Seasoned cast iron frying pan. Figs, dried cherries, currents. Water brings out a bit more fruit and a lot more sweetness to the nose with added notes of nectarines and pie crust.

I couldn’t help but take a quick nip after I poured. It was very bitter. Like Pappy 23 bitter oak extract. I added a couple drops of water and let it rest. Water absolutely was needed despite the proof. While there’s still some bitter and earthy walnuts, there’s now much more variety. Long beach grass and seaweed. Some angostura herbal qualities and expected bitterness. Tobacco leaves. Root vegetables. Grapefruit oil. Limited baking spices of peppercorn and clove. I expected much more fruit given the nose, but some savory elements tied it in well with the palate.

The finish is like an oak and citrus tincture. Very much in line with previous tobacco and cigar flavors but some additional vanillins balance out the cask influences. The seaweed element on the palate also comes through on the finish with a hint of salinity. Seaside air, a seaweed salad with sesame oil. A long mellow finish. The bitterness is not astringent. It’s palatable in just the right, appreciative way.


This was an experience. As I’m not one to buy $1300 bottles, the purchase price for a pour was completely fair.

I think this is definitely one for the more tannic crowd. There’s a lot of barrel influence but water and air helps to coax out the more subtle flavors that the nose reveals. I rather enjoyed the citrus elements of this whisky. It’s honestly a more fun note than you would expect. The lack of cereal grains and malty flavors was a bit of a disappointment but perhaps the age lent more to this than anything.

The allure of Brora has now subsided. This will certainly go up there with some other outstanding whiskies I’ve tried. Not my favorite of all time, but a worthy dram to indulge my curiosity.