One thousand. With this Brora, I’ve reached one thousand different whiskies tasted in my life, but I had drunk maybe 25 that I could remember before 2018. And in 2018, everything changed. I discovered the whisky community on Twitter, I discover the sample swaps, I discover the whisky auctions. I had maybe half a dozen bottles before 2018. By the end of 2018 I had about sixty, and I quickly passed a hundred. And with the few bottles I’m waiting the delivery of, I’ll have two hundred bottles at home. Of course this is without counting all the ones I killed these last years. And in 2019, I went to Scotland for the first time, for Spirit of Speyside, to celebrate my 40th birthday that happened earlier that year. I discovered the whisky festivals and the whisky shows, as it was also my first Whisky Live Paris. I celebrated my 500th whisky with my first Brora ever back in March 2020. A bit more than two years later, it’s time to get back to this distillery for my 1,000th whisky, with a Brora 1981 Signatory Vintage.
A Thousand Whiskies and a Thousand Thanks
Whisky is a dangerous, fascinating and expensive passion to have. Even though whisky is dangerous on so many levels (liver, partner tolerance, money spent), it allowed me to meet lots of people. Some of them became true, very dear friends. Some people I really enjoy talking with about whisky in an informal way. Other people I look up to as an amateur blogger. And most importantly, some people I’ve become friends with on a different and deeper level, people I immediately miss the second I hang up or leave them after a few drams in a whisky bar. Or even after pouring those drams with them at a whisky show. Or pouring them a few drams at that whisky show, depending on if they were on my side or the other side of the distillery booth!
Those people helped me on my whisky journey, and continuously do help me on this journey. By talking with them, I learn more and more about whisky. And there are always things to learn. Even those working in the industry for decades will tell you that.
To the whisky fabric, all this community on Twitter and other social networks (but mostly Twitter), thank you for making me discover so much. Sample swaps. Whisky auctions to procure some old bottlings. Blind tastings. Zoom tastings even are honestly a good thing, you don’t necessarily live in the right location to go to all the tastings that would interest you (I definitely don’t live in the right location but the family isn’t inclined to move to Scotland, strangely). And that you could spend completely stupid amounts of money on a single bottle sometimes!
Thanks to all of you, I went from knowing almost nothing about whisky in early 2018 to knowing a bit more (but still not much) four years later. I went from maybe 25 different whiskies tasted in my life to a thousand. I went from having half a dozen bottles to more than two hundred, in those last four years. So thank you!
So, dear whisky friends, and some of you who became friends ‘full stop’, thank you. I won’t name you all, the list would be too long, I’d probably have to write those thousand thanks and I don’t love you enough to bother, but anyway. A thousand thanks to you all for accompanying me on my whisky journey. I hope you’ll continue with me, and that more will join.
Now, enough teary mushy stuff, let’s crack on to what really brought you here. Then it’ll be time for me to continue my whisky journey towards the 2,000th dram!
Brora 1981 Signatory Vintage (2004) Review
This Brora was distilled on the 8th of December 1981 and filled into a sherry butt where it would spend a bit more than 22 years. The cask was bought by Signatory Vintage (I don’t know if it was their own cask they had filled with new make or an already maturing cask they bought – probably the latter) and bottled on the 6th of October 2004. They were so at cask strength (56.4% ABV), and without chill filtration nor colouring. Sold out everywhere, but you can still grab a sample at whiskyhuis.be.
Burnished. Small and close heads form after letting the whisky on the inner side of the glass, then they fall down slowly, leaving thin legs behind them.
Neat: The nose is reasonably intense. It starts on smoked dark berries, the sherry notes are quite marked, and I’d guess it was a refill oloroso sherry butt. However, even though the usual dried fruits (figs, dates) are here, the nose gives way more than that. Roasted pineapple and mentholated notes, but also leather and dusty books. Anise candy cane. The smoke is present without being overpowering, it’s gentle. The peat is more on the floral side, Brora having switched from Islay style peat to lighter Highland peat a few months earlier. Lovely petrichor notes as well.
With water: It’s more on peach, pineapple and blood oranges, and less mentholated.
Neat: the arrival is creamy, slightly dry, with a gentle heat and rich citrus and tropical fruits flavours. Passion fruits, orange zest, pineapple, hints of blueberries. Polished wood and its wax, blood oranges now, yuzu, the sherry notes are yet to be found. Then after some time, in the back, leather, raspberry soup, with some prickly spices on the sides of the tongue, and a nice espresso soft bitterness on the front.
With water: the sourness from the citrus fruits is slightly toned down, slight increase of wood bitterness, but more on raw wood than polished. Feels like the heat from the spices is a bit higher as well.
Smoked chocolate, polished wood, hints of oloroso, leather, and a fruit salad with all those mentioned above with a few apples added. Quite long.
On the nose, this is whisky perfect for all year long. Want something fresh for the summer? Check, the mentholated, anise and pineapple notes will deliver. Want something warm and sherried for the winter? Check, this too. Want a bit of smoke? Triple check, a delicate smokiness is delivered by the highland peat. Neat, the palate is a wee notch inferior to that beautiful nose. And with a few drops of water, I’d say the gap increases. I couldn’t play more with water as I did it on a second session with half a sample… split in two (neat vs with the pipette), but I’d say I preferred it neat. In any case, this is a splendid whisky. Not as incredible than the 9th release from 2010, but absolutely gorgeous nonetheless. Now, should I spend the budget of a very nice bottle on an additional 10 cl sample… choices, choices…
Thank you Shooter for the lead photography!