For a long time, we've been wanting to do a Brora-Clynelish meeting, tracing the distillery's split with rare expressions -- and after four years of legwork, we finally had the bottles to put it together.
For those not familiar with the history of Clynelish, it briefly goes like this: in 1819, the original Clynelish distillery was built in the Northern Highlands of Scotland. It operated sporadically until 1967, when a new distillery was built next door to satisfy increased demand. Confusingly, this new distillery took the name "Clynelish" and the old Clynelish distillery was renamed "Brora." Brora originally supplied Islay-style malt, but peating levels soon decreased and it permanently closed not much later in 1983.
Our idea was to take a "tasting tour" starting with a pre-Brora Clynelish, following through with other bottlings up through the closing of Brora. The lineup was:
1. Clynelish 12 yo, OB (Ainslie & Heilbron). The juice in this bottle was likely distilled around 1965 and prior, making this the closest thing to "original Clynelish" we could find.
2. Clynelish 22 yo, 1972, Rare Malts. This rare Rare Malts (sic) currently auctions for around $900.
3. Brora 21 yo, 1972, Connoiseurs Choice. This "old map label" bottle is highy-respected by some some well-known tasters.
4 & 5. Brora 26 yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1424, and Brora 25yo, 1981, Duncan Taylor Cask #1423. It was fun to see the differences between these sister casks, filled consecutively.
6. Clynelish 17 yo, 1981, Managers Dram. Generally considered the best of the "Managers Dram" series, which are not intended for the general public.
7. Brora 22 yo, 1982, Lombard Jewels of Scotland. John Hansell scored this at 95 points so it seemed a tasty choice to exhibit the end of an era.
8. Brora 30 yo, 1972, Old Malt Cask, "Brorageddon" for PLOWED. We wanted to finish with something we knew would be massive, and were lucky to score this legendary sherry monster bottled for PLOWED back in 2003. (Thanks Tim of Ardbegproject.com!)
The consensus was that most of these were great malts, and those that weren't were at least "interesting" in some sense. (Exception: Andy, our resident lowballer, professed mild distaste for... um... everything?). The Clynelish Managers Dram was a huge favorite, but the Brorageddon seemed to finally win the evening. Did we just start a new tradition when draining an exceptionally good bottle?