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Advice: Brora or Port Ellen

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Advice: Brora or Port Ellen

Postby rthomson » Sat Oct 01, 2005 4:14 am

I'll be heading to Scotland in a week and, along with visiting friends, I'm looking to pick up a few choice single malts. Unfortunately my funds are not unlimited, however I think I might be willing to lay out a few more pounds for one special bottle. I just don't yet know what that special bottle is. What I've been reading and hearing is that both Brora and Port Ellen produced some great single malts and they both are becoming less and less available, thus I'll probably choose something from one of these distilleries. I know that there are several bottlings of both to choose from but if you had to choose only one (and I do) which one would you recommend buying. Both distilleries have received high marks so I'm uncertain which way to go. I don't have a firm cut off price for what I'll pay, and I'm sure that will change along with the number of drams in my system, but certainly a 200 pound bottle is way beyond my means. Thank you for any advice and recommendations. (If you want to recommend something other than a Port Ellen or Brora I'm open to all suggestions)

BTW - I should be at the Bow Bar on the evening of Oct. 9 if anyone will be in Edinburgh and would like to meet for a dram.

Ron
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Postby Frodo » Sat Oct 01, 2005 10:09 am

Tough choice Ron. I've heard great things about both malts. I've only had one Brora that was really nice but not worth $200 it sold for at the LCBO.

The only PE I've had was the 3rd release by Diego (24yr old CS) that was the best whisky I've ever had! I've been eyeing a 20yr old PE from D. Laing's platinum series, but $300 Cdn is a lot for a bottle - especially as I would be buying the bottle on faith!

As for anything else, I would be tempted to try a St. Magdalene malt. Also from a distillery no longer producing. Never tried one, but there has been enough opinions posted to get me interested...

That's my only contribution Ron. Good luck. Good choices BTW!
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Oct 01, 2005 10:44 am

Hey! I'll be in the Bow Bar October 9th, too! Let's have a dram!

Whichever you choose, I'd say go with a cask strength bottling--the Rare Malts ones I've had have been very good. You will probably get better value for a Brora, as there hasn't been quite so much hype around it.

I had a Douglas Laing OMC Brora in the Craig the other night, and it was profound. You may well have the chance to try a few different things in the Bow to help you make up your mind.
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Postby Aidan » Sat Oct 01, 2005 10:45 am

I think there are good and not as good Brora and Port Ellens. Just make sure you get a good one of either. The Port Ellen's I've tasted are beautiful. The Old Malt Cask Port Ellens are very nice and affordable.
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Postby Frodo » Sun Oct 02, 2005 6:05 am

Aidan wrote: The Old Malt Cask Port Ellens are very nice and affordable.


For Engineers and editors perhaps. For Social Workers it's more of a stretch...
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Postby Admiral » Tue Oct 04, 2005 4:31 am

I'd choose a Brora anyday.

The few Port Ellens I've tried (only three different ones in total, I'm afraid) were good and enjoyable whiskies, but - at the end of the day - they were just typical Islay malts. If you'd told me I was drinking Caol Ila or an older Bowmore, I'd have believed you.

Brora, on the other hand, is a bit more unique. It's wonderfully "Highland" in style, with beautiful coastal characteristics that, IMHO, are only found elsewhere in Clynelish (obviously), Talisker, and perhaps Highland Park. Whilst there's a hint of peat in there, the general complexity of Brora malts always amaze me.

If I was asked to describe Brora, I'd say, "Take the best elements of Speyside and stick them into a great Island malt like Highland Park."

I've had many Broras, and they've all been great.

And perhaps most importantly, as mentioned by others above, Brora doesn't quite attract the same ridiculous prices that PE bottlings do.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby kallaskander » Tue Oct 04, 2005 8:08 am

Hi there,

Brora (and Clynelish) is a great whisky. During her lifetime Brora experimented with peat levels. That means not all Brora is heavily peated. Some ain´t at all! The 20 year Rare Malt for example.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Admiral » Tue Oct 04, 2005 11:48 am

During her lifetime Brora experimented with peat levels.


There are a few different takes on this one.....

I was recently informed by a reliable source that United Distillers (Diageo now) accidentally stuffed up its malt distribution, and peated malt that was supposed to go to Lagavulin, Port Ellen and Caol Ila somehow found its way to Brora unintentionally.

By the time they realised, the whisky had been distilled and filled into cask! Any subsequent experimentation that occurred afterwards was apparently due to this mistake.

The other (more common) story is that when one or two of UD's Islay distilleries closed down for refurbishment, Brora was used to make peated whisky until the Islay distillery(s) came back on line.

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Oct 04, 2005 1:38 pm

If you want something of high quality, (relatively) affordable, rare and only easily available in Scotland, you could try Glenglassaugh 1976 from the Dormant Distillery Company. It is available at £50 a bottle, only in Royal Mile Whiskies, who bottle it themselves. A bargain for a 29yo cask strength whisky from a closed distillery - and quite delicious too.
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:19 pm

Admiral, I have read of the second explanation but never the first and I'm more inclined to believe the second.

Distillery managers are judged by their employers on the quality of there new make so everything is carefully checked before distilling to make sure it's in order, I find it hard to believe that they would miss an entire batch of peated malt. I have also read that the peated runs were done while Caol Ila was being refurbished.

I'll see if I can find a reliable answer to the question.
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Postby kallaskander » Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:37 pm

Hi there

somehow we stray but anyway, here goes.

http://www.whiskyfun.com/brorahistory.html

http://www.whisky-distilleries.info/Brora_EN.shtml

http://www.dtcscotch.com/distilleries/brora.htm

It would seem that the usage of more peat was fully intentional at Brora between 1968 and closure in 1983 but that the peat levvels were changed from time to time on demand. The older Broras, especially the 1970ies Broras seem to have been the most peated. In the 1980ies the peat level went down.
"Lagavulin of the North" not bad, eh?

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Oct 04, 2005 3:50 pm

If there's one person who knows about Brora it'll be the person at http://www.whiskyfun.com :D
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:07 am

I recently had a Cadenheads cask strength Clynelish that compared very favorably to Broras I've had. I suppose that's an argument for buying the Port Ellen as Brora character can still be had in some bottlings of Clynelish, but what I really mean to say is that this is rapidly becoming one of my most favored distilleries. There are several Cadenheads bottlings (of various malts) in the Bow, Ron, and the Cadenheads shop is a five-minute stroll down the Royal Mile.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:45 am

Admiral, I have read of the second explanation but never the first and I'm more inclined to believe the second.


I don't blame you! :) The first explanation does sound quite improbable, but then again, such events are not unheard of in whisky:

*Ardbeg/Glen Moray Serendipity
* Consider some of the theories behind Bowmore FWP (i.e. "accidentally" putting perfumed soap into the wash);
*Heavily peated Bunnahabhain, when the distillery had no record of purchasing peated malt when the distillation run occurred. (As described in one of JM's earlier books)

I don't particularly want to reveal who told me the first theory, but let's just describe him as an "industry figurehead". :)

Cheers,
Admiral
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