Brora is a Scotch single malt brand that holds legendary status amongst modern whisky drinkers. This is because there was no production between March 1983 and May 2021. Therefore, only very old and rare bottlings exist. These whiskies are getting rarer and more expensive as the last remaining stocks dwindle to nothing. This makes Brora one of the most desirable spirits in the world.
But there is good news - owner Diageo has now completed a complete renovation of the distillery and has brought it back to life. Production began for the first time in almost four decades in the Spring of 2021.
Brora was known for having an 'old Highland style' with a mild level of peat smoke. This is what they are aiming to produce at the renovated distillery using a combination of traditional techniques and modern technology that was not available to them in the 1980s when the distillery closed. Heavily peated malt was also used for a short period between the late-1960s and mid-1970s.
Brora has featured regularly in the annual Diageo Special Releases in the past. This programme showcases rare gems and different cask types from Diageo's extensive portfolio of single malt and single grain distilleries. These Special Releases were predominantly matured in ex-bourbon casks from the American whiskey industry. Brora last featured in 2017 as remaining stocks hit critical levels. Now Brora is only available as very old, very rare and very expensive limited editions such as The Brora Trilogy - this features whiskies from 1972, 1977 and 1982.
After nearly four decades of closure, little evidence remained of working practices at Brora. However, Diageo archivists discovered old documents that have helped with the total renovation of the distillery. Some of the original buildings are being used. For example, the stillhouse was rebuilt brick by brick and much of the equipment was also found to be in reasonable working order. This included the two copper pot stills, spirit safe and spirit receiver. The equipment was reconditioned by Abercrombie Coppersmiths in Alloa before being reinstalled at Brora.
Production has now restarted and the expected capacity will be approximately 800,000 litres of new make spirit per year. The distillery also boasts a new visitor centre, which is hoped will draw whisky tourists to the north Highlands. They offer bespoke tours and tasting experiences.
Brora was founded in 1819 by The Marquis of Stafford in the north Highland coastal village of Brora. It was originally named Clynelish. It had numerous changes of ownership until the 1890s when James Ainslie & Heilbron took control. They completely rebuilt both the distillery and reputation of the single malt. This saw the spirit become highly sought after by blenders around Scotland.
Technically, Brora has only been known as Brora since 1969. This was when a new modern distillery was built on the same site. Both operated in tandem from August 1967. It was also named Clynelish. To avoid confusion the new distillery was known as Clynelish A with the old distillery called Clynelish B. These unromantic names continued for two years. Then the decision was taken to call the new distillery Clynelish and rename the old one as Brora.
The history of the two distilleries is unavoidably intertwined. While Clynelish thrived in the modern age and remains as one of Diageo's largest and most important distilleries, Brora continued to struggle. It finally closed in March 1983 and many thought it was lost to whisky history forever. That is until Diageo undertook a three year renovation. The complete overhaul saw old equipment reconditioned and restored. The culmination of this work saw the first cask filled on the morning of May 19, 2021.