Brora Distillery, Highlands

Brora distillery closed in 1983 and ceded its original name – Clynelish – to the new distillery built just across the road from it. Clynelish lies just to the north of the small Highland resort of Brora, some 70 miles north of Inverness. Back in the 16th century Brora was a prosperous town under the control of the fearsome Earls of Sutherland.

The original distillery was founded in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford who had married into the Sutherland family. His aim was at least partly to take control of local whisky-supply away from the smugglers. The Marquis was an astute businessman and notorious for the cruel methods he used against people living in the surrounding villages to fend the off his land, just to leave the fields to sheep that were in his view more profitable.

The distillery changed hands a few times it become part of the John Walker group in 1925, that eventually closed the Clynelish distillery. The distillery reopened in 1938 for a brief spell (3 years). World War II forced Clynelish just as most of the other distilleries to temporary closure due to a lack of barley. In 1967 a new distillery has been build near the first one, under the name or Clynelish 2. The old distillery closed in 1969 and reopened in 1975 under the name Brora before closing for good in 1983.

Brora produced the most peaty malt of the Highlands. Its nickname was The Lagavulin of the North. It is still possible to find Brora malt. The spirit from very highly peated barley was a prime material to produce an Islay type of whisky for blending; As there was no in-house bottling of Brora as a single malt, casks were acquired by independent bottlers such as Berry Bros.

The independent bottlings demonstrate quite splendidly the earthy, spicy and peaty Islay-styled malts, and the elegant, creamy texture of Northern Highland malts. Last distillations took place in 1983 so, theoretically, some stocks will be around for some time yet.

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