Today I would like to explore something that we must all deal with when reviewing and assessing whisky; rarity.
A few reviews ago I gave the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye an 78/100. The 15yo Pappy got 75/100. To be clear, these are good scores. They class these whiskies as ‘Very Good.’ Some people seemed upset that I had given such ‘low’ scores to such rare and expensive whiskies.
But are rare and expensive whiskies worth such huge costs?
In my opinion, no. The most I would ever pay for a whisky is £200 and I have not gone over this amount for a 70cl bottle. The reason for this is that I don’t have loads of money to drop on whiskies that could be good or are rare. I have also found that the value for money goes down rapidly after the £50-£60 mark.
Really, after £200, I have found that whisky does not get better, only more rare.
And we must deal with another question; are rarer and more expensive whiskies deserving of higher scores?
The obvious answer to this is that, no, just because a whisky is rare and/or expensive it should not get a higher score. However, it isn’t as simple as all that. It is easy to start believing the hype before you’ve even tasted a whisky. You can easily convince yourself that the whisky truly is wonderful, it must be, because people pay so much for it.
With that in mind, this is the rarest, most ridiculous sample I have ever managed to get my hands on. Brora is rare enough in and of itself but the 1972 vintage is the one that is hyped and people rave about because Brora was the most heavily peated then. This is a cask sample of a still maturing whisky from a single cask that will likely never be bottled. It is old at 47 years in the cask, perhaps the oldest Brora ever tasted. Only a few people will ever taste this whisky, ever.
Brora 1972 Cask Sample 40.1%
Nose: Stupidly complex, oils and fruits and wax galore, the best strawberry fruit pastilles ever made, faint smoke, crushed seashells, very Clynelish actually, gorgeous honey, Oolong tea, green tea. More woody and spicy as it opens up- black pepper, complex chocolate notes, then more fruity with fragrant orange peel.
Taste: Soft and lacking power at first, builds though with an emotionality, smoky, wood and oak, tired wood, black tea, leather and old books, very very dry, some black pepper and very light salt, dried orange peel, then the oils and waxes I was looking for. Good mouthfeel for the strength.
Finish: Short length. More smoky here with malty, oils, some fruit and loads of chocolate.
47yo cask sample for the Brora masterclass at the 2019 Whisky Exchange Show. The nose is stellar but the taste and finish are too dry and tired as well as lacking power from the low strength. A shame that this wasn't bottled 20 years ago! A massive, massive thank you to the legend Colin Dunn for letting me try this!! Oh, and thank you to Jason for the photo because I forgot to take one.
As with the 1964 Longmorn, I can give this a score but truly it was more of an experience.
Thanks for reading!
Scotch Review #834
Whisky Network Review #999
Network Average: 75.2
Best Score: 94
Worst Score: 12
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
75-79 Very Good
Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as the Global Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and I am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and I am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.