For three years straight, Diageo has graced the world with a Brora special release, which means for three straight years I’ve asked if Brora means “brother” in Gaelic, adding that “bror” means “brother” in Old Norse. And that means that for three straight years, either John or Stephen dials up the special Gaelic-translation box in the Malt Cave and tells me, no, it means “the bridges’ river” or “river of bridges” or some such. Tradition, tradition!
It’s impossible to not compare this year’s edition with previous years’ offerings…well, except that my memory has holes like Swiss cheese and crumbles easily like Jeb Bush. But you, O my brothers, read our reviews as if they were created in isolation in vats on Mars, as it were, and as we should not and cannot step into the same river twice, here goes.
A seaside boardwalk tourist shop on Mackinac Island offering non-traditional caramel-covered purple grapes rolled onto roasted hazelnuts and almonds—no salt, but maybe MSG? A Hibachi grill cooking squab over logs milled from bonsai trees using a linseed-oil coated titanium coping saw. The smell of opening the newspaper-wrapped box of the Ken doll your beloved, but dotty, Aunt Hattie gave you for your 30th birthday, mistaking your mild interest in antique Hummel figurines for a passion for vintage Barbie dolls. There’s also to be found egg cream icing on your emu-shaped birthday cake—thanks, beloved (eccentric) Uncle Albert.
The mouth explodes with hidden peat; a veritable peat goddess jumping out of your emu cake, dots your tongue and soft palate with her magic wand, sprinkling sparkling hard miniature anise-candies hither and yon. A confusing eastern exoticism awakes, as if Barbara Eden followed the goddess out the cake. Imagine being a world traveler, circa 1820, and walking into the Yong’anwanshou Pagoda at Cishou Temple at Balizhuang…now convert that into a powder, and have Barbara Eden dust that throughout your mouth. (Try not to sneeze at the dust. That would really offend her.)
The finish is so intermixed with the mouth it’s as if Dr. Moreau portmanteaued them together into a “minish,” or perhaps less euphoniously, a “fouth.” It reverberates on, like a meth-addled timpanist who thinks he’s the featured soloist in a performance of the second movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Disconnected sensations as my neurons decouple in ecstasy: The dolorous clangs of a buoy untethered from a full lobster trap. Using an arc-welder to repair a vintage Fender amplifier. Using the Shroud of Turin to dry off after taking an invigorating swim in the world’s largest baptismal font.
On the scale of “east meets west” semi-circles–
The Brora 37 is the International Date Line–It’s hard to imagine a more nebulous artifact of human creation, but ponder for a second what it would mean if it didn’t exist. Each hour backwards in time would spiral around, helix-like, unbound, until we know longer could tell what day, or even what year, we were referring to. In other words, it’s an abstracted universal that human need called into existence. Like a djinni. Like a peat goddess. Like the Brora 37.
–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!