[Photo credit: Diageo]
In October 2017, excitement reverberated the whisky world as it was announced that Brora would be meticulously brought back to life. Diageo revealed plans to a global audience that work would begin to restore the distillery and its stills would, in time, be brought back to life to create whisky once again. Thanks to the reception of the Special Releases and other expressions over the years, the decision to reopen Brora was made in response to both demand from existing enthusiasts, but also the strong growth in the single malt Scotch market.
A distillery of great age and rich history, a comprehensive survey was carried out on the existing buildings to identify areas that would need repaired or completely rebuilt. Many of the original buildings will remain on site, however, a new still house, tun room and plant room will be assembled.
The original copper stills that were sat in the distillery at the time of its closure, will once again have warm life breathed into them. The exact pair were sent to Diageo Abercrombie coppersmiths in Alloa for refurbishment before being returned to the new stillhouse to produce whisky under a new era of Brora.
In order to remove the original stills, the distillery’s distinctive pagoda roof was removed and the still house painstakingly rebuilt, stone by stone, before the iconic pagoda was restored and reinstalled.
"Brora was a very important distillery. The Diageo archive holds comprehensive and historic information on Brora which have been used to guide work in the new distillery. Cask ledgers, plans, old documents and information have been crucial to our work in bringing its return. We look forward to sharing the full restoration story, for the buildings and most importantly the whisky, once reopened next month."
Joanne Mckerchar, Archivist at the Diageo Archives
The stills are planned to produce in controlled quantities with a focus on replicating the same style of whisky and flavour profile that the distillery has become so dearly loved for. They are expected to distil around 800,000 litres of whisky per year, making Brora one of the smallest operated by Diageo (similar in size to Oban distillery).
The distillery will also have a dedicated visitor centre to welcome visitors, creating a must-visit destination for whisky lovers making the pilgrimage to the Scottish Highlands.
The Brora revival is being led by Stewart Bowman, a Brora native who has moved from Clynelish to become Master Distiller at Brora. Born in the town of Brora and with a long family connection to the distillery, Bowman has worked alongside a host of artisans, whisky-makers and archivists in the restoration of the distillery buildings and its whisky and will carefully oversee the creation of new Brora spirit upon its return.
“The stories of Brora are woven into my own history and I am honoured to soon be able to share these stories with others. My father was an ‘old hand’ at the distillery, and I grew up in the village with the top of the distillery’s bell-tower visible from our kitchen window. In the years after Brora’s closure, I remember my father showing me the old cask ledgers and the records of those final casks distilled in 1983 and asking if Brora would return one day. It fills me with great pride that thirty-eight years after the doors of Brora closed, more casks will now be filled, and we will be able to welcome people once again to this special place. It is our commitment that we will do justice to the Brora of old and hope to welcome visitors to our restored home as soon as that is possible.”
Stewart Bowman, Brora’s Master Distiller
Diageo have said that Brora will produce a ‘medium-peated’ spirit, confirming that the new distillery will likely get its peated malt from the maltings at Glen Ord distillery, which already produces peated malt for Talisker and Clynelish.
In celebration of the distillery’s return and upon completion of its restoration, Brora have announced a special release of three extremely rare single malt whiskies, ‘The Brora Triptych’. Each expression represents a distinct style of Brora’s proud and storied heritage, celebrating the revival of a Highland distillery that was lost, and then reborn as a collectors’ item.