It was not renamed to Brora until the mid-seventies and the casks were marked just as Clynelish-A and Clynelish-B (and sometimes this did mix up so an old Clynelish could well be distilled in the Brora stills - but not the other way around as Diageo names all bottlings in doubt simply Clynelish what is anyway true). When the rebuilt and expanded Caol Ila distillery reopened in 1974 it slowly took over the task of producing heavily peated malts for the DCL brands (like Johnny Walker) from Brora again and the peating levels of Brora were gradually reduced to the standard Clynelish level over the next years. So this is a good reason to try an old Clynelish 1972 Rare Malt edition (WB id 9067) versus this later Brora from around 1978/9.
All in all two exceptional drams that confirm the high quality and legendary status of these sister distilleries. Because of the greater complexity of the Brora (due to the higher peating level) I like this dram more.
[October, 2020] I re-tasted this dram tonight and fully confirm my old review and score. This is whisky history in a bottle and another fine farewell dram to salute my beloved dog Fibi, R.I.P.
The Brora is one shade darker at yellow gold why the Clynelish is at old gold. The Clynelish shows a texture of many small tears at the top of the glass that slowly consolidate into bigger ones that stick to the top literally forever. The texture of the Brora shows many small tears that consolidate after a while and a few slow moving legs. So both drams own a great oiliness. The Clynelish nose is quite punchy first but after a while it offers a delicate grassy - spring floral profile with just minor peaty aromas and some fruits in the background. The Brora is much sweeter on both malty and honey aromas and offers a richer peaty profile (even if it is significantly less peaty than the pre-1976 Broras). Both are really delicious but I like the Brora nose more.
The Brora offers a very complex and greatly balanced flavours profile that is truly multi-layered, simply great! It rolls in several waves over the taste buds which offer the different aromas one after the mother. The Clynelish shows a rather herbal-floral profile on the palate that is layered too and gets sweeter over time. No wonder that the Brora takes this round, too. Water releases more herbal aromas in the nose of the Clynelish and turns the whole dram smoother and sweeter. I like the reduced Clynelish better than the neat. The diluted Brora offers additional aromas too but I like the power of the neat dram more.
The Clynelish arrives bold and a little hot (due to the 59% abv) in the mouth and coats it immediately (just like the texture promised). Same with the Brora that is a little less hot and a little more coating. Both show no distracting bitter or astringent moments and own a very long finish with no distracting feelings either. The Brora vanishes in several waves where some nice peaty aromas pop up again. The Clynelish adds more spices to its profile during the finish and stays a little longer than the Brora so I vote for a draw on that dimension.