Brora distillery sits high on the east coast of Scotland, in Sutherland, the home of the Scottish wildcat. Both Brora and its sister distillery Clynelish take the wildcat as their emblem.
The Scottish wildcat is an elusive animal, and very rare, with only a few hundred still alive in Scotland. It’s appearance, which at first glance is similar to a domestic tabby cat, is highly deceptive; the wildcat is an entirely different creature, with jaws and eyes evolved to hunt in the wild and dark north highlands.
It’s an appropriate symbol for Brora, and particularly Brora Iris, which, at fifty years old, is the oldest whisky the distillery has ever released. Brora Iris was distilled in 1972, which is widely regarded as the greatest vintage in the history of Brora, and (like the diminutive wildcat) is still showing immense power, even at 41% ABV.
How could we represent the wildcat, whilst keeping the whisky absolutely central? A figurative cat is too complex, and small… Better to focus on one of the specific genetic features of the wildcat that enables it to hunt so efficiently at night; the eye. All cat eyes have pupils that are elliptical, rather than circular, and in the case of the wildcat, this is more extreme. The purpose of the elliptical pupil is to enable the eye to close up dramatically in daylight. At night, the ellipsis will expand to be entirely round, creating a huge pupil that enables the wildcat to hunt in virtual darkness.
Brora Iris represents the eye of the wildcat; a physical representation of this awakened ghost distillery. The whisky is held in a 1.5l magnum decanter, suspended within a Portland Stone sculpture created by Michelle De Bruin. Both the stone itself, and the ‘stugged' pattern carved into it, directly refer to the masonry of the distillery and coat of the wildcat.
Once the stone sculpture was made, we realised there was another opportunity to have a smaller, more figurative wildcat, that could function as a key for unlocking the decanter. Created by renowned animalier sculptor Jonathan Knight, the patinated solid bronze wildcat sculpture sits on top of it’s own a stone plinth.
To release the decanter from the main sculpture, you first remove the bronze cat from the small stone plinth, and engage it with the mechanism on top of the main sculpture. This unlocks the countersunk top disc and allows the suspended decanter to be removed from within.
Once removed, the decanter can be supported within the small stone plinth, in the recess that has been revealed beneath the bronze wildcat.