One of the buzziest malts available at the moment, I’d argue. Black Art 5 hit our shores just a week or two back. The buzz was immediate and intense, with plenty of questions flying as to whether or not the whisky justified the $300 price tag (up about $50 from the previous edition). So, let’s see if we can’t find out for ourselves.
I think most folks know by now that Black Art was Jim McEwan’s masterwork. A recipe he held close to his chest, and with which he loved to play the angle of ‘secretive alchemist’. It made for fun stories at his live events and plenty of talking points on blogs and reviews. Without knowing the details of how it’s been put together, I can tell you is that it’s unquestionably a lot of sweet and sour wine cask interplay. The final product is built of pre-renaissance Bruichladdich that has been re-racked into some sort of wine barrels procured under the Reynier-MacGillivray-McEwan era. We know this, of course, because the age statement of 24 years stretches much further back than the distillery’s reopening and because the palate don’t lie: there’s wine all over this one.
A couple bits of disclosure right off: 1) I adore Bruichladdich, and 2) I do not like the Black Art expressions.
But – and I’ve said this before – take that with a grain of salt if you’re one of those folks who likes the wine finished/matured malts that are so prevalent on the shelves nowadays. I personally shy away from these expressions (though there are a few winners), but that doesn’t mean you won’t like ’em. If this sounds like apologism, forget it. I’ve said the same thing about Black Art before. Different tastes make the world go ’round.
So, before we even dive in let me tell you what I expect. A nose that is mature, sweet and appealing – rich in a big, bold fruity/floral melange – but a palate that arrives with a split second of magic before attacking the back and sides of the tongue with a tangy, wine-heavy tenacity. Oh yeah…and a finish that disagrees with me entirely.
I guess the big story this time around though is that this one is Adam Hannett’s baby, not Jim McEwan’s. He likes to say that he got the recipe from Jim, then promptly through it away. I paraphrase, of course, but the message is the same. So, who’s better at?
Nose: Sweet and fruity. Showing some age right off. Sour candy. Some orange and cherry notes. A light smoke behind the jamminess. Hint of dunnage. Slightly floral mid-note. Then more fruit compote. A tick savoury too. Toasted caramel.
Palate: Decent arrival. And…yep…into the weird wine-iness. Maybe not as heavy as some of the past Black Art releases though. Macerated dark fruits. Slightly grapey, with some chocolates and brandy. Peppers and spice. Just a flirting with sulphur, but not heavy. Back end is wet oak and tannins.
Thoughts: Definitely different than Jim’s vattings, but some shared DNA, to be sure. As expected, too wine topheavy for me, but an enjoyable slow sipper nevertheless. Think I prefer this one to Jim’s creations. Shhhh…don’t tell.
– Images & Words: Curt