Jun 052013
 

Bruichladdich Organic110

46% abv

Score:  83/100

 

Even back in my more granola-oriented hippie heyday out on the west coast of Canada, I never truly bought into the whole organic pitch.  What it tended to boil down to was simple:  overpriced, aesthetically-challenged and in terms of quality…negligibly different from the arguably franken-engineered product that otherwise overflowed the shelves at our local grocery.

Let’s be clear…the argument here isn’t against organic, it’s simply questioning the merits, aside from marketability and socio-political motivations.  Everything else is purely speculative.  I assume the powers that be (Reynier, at the time, I’d guess) were embracing this is primarily as 1) a way to show a loyalty to the home turf and 2) because it’s easy as apple pie to sell organic these days.  Yes.  I’m a cynic.

In short…my thoughts are:  organic ≠ better taste.

Hey…no sleight intended.  Remember…this is coming from a relatively liberal thinker and former hippie (granted I’m now much more of a cold-blooded capitalist, but…)

Moving on to the whisky now.  This is actually decent stuff.  No better than most other ‘Laddie releases.  Certainly inferior to others.  But that’s no different than any other distillery’s output.  And if we’re stacking them up that way Bruichladdich gets extra points for creativity, execution and pure balls.

Nose:  Young and grainy.  Maybe even processed cereal would be closer to what I’m trying to get at here.  Lemon.  Oak.  Vanilla.  Cream.  Custard.  Some pepper.  Orange…and a bit more fruit.  Chocolate.  Slightly scone dough-ish.  Entirely pleasant, if unremarkable.

Palate:  Bitey and a touch spirity.  Here are some oaky notes.  Chili heat and more of that pepper.  Licorice.  Barley as it develops.  Gets a little grassy at the back end and more on the woods again.

Not awesome, but it’s alright, I s’pose.  Not my favorite malt profile, but commendable nevertheless.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:50 pm
May 192013
 

Bruichladdich Resurrection 2001018

46% abv

Score:  85.5/100

 

Alright…lemme just put my sunglasses on then we’ll get down to business with this one.

Much like the recent Laddie Ten, the release of this 2001 Resurrection was a cause for much celebration.  It was the first proper release of new spirit from the recently revitalized distillery after the 2001 reopening.  Other Bruichladdich releases had been either propped up by, or completely composed of, malts produced in the days before the distillery’s 1994 closure and subsequent purchase and reopening.

Think of this one much as watching your firstborn taking his/her first steps.  Gotta have a little pride there, I imagine.  The Bruichladdich family had worked long and hard to see this moment.  About seven years actually.

The Bruichladdich lads and lasses run three standard ranges through the same set of stills.  The smoke monster, Octomore; the buttery peat beastie Port Charlotte (which they claim is ‘moderately’ peated…and really is honestly the heaviest ‘moderate’ peating I’ve ever encountered); and the standard peat-free Bruichladdich.  That leaves this expression, which boasts a peating level of about 10 parts per million (ppm), as sort of an anomaly.  In this case though, there’s no shame in being a bit of an outcast.

The outturn on this one was about 24,000 bottles and, as the release date was back in 2008, if you didn’t scoop one then you may have issues tracking one down now.  Well worth the attempt.

Not great, but quite good.

Nose:  Peat and smoke here, larger than most ‘Laddies, but more restrained than most Islay malts.  Some figgy notes.  Ocean spray (uh…the real stuff coming off the water, not the cranberry cocktail).  Butter cream and damp hay.  Melon and creamy caramel.  Hint of licorice

Palate:  Peppery.  Slightly wine-ish.  Salty.  Fairly fruity, but the individual notes haven’t coalesced yet in and of themselves, or as a working unit.  What I mean really is…there’s an overarching sweetness here, but no individual notes to be properly discerned…and…it’s still not quite coming together yet either.  Barley.  More balls on palate than nose.  Oxidation time helps

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:23 pm
May 042013
 

Bruichladdich Waves

46% abv

85/100

 

Another of the younger ‘Laddie releases that came out in the late 2000s as a contemporary of the Links, Peat, Rocks and Resurrection.

From what I understand, this was all new distillate from the revived distillery, containing no older malts, and bottled at (or around) 7 years of age.  To be expected, it is a little sharp and feisty, but that’s ok by me.  It has a youthful personality and vibrancy that is at once charming and refreshing.

We, in these local Calgary circles, demolished more than one bottle of this juice over the last couple of years.  Hmmm…more than several bottles, actually.  Hey, what can I say….we were simply doing our part to support the distillery as it worked to come back online.  Purely an altruistic endeavour.  😉

‘Waves’ went the way of the dodo mid 2012, so if you’re at all curious about this one I would suggest you hit the shops ASAP, as it is likely bordering on distant memory.

Interestingly, the Bruichladdich website had this to say last year: “Waves, a young version of Bruichladdich, was an accident. It started life destined exclusively for the Italian market, it was never intended as a stand alone bottling, and was ultimately incorporated in to the trilogy of bottlings along side Rocks (unpeated) and Peat (clearly peated) as a half-way house between the two.”

Oh well…like many of the ‘Laddie releases, it was fun while it lasted.

Nose:  Wine and whisky…whisky and wine.  Tiny hint of sulfur.  Whiffs of peat and smoke on the water.  Touch of bittersweet chocolate.  Dried cherries.

Palate:  Wine and crab apple.  Sea water saltiness and a little citrus.  A wine-ish familiarity…almost as if the Redder Still met the Resurrection.  One thing I do often find with young wine finishes…the palate almost never lives up to the nose.  Same case here, but not a bad disconnect.  The ooomph of 46% is the perfect vehicle here.  Fairly lingering on some nice tart clingy notes.

Throw back a mouthful and let it crash against your tastebuds.  I think that’s what Jim and Mark intended with this one.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:14 am
Jan 252013
 

Bruichladdich Black Art 2.2

49.7%abv

Score:  84.5/100

 

This one is another ‘Laddie oddball.  Master Distiller Jim McEwan likes to play it close to the chest with his Black Art releases and not let on exactly what is going on here, but I’m thinking it may be a bit of an orgy of wine casks (maybe a little port or sherry too?).  A sort of ‘throw your keys in the bowl and see what happens’ sort of event.

Esoteric imagery and hints of midnight conjuring aside, what we ultimately end up with is a fairly mature (21 years) Bruichladdich that has spent some time in some quirky casks.  The distillate itself is from the bygone era of the distillery, prior to its’ mothballing in ’94, however we know that Jim and co. did a bunch of recasking when they took over.  We also know they like to play mad scientist in their restless pursuit of new ways to integrate whisky and wood.  In the end…this is whisky born not by the hand of the current ‘Laddie team, but certainly concocted and modified to suit their purposes.

Nose:  Concentrated grape and bold tangy wine (bordering on sour).  A little floral…a little bittersweet berry.  Fresh steeped tea.  Sharp dried fruit and buckets of spice.  I think (pretty sure) there’s a bit o’ sulphurous blasphemy tainting things a wee bit here.  Not overbearing…not spoiling…just there.  And to be completely honest, there is such an odd mishmash of wine-drenched weirdness going on here that I simply don’t know how to unknot it.  I’m not saying it’s not good…it may just be a little confused.

Palate:  Again…grape-y and wine-y.  Pink citrus.  Macerated berry.  Hints of burnt match.  Some lovely heat.  Spiced barley.

Points added for creativity.  Points deducted for an over-indulgence of wine and a lack of coherency.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:51 pm
Dec 312012
 

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004 (Kentraw)

50% abv

Score:  81/100

 

Ahhh…provenance.  What’s it worth really?  No distillery places more worth in this concept than our friends at Bruichladdich.  We’re not talking about terroir here.  No, no.  We’re discussing the idea that the prime marketing tool for some of these ‘Laddies is the fact that they have ties so deep to the island (Islay) that they become almost the purest expression of an Islay malt.

Is this so?  Well…in some ways, yes.  In others…no.

There is an absolutely unbreakable metaphysical connection many malters draw between the briny, citric, smoky, iodine-rich peat reek of brands such as Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig and their beloved mecca of Islay.  These smells (from the moment the bottle is uncorked) are the truest sensory picture that can be drawn to help describe the island.

This, to some of us, is the ultimate in provenance.

On the other hand, how about a distillery that can claim roots back as far as 1881 and has boldly (and very VERY loudly) proclaimed its ties to the land?  This is a distillery that employees many, many locals…that sources barley locally…that plasters its packaging with the images of places and people of Islay…that works to a minimal environmental footprint…that retains even the act of bottling on the island…and on and on.  This is a distillery that has declared such a fierce pride in its home that it is simply not possible to not like ’em.

Now…one step further.  These Islay Barley releases are farm specific.  That means that not only is the barley Islay barley, but it is specific to one, and only one, of the island’s farmers.  This is what ‘Laddie are calling Uber-Provenance.  And I f*cking love it.

Pure.  Heartwarming.  Refreshing.  In this, the day and age of Roseisle…to see something so…anti-commercial (yet paradoxically commercial in and of itself) is a thing of joy.

So…do we like this one?  Quite.

Nose:  Young grains.  Buttery with vanilla, cranberry and faux white chocolate.  Fruit candies.  Lightly floral.  Lemon pledge.  Fresh orange.  Vanilla fudge.  A young clean oaky malt.

Palate:  Malty grains.  Peppery, grassy and zesty.  Wax and oak.  Kinda bitters along the sides of the tongue…almost tannic feeling and quite drying.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Nov 192012
 

Bruichladdich Laddie Ten

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

The culmination of ten years of blood, sweat and tears.  Errr…hopefully none of which is fully realized inside the bottle itself.

While most fledgling distilleries would be holding their breath in anticipation as to whether or not their finally mature new spirit would live up to hope and hype, I imagine the folks at Bruichladdich were simply sitting back waiting for the party.  They knew they had a good product…they’d already had accolades and awards heaped on them…and they’d also been releasing young editions of their distillate under various names and incarnations for a few years by this point.

Even so, I guess, there would have likely been a ‘we’ve arrived!’ type celebration (much like Ardbeg experienced a few years back after their own resurrection).

What we have in hand now is Bruichladdich’s first new 10 year old malt consisting entirely of whisky produced under the new reign.  Remember…the distillery only reopened just over a decade ago.  And…as the vast majority of critical voices are affirming…it’s a damn decent dram.

The nose here speaks volumes as to the inherent quality of the pure spirit itself that Bruichladdich is producing.  Clean, salty and infinitely quaffable.  Caramel and crème brulee with toasted marshmallow.  The wee tiniest bit of peat and dry smoke…and I mean tiny.  Some iodine and straw.  Malty and figgy sweetness.  Splash of lemon.  Seems like a bit of youthful maturation in there with maybe…maybe(?) a whiff of sulphur.  Still vaguely young and spirity.

A young, rather clean drink.  Good solid heft, but rather hard to describe as there isn’t really a defining characteristic.  This is not a bad thing.  I only mention because we are so used to a very defined profile in our drams (peaty, sweet and sherried, old and woody, tropical and rich, vanilla’d and spicy, etc).  Here we have the ghost of peat and smoke met with invigorating seaspray and tingly citric notes.  Somewhat of a fruity backbone, really.  And yes…the sweet barley sugar notes and oak are notable.

I won’t call this a ‘great’ dram, but I will say it is great for ten years.  And to give proper due…it’s a very, very good drink.  Bruichladdich has crafted something they should be proud of.  Not quite there yet, but this is a whisky that will be a beauty at 17 or 18 years.  Can’t wait to follow this journey through the years.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:48 pm
Jul 292012
 

Bruichladdich Peat

46% abv

Score:  86.5/100

 

The last few years have given rise to the Peat Wars (now here is a battle I can really get behind). Islay heavyweights, Ardbeg and Bruichladdich, have gone head-to-head, leaving other phenolic giants coughing in their wake. Undoubtedly Jim McEwan’s daring has been the weapon that has won most of the battles for the ‘Laddich squads. (I should further note…a none-too-subtle comment dropped at a recent ‘Laddie tasting suggests that McEwan still has an A-bomb or two tucked away as well.)

Under Jim’s guidance, Bruichladdich has produced spirit under three lines; Port Charlotte, Octomore and of course Bruichladdich itself. This expression we’re speaking to at the moment, “Peat”, is a polygamous marriage of all three. As these spirits were all distilled under the same roof, this ‘vatting’ is still a single malt. Imagine…the fruit-rich ‘Laddich base tempered by the creamy and buttery peated enormity of Port Charlotte before being goosed by the might of Octomore’s liquid fire.

If you’ve tried these three spirits individually, you’ll have some understanding as to how each is contributing, but can still stand on its own. When they come together…well…

Somehow the resulting spirit manages to find balance and harmony. Let this one breath a little upon opening. Decanting does wonders here, as this one drastically shifts gears after the first cork pop. For the better.

This is a thick, buttery and butterscotch-rich malt. Smoke and peat are obviously the most integral aspects here, but there is a nice round sweetness as well. This is met by sharp citrus and cola courtesy of the Octomore component. A little of the mildest almond and I keep thinking I’m snatching hints of vanilla but it repeatedly gets dashed to pieces on the sharp briny citrus.

The palate is oily and viscous (the hallmark of McEwan’s passion). Creamy and quite typical ‘Laddich delivery, but as one should expect…youthful and spirited. Cola with lime. A touch of oak…but only on the palate. Quite a heft to this one. The finish is long and drying. No surprises.

My only real criticism? Could have been bottled at cask-strength for even more oooomph.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 4:04 pm
Jul 292012
 

Bruichladdich Brunello Cask

49% abv

Score:  88/100

This whisky lit a fire under a friend of mine.  On a whim he nabbed this bottle for a steal of a deal (~$60), and still waxes poetic, though the bottle has sadly…uh…evaporated.  Being a limited run (quite typical for Bruichladdich) in their Single Cask range, stocks of this are now quite low.  Just recently I managed to find one last lonely bottle of this locked behind glass in a local shop.  The canister is dusty and dented, but that won’t stop the friend I mentioned from taking it to a good home.

Well…you certainly can’t fault the lads and lasses at Bruichladdich when it comes to creativity and craft presentation.  The expressions are unique…the abv is always right up there (49% here on this one…bloody well done!)…the packaging is exceptional…and the taste?  More often than not…delicious.

The Brunello Finish in the Single Cask series absolutely fits the Bruichladdich mold.  Thinking outside the box has rewarded Bruichladdich once again.  This is a great malt.  You could probably tack on an extra point or two for value when you add price and abv into the equation.

The nose on this whisky is thick and lovely.  Here you’ll find big smoked caramel or toffee and hints of fresh orange.  It is buttery, as Bruichladdich generally is, and citric as well.  There is a bit of soft and mild cacao peeking around corners and an entirely smooth and pleasant nuttiness, most likely carried by the woods.  The arrival on the tongue is big and arresting, as one would expect at 49%, but the the flavor of the alcohol itself is buried.  That feared alchoholic nip is somehow held in check through the density of taste.  Exceptional for something this strong to be so smoothly drinkable without the burn.

Brunello is an Italian red wine, and some of those characteristics levied by the cask do shine through here.  Most notably in the development.  There are few whiskies out there that have this nifty rollercoaster of sweet notes of creamy caramel to mouth-drying tannins and soft woods.  This phenomenon is not as pronounced as in the oft-noted Highland Park development, but it is present and admirable nevertheless.

This is a whisky for a cool evening and warm conversation.

      

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:00 pm
May 242012
 

Bruichladdich Rocks

46% abv

Score:  83/100

 

I’m not sure how a whisky is ‘designed’ to be taken with ice, but that is the spin Bruichladdich has put on ‘Rocks’.  What was different in the engineering of this malt that makes it work against the scientific principles that suggest that a whisky will ‘close up’ by adding ice?  Hm…curiouser and curiouser.

Anyway…moving on.  Regular readers will know by now that my humble thoughts and tasting notes are quite purist.  There is no ‘with water’ or ‘without water’ delineation.  There is no mixing to concoct a cocktail.  There is certainly nowhere on ATW where I suggest you should use ice in whisky.

Irrespective of what Jim McEwan’s (bless ‘im, I love the man) intent was for Rocks, we’ll be going at ‘er in the purest sense possible; room temperature whisky, nosing glass, with a slight agitation of the spirit and proper nosing techniques.  I kind of look at it the same way I look at a well-written song.  You know a song is rock solid when you can jam away at it in all different styles and interpretations and it still sounds good.  If Rocks is a well-made dram, it won’t need ice to make it better.

(Note to self:  “Careful, now, careful…don’t twist an ankle climbing down off your soapbox”)

Fortunately, Bruichladdich has a really good base spirit to work with.  What comes off the stills at Loch Indaal’s rebellious distillery, infamous for its teal/turquoise, is a charming buttery, fruit-rich spirit that is extremely versatile.

Nose…

Young and scrappy, but not bad at all.  Some oxidation works wonders here.  A little chocolate, a little wine.  Some gooseberry and wildflower.  Kinda jammy, and fairly sweet and floral.  Yeasty and peppery.

Palate…

Grapes, pepper and oak.  Mildly tannic and drying.  Pleasant and easy to drink, with a bittersweet barley finish.

I quite came round to this one after a little initial warming-to period.  None too shabby for a young drink.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:11 pm
May 162012
 

Bruichladdich Blacker Still

50.7% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Normally a sulfur note this prevalent would leave me searching for a plant or some other discreet location to dump my drink.  However…and this is a big however…there is something that works here.  Somewhat of a ‘succeeds in spite of itself’ scenario.

Those in fear of bold sherry…kindly take leave.  This is monstrous.  20 years old and I imagine more than a couple of those were spent sucking up grape residue from former sherry wood.

So…the malt.

Sulfur.  Heavy and brooding.  Deeply oiled leather.  Beef in burnt teriyaki sauce (over-caramelized sugars…still carrying some salts).  Dates or figs or what have you.  Cherries in dark chocolate.  Think meaty and spicy.  Also think: “when baking your fruitcake…be sure to turn the oven off in time”.

Sulfur, meatiness and burnt notes carry through to the palate.  The sherry is as dense as a Scottish rain cloud.  Heavy toasted sugars.

I realize that some of the afore-said may not give the most favorable impression, but before forming any preconceptions, re-read the ‘however’ that introduces this review.

One final caveat:

Give this whisky a good 15-20 minutes in the glass before devoting time.  It needs to open up.  I promise you this breathing period will allow a little diffusion of the sulfur flaw, and greatly benefit your enjoyment.

 

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:46 pm