Whatever closed door deals-with-the-devil or blasphemous alchemy Jim McEwan is engaged in when concocting these Bruichladdich Black Art releases is slowly becoming a thing of whisky lore. People love to talk about this kind of stuff. People other than McEwan himself, that is.
Attend one of his tastings and he’ll happily tell you to naff off when pressed for details on this malt (though in that friendly affable Ileach manner). Secrecy itself has become the sales pitch. The hook here that gets the tongues a-waggin’ and the rumours milling is that Jim simply refuses to disclose what exactly the component barrels are that constitute these special ‘Laddie releases. The truth may never come out, but the hallmarks of a lot of wine-cask tomfoolery are all over the end product. No surprise, really, considering the Laddie warehouses boast legions of former wine barrels with interesting varietal names stenciled all over them. This is almost like the secret weapon in the Bruichladdich arsenal. They have a broader palette to work with than most other whisky makers. While most distilleries will be maturing spirit within the confines of bourbon, sherry and perhaps port vessels, Bruichladdich can harness the influence of Château d’Yquem, Château Margaux, Cabernet Franc, Brunello, etc. Almost an unfair advantage, in terms of pure flexibility.
The real question is, though, does it work? In some cases, yes. Absolutely. In other cases…well…
Let me be frank here (cause that’s what we do). This 23 year old is a bit of a Frankenstein show for me. It’s not cohesive. It’s not really pretty even, aside from the snazzy packaging, that is. There’s some charm, sure, but you have to go deeper than the surface level in order to find it (i.e. this is not bad as a nosing whisky…but not quite so special on the palate).
But hey…I’m just one guy. What do I know? I know many out there who feel differently about this whisky than I. A lot of folks really love this drink.
It does seem, however, that most people are either really on board with the Black Art releases, or really not on board. I probably lean more towards the latter group, while recognizing it as not a bad dram, but simply falling outside my preferred flavour camp. As always…caveat emptor.
Nose: Quite jammy. Chocolate doughnuts…with chocolate glaze. Some wine or sangria-like notes. A touch of a salty seabreeze. A vague whiff of suede. Sour purple ju-jubes and wine gums. This is a heavy, heavy dram. but I like the nose quite a bit actually.
Palate: Great immediate arrival, with a lot of spice and deep threads of sour dark fruits, but quickly bitters into oversaturated wine notes. Not my thing, I must admit. Apples and apple skins. Like chewing on a stick of wine-soaked wood. An odd spice note. Touch of leather. Faint licorice. Like black wine gums. Somewhat sour and punchy.
Thoughts: A nose that shines, but a palate that only dimly illuminates.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt