The sixth and last bottling from the Legacy series. Legacy 6 is a marriage of six casks from 1965, 1970, and 1972. Soft and mellow on the nose and palate, with unbelievably restrained oak for such a mature whisky. Delicious notes of coconut, soothing vanilla, caramel custard, and banana cream, peppered with spice notes of cinnamon, mint, and teaberry that emerge on a soft finish that fades out gently. A fitting end to the Legacy series. I’m sad to see them go.
After many limited releases, we finally have a permanent age-statement expression of Port Charlotte, with a satisfying number of years under its belt. Distilled from Scottish-grown barley, it is matured predominantly in first-fill American oak casks, along with second-fill American and second-fill French wine casks. It is peated to 40ppm, in line with other Islay heavy-hitters, but the peat is never a blunt instrument, retaining sufficient restraint to allow other characteristics—maritime notes, the sweetness of caramel, coconut, and orchard fruits—to shine through. Number 4 in the 2018 Top 20
This 32 year old bottling was aged in twelve bourbon barrels and re-casked into fresh bourbon wood in 2009. It offers a nose of canned peaches, dates, marzipan, and a hint of milky coffee. Rich fruit flavors lead on the palate: peach, pineapple, and mango, with vanilla and nutty oak. Slowly drying in the finish, with warming spices. Sometimes good bourbon casks are all you need. (3,000 bottles)
Bruichladdich Legacy III 35 year old 1968 vintage, 40.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $430
This gem is soft and seductive in personality. It is also very clean and still quite fresh for its age-obviously aged in an excellent cask. You'll find a bed of gentle sweetness, reminding me of coconut cream and vanilla mousse. A mélange of fruit (melon, black raspberries, strawberries) marries perfectly with the sweetness. Fresh brine notes and licorice root emerge on the palate and become more prominent towards the finish. This Legacy III is more polished and rounded, and not as tired or woody when compared to the recent 40 year old bottling. And the 40 year old, at $2,200 a pop, is also about five times more expensive.
Bruichladdich 26 year old Black Art 1990 (Edition 06.1), 46.9%
Single Malt Scotch | $420
Tangerines on the nose, then Turkish Delight, sliced cucumber, new leather, toffee, soft spices, and a hint of char. Mouth-coating, with sweet orchard fruits dipped in cream. Sharper fruit notes in time, with almonds and ginger. Icing sugar, milk chocolate, spicy oak, a fleeting savory note, and lingering fruitiness in the finish. Shows well-integrated character. (18,000 bottles) Collectibles
Terroir and provenance are keenly debated in many corners of the whisky world, and Bruichladdich shows intense focus on the question with Islay Barley, which uses only locally grown grain. The 2017 release was distilled in 2010, using Optic and Oxbridge barley varieties grown on eight Islay family farms and matured in a combination of French oak and bourbon casks. In addition to Islay Barley’s ambitious pursuit of true single-origin whisky, this is a real gem for its ginger and tobacco aromas, muscular mouthfeel, and flavors of toffee, spices, and youthful oak. Number 9 in the 2017 Top 20
Originally filled into 22 third-fill bourbon casks, this 32 year old was re-casked into first-fill bourbon barrels in 2012, then finished in French oak wine barrels. Fresh peaches on the nose, with vanilla fudge, honey, and ginger. Fruity and spicy on the luscious palate, with orange, cinnamon, and coconut. Long in the finish, with ever-present fruitiness, plus prickly chili notes. (4,200 bottles)
Bruichladdich 25 year old Black Art 1994 (Edition 07.1), 48.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $430
The nose reveals blackcurrant, damsons, black pepper, dark sherry, coconut, and nougat. Very smooth on the palate, quite full, with early oak, then leather, tropical fruits, honey, and resin notes from old component whiskies. A long finish, with mango, raisin, hazelnut, and lots of spice. Complex and intriguing. (12,000 bottles)
This is a five year old expression of the more highly peated Bruichladdich whisky being referred to as Port Charlotte (named after the now-silent distillery down the road from Bruichladdich). More highly peated indeed. If you like your smoky Islay whiskies young and masculine, this one is for you. It’s like sticking your head in a peat-fired kiln. But there’s more to this whisky than massive smoke. There are underlying notes of kippers, soot, and tar. With further investigation, there are spice notes of black pepper and black licorice stick. What really makes this whisky multi-dimensional and balanced is its sweet underbelly of thick toffee, jammy fruit, and almond butter. Youthful, but not immature.
Distilled from Oxbridge and Publican barley varieties grown on six Islay farms. Lime, brine, oatmeal cookies, and custard on the nose. Sweet barley, apricots, sultanas, cloves, and quite tannic oak on the palate. Malt and sea salt in the medium-length finish.
As ever, the composition of Black Art is a closely guarded secret, and this is distiller Adam Hannett’s first such assembly. Rich aromas of fig, succulent autumn berries, sherry, cream, and malt feature on the complex, floral nose. Viscous on the palate, which opens dry, with developing berry fruits and spicy oak, plus dried fruits and candied peel. Long and drying in the finish, with plum and peppery oak.
This expression was distilled in December 1986 and filled into seven oloroso sherry butts. In 2012 the whisky was transferred to Pedro Ximénez butts for finishing. The nose yields sultanas, figs, old leather, and white pepper. Very sweet fruit notes on the palate, almost sugary, with background rich sherry, dates, and treacle. Long and warming in the finish, with a wisp of smoke and fruit spices. (4,200 bottles)
Distilled from Scottish barley, this is the first permanent age-statement Port Charlotte bottling. First and second-fill American oak and French wine casks were used for aging. Rock pools, lemon juice, caramel, but little overt peat on the nose. The palate boasts big orchard fruit notes, smoky coconut, and brine. Again, the peat is quite muted. Long and spicy in the drying, peaty finish.
That Boutique-y Whisky Company (distilled at Bruichladdich) 23 year old, 47.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $111
There is a beautiful interplay between the lemon and sharp lime set against the bracing coastal nature of this dram. Gentle vanilla, honey, lemon zest, and gooseberry compote waft from the glass. Vanilla frosting, coconut macaroon bars, malt drinks, peach, lemon, and an undercurrent of pepper. Creamy chocolate once the spice subsides, it ends with a fantastically chewy mouthfeel. Nuts, pepper, and cocoa make for a mouth-coating finish.
Distilling with heirloom grains has become commonplace in the U.S., but much less so in Scotland. With this utterly unique single malt made from the historic Bere barley variety, Bruichladdich reexamines whisky flavors starting with the raw material. Herbal pine bough, salted almond, and tropical fruit appear on the nose, followed by a creamy mouthfeel with intense chocolate, pepper, citrus oil, pine sap, and perfumy chamomile flavors. The full, round finish has rose petal, white pepper, and vanilla overlaying a delicate but pronounced structure. Number 15 in the 2019 Top 20
This 8 year old was distilled using Bere barley, a low-yielding heritage strain grown on the Orkney Islands. Aromas of a damp cellar; oily, nutty, with cereal, burlap, and mild orchard fruit notes. The palate is persistently oily, with pineapple, honey, nutmeg, and white pepper. Drying in the finish, with licorice, coal, and strong black tea. Proof that barley varieties can make a difference. (18,000 bottles; individual reviewer rating: 92)
A single cask from the distillery’s peated “Port Charlotte” line of whiskies. Well behaved for such youth. Nice honeyed malt and soft caramel base with good viscosity as a bed for tarry peat, licorice stick, freshly-ground pepper, and cocoa, along with a kiss of sauternes, delicate pit fruit, smoked seaweed, and a lingering coastal accent. Long, warming finish. (Park Avenue Liquor exclusive)
Quantities of Optic and Oxbridge barley varieties were grown on eight Islay family farms during 2009, and the following year this grain was distilled, then matured in bourbon and French wine casks. The nose offers ginger, melon, malt, sweet (lit) pipe tobacco, freshly baled straw, resin, vanilla, and spice. Chewy in the mouth; oily, with toffee spices and youthful oak notes. The finish features oysters with lemon squeezed over them.
Peated to 96.9 ppm, this 8 year old was aged for 4 years in first-fill American oak and then in third-fill French oak sauternes casks. Sea salt and buttery smoke on the early nose, becoming more honeyed. The palate is oily and relatively mellow, with pineapple enveloped in rich, spicy peat smoke. Quite long in the finish, with Jaffa oranges, pepper, and chili. (24,000 bottles; Travel Retail exclusive)
Robust Port Charlotte character, with salami and jamon serrano to the fore. Somewhat like eating a chorizo and roasted red pepper sandwich on the beach on a summer’s day, but it retains the sweet freshness of the distillery character. With water, the lovely smell of cow’s breath. There’s dry smoke to start with on the palate, becoming sweet (flash-fried scallop) with sugared almond on the finish. For me, PC comes fully of age here. £55
Using barley grown on Rockside Farm, this is fresh, sweet (agave syrup), delicate, and lightly buttery, with touches of lily of the valley and lemon sponge cake mix. The cereal character is restrained, with a charred hint on the palate along with banana, mandarin, cassia, and pink marshmallows (untoasted). The Laddie’s floral notes emerge late, and the whiff of white pepper on the end is all there is to remind you of its youth. A classy young whisky. £45
One of four Octomore 08 Masterclass releases, this was distilled in 2011 from Islay barley peated to 309 ppm. Fifty-six percent of the spirit was matured in first-fill bourbon casks, while the remainder was aged in European oak wine casks. Barbecue smokiness on the nose, with wet peat and citrus fruitiness. On the palate, earthy peat, full-bodied red wine, and milk chocolate. Peat smoke to the fore in the finish, with ginger and chili. (18,000 bottles)
Distilled from malt peated to 167 ppm, this whisky’s complex maturation program includes first-fill port and cognac, second-fill American whiskey, and virgin oak casks. The nose is sweet, with ginger, marzipan, rock pools, and floral smokiness. Initially, barley sugar and malt on the palate, then drier, with a hint of iodine, medicated soap, old leather, and dried peat. Peppery, with antiseptic and smoky oak in the finish. (12,000 bottles)
The first 10 year old distilled by the current owners back in 2001. Lovely marriage of both bourbon and sherry casks, and quite fresh, with a maturity resembling a 12 year old, rather than 10. Smooth on the palate and very drinkable, with creamy vanilla, honeycomb, banana bread, bright lemon, melon (honeydew, cantaloupe), tangerine, candied ginger, and delicate brine. With all the Bruichladdich razzle-dazzle over the past decade, we can embrace this unpretentiously delicious Laddie with open arms.
Distilled from 52 tons of Islay barley and filled into 134 casks, most of which were second fill. At 5 years old, the result is whisky with an initially fresh and zesty nose, featuring sea breezes and lemon juice. Mild iodine, ginger, and sweet peat then develop. Sweet on the full palate, with honey, cereal notes, smoky peat, and brine. Oak and chili in the ultimately dry finish.
Distilled exclusively with organic barley grown the previous year by Mid Coul Farms near Inverness, this 8 year old was aged in bourbon barrels. Barley, salted butter, peach, malt, and vanilla on the nose, plus cocoa powder. Quite piercing citrus fruits on the smooth palate, with more vanilla, fudge, overripe banana, and milk chocolate. Spicy oak and a suggestion of brine in the finish. (18,000 bottles)
Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Second Limited Edition, 57.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $235
Distilled in December 2005 using malt peated to a whopping 167 parts per million, this was matured in a mix of bourbon and Grenache Blanc casks. Old warm leather, rich smoke, developing peaty peach, chocolate-coated toffee, pipe tobacco, and iodine on the powerful nose. Huge peatiness in the mouth, oily, smoky orchard fruits, developing ginger nuts, and sea salt. Warming in the finish, with licorice, gunpowder tea, and ashy peat.
This was matured in first-fill sherry, bourbon, French wine, and tempranillo casks. Initial brine on the nose gives way to malt and orchard fruits, sweet smoke, and buttery malt. Sweet, medicinal smoke notes on the early palate, then toffee and peaches drying to aniseed and chili. Long and prickly in the finish, with licorice and black pepper. A complex rendering of Port Charlotte.
Finished in Chateau d’Yquem casks, and it shows. There’s a creamy, honeyed sweetness and viscosity to this whisky that is very soothing. Bruichladdich’s brisk sea character cuts through the lightly syrup-like thickness and keeps the whisky fresh and lively, while notes of golden raisin, peaches, lemon gum drops, vanilla, and coconut add complexity. Satisfying salty/sweet finish.
A marriage of Bruichladdich with three different peating levels. Devotees of young, smoky Islay whiskies will enjoy this one. It is youthful and explosive, with earthy peat smoke, fish nets, brine, and kiln ash. All this is tamed beautifully by notes of vanilla wafer, seductive malt, marshmallow, spiced peaches, and pear.
This one is my favorite of the four distillery-bottled Bruichladdich whiskies reviewed here. It still quite lively and nicely balanced for such a mature whisky (and reminiscent of the previous 1970 vintage in this respect), with some floral notes and brine emerging from its fruity, vanilla, truffle, nougat foundation. Still, it maintains an air of lightness and freshness throughout, with a pleasingly dry, subtly spicy finish that lingers.
Duncan Taylor (distilled at Bruichladdich) 34 year old 1969 Vintage, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $234
An unusual, but very fine, Bruichladdich, with sweet, chewy toffee notes I often associate with Speyside whiskies, not Islay (although I have tasted a few older Bunnahabhain whiskies that were like this). Layers of marzipan and chocolate fudge also emerge, and I even pick up some apple and black cherry fruit in the background. Bruichladdich's "sea breeze" freshness rises through the chewy sweetness and provides balance and complexity.
Distilled in 2002, here’s Port Charlotte with an assured maturity. Amber in color, with some smoke and a pleasing whiff of cowshed (sweet hay and cow’s breath), before rosehip syrup and ozonic freshness. Water brings out incense, cream, even a little nuttiness. The palate is gently complex; a drop of water is needed to calm the heat and reveal the smoke that interweaves between the layers. It retains its fresh acidic finish, with nutmeg, soft lemon, and pear. Excellent. £110
Bere is an ancient strain of barley which is stubbornly difficult to grow and mash. For this, Bruichladdich has gone to a specialist farm on Orkney. The nose is intriguingly aromatic, sweet and slightly corn-like, with a sweet nuttiness behind. It becomes very floral (night-scented stocks) with white currant, lemon sherbet, and a lift of tangerine before water brings out sakura (cherry blossom) syrup and bread. The palate is very sweet and concentrated. Remarkable. Keep watching. £52
Distilled in 2008 from 100 percent Scottish barley peated to 167 ppm. It spent 8 years in first-fill American oak casks. Peaches dipped in hot plain chocolate and tarry peat on the fragrant nose. The palate offers sweet, creamy orchard fruits and honey, backed by citrus-laden peat. Drying in the finish to quite a bitter, tannic smokiness. (42,000 bottles)
A mélange of casks and techniques that only Jim McEwan knows about. The fourth iteration of his Black Art manages to mix mature notes of beeswax-burnished church pews, a sprinkling of rose water, dried mango, rosehip syrup, and potpourri. The palate opens to Parma violets, underpinned with light lavender, where fleshiness mingles with the exotic notes of manuka honey, pomegranate, apricot pits, and dried lemon. It pushes malt into a new area, but that’s the point. £200
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie (Scottish Barley), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $55
Bruichladdich describes this as a “multi-vintage cuvee” and only Scottish-grown barley is used in its distillation. Ozone, lemon juice, fresh-planed wood, and a hint of honey appear on the nose. The palate features toffee apples, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and oily oak. Pepper, sea salt, and relatively dry oak in the finish are balanced by toffee sweetness.
This includes whisky distilled from barley grown on three Islay farms. It was mainly matured in first-fill American oak, along with Syrah and merlot wine casks. Fragrant peat, warm tar, ginger, vanilla, and sea salt on the nose. Peaches dipped in salt on the palate, with milk chocolate and more vanilla, then dark berries. The peat is spicy and quite acrid in the long, briny finish.
Aged in a combination of sherry and bourbon oak. Bold and fresh, bursting with testosterone. Notes of damp kiln smoke, tar, wet sheep, roasted chestnuts, and pine forest bedding, along with more subtle pear, espresso, anise, and brine. Sweet notes of vanilla, fig cake, and maple syrup serve up balance and complexity. Appetizing brine and tar finish. It’s more mature than last year’s PC6. Earthier and less fruity, too! Plus, I feel that the sherry notes in PC7 integrate better than the Madeira notes from PC6. But my favorite is still the original PC5 for its purity, balance, maturity (for its age), and pristine character. (I lined up all three yesterday and tasted them side-by-side.)
Distilled in 2012 entirely from Scottish barley, this was aged for 5 years in American whiskey barrels. The nose is sweet, with apricots, vanilla, ginger, white pepper, ozone, and antiseptic cream, plus insistent smoky peat. Orchard fruits on the palate, with big earthy smoke notes, vanilla, and coconut. The finish is long, with licorice, black pepper, rock salt, and drying peat.
Distilled from Scottish barley in 2010, this was matured in first-fill bourbon casks and second-fill French wine casks before finishing in Bordeaux French oak. Fruity peat, salty vanilla, heather, toffee, and malt on the nose. Peaches and pineapple wrapped in peat, with marshmallows and rock salt on the supple palate. A whiff of iodine in the finish, with berries, cloves, licorice, and spicy oak.
Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten Second Limited Edition, 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $66
Matured in first-fill sherry, bourbon, and French wine casks. Clean and fresh on the early nose; crisp green apples, vanilla, and floral notes, with just a hint of maritime influence in the background. Smooth on the palate, with spicy pear, honey, and ripe peaches; soon quite drying. The floral finish lingers, with spicy honey, drying spices, and ultimately a hint of smoke. (18,000 bottles)
Scott's Selection (distilled at Bruichladdich) 14 year old 1990 Vintage, 58.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $110
An excellent example of a younger Bruichladdich, and an interesting contrast to the Duncan Taylor expression reviewed above. Appetizing and very clean with a creamy texture. Honey and vanilla notes accentuate a fresh maltiness, with underlying marshmallow, grass and hay. The whisky finishes nicely rounded, pleasingly dry and salty, with a hint of seaweed. A great aperitif.
Distilled in 2013 from Scottish barley, this 107 ppm 5 year old was matured entirely in first-fill American oak casks. Quite elemental on the nose, with brine, rock pool, and cigarette ash aromas, plus ginger and an ultimate hint of nougat. Peaches on the palate, with lively spices, roasted nuts, oak, and dark peat. The finish features licorice, overt peat, and black pepper. (42,000 bottles)
The youngest Octomore released to date, 10.4 was distilled from Scottish barley peated to 88 ppm, then aged for 3 years in 28 highly toasted virgin Limousin French oak casks. The nose offers vanilla, new leather, cloves, sawdust, and white pepper. Intense fruitiness on the palate, with malt, a medicinal note, and more cloves. The finish yields dried fruits, bitter oak, and hot spices. (12,000 bottles)
Elements of Islay Pl1 (distilled at Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte style), 60%
Single Malt Scotch | $101
Part of an ongoing series, and the first appearance of Port Charlotte. This ain’t shy. Assertive with banana, roasted red pepper, paprika, and a hit of barbecued pork glazed with pomegranate molasses. The palate has blazing heat, but also oiliness and real density. The peat doesn’t so much rumble as sit there in a cloud: opaque, impenetrable. Even water cannot unlock it. Rooty and tarry, this is not a dram for the fainthearted. £65 (500 ml)
Every month seems to bring a new Octomore. Much is made of the peatiness of the malt used, but just as important is the way in which it is distilled and matured. It is these two aspects that give it sweetness and balance. This is minty, honey-sweet, with meadowsweet, some dried lavender, tinned peaches, and that hot sand note typical of Bruichladdich. The smoke is merely suggestive, giving an integrated power. 5 years old? Who knows what might happen next?
Murray McDavid (distilled at Bruichladdich) 1986, 15 year old, 46%
Single Malt Scotch | $80
Bright gold color. Fresh, appetizing aroma of vanilla malt, honey, brine, and subtle tropical fruit. Light to medium in body and slightly oily in texture. Delicious, fresh, subtly complex flavors of vanilla malt, sea salt, subtle tropical fruit, and fresh herbs, finishing dry and lightly spicy. Since the owners of Murray McDavid also control the Bruichladdich distillery, one would expect a good bottling. This is a good one indeed, and very exciting to drink. It is nicely matured, fresh, and deliciously appetizing-almost mouth-watering.
This is six year old, 40 ppm phenol (very smoky) whisky distilled at Bruichladdich, bottled at cask strength and enhanced in Madeira casks. A young whisky, but mature enough to say that it’s not too young. The immediate impact is damp peat smoke and smoldering charcoal. If you are patient and observant enough (and with an addition of water), you’ll coax notes of vanilla, berried fruit, pear, green apple, and underlying spice (fresh mint, anise), all leading to a briny, smoldering smoke finish. A cult whisky for those who like to push the envelope. When compared to its predecessor, PC5, PC6 is slightly darker in color, creamier, fruitier, and a shade softer. Given this, I still prefer the PC5 over the PC6 for its clarity and innocence.
Smoky, yes, but the effect is more shore-like: on the beach, hot sand, wood smoke, and a faint hint of balloons…there must be a party going on. In addition you get olive oil, preserved lemon, and eucalyptus. The palate is thick with strawberry sweeties that push back against the peat. Water calms things (suggesting this would work with soda), while the finish sees the campfire emit more smoke. £45
Aged in a sherry cask, and the sherry is clean and bright. I’m also picking up a good dose of warming peat smoke, along with molasses, and a gentle maltiness throughout. A peppering of subtle brine and a hint of seaweed peak through occasionally, reminding one of its Islay roots.
Distilled in 2009, so remember this is only 5 years old. At this stage there’s not a lot of cask, but there is an insanely intense smoky, herbal note like eucalyptus, celery, spruce, pine resin, then some angelica and a crisp mineral edge. The palate is balanced between this intensity, big smoke, and Bruichladdich’s typical oily, sweet core. Water doesn’t affect it one little bit. It is bold, it is proud, it is in charge. I like its sheer ballsiness. £110
Br5 Elements of Islay (distilled at Bruichladdich), 53.8%
Single Malt Scotch | $100
The nose is slightly closed, all very delicate, with some hay-like aromas akin to harvest time. This gentleness allows sweet melon-like fruits to come through, alongside patisserie, icing, gentle vanilla, and an effect like Hedione, the ‘smell’ of sunshine. Rounded and very sweet, typical of the distillery, with a lightly drying effect similar to powdered icing sugar. It slightly loses it with water, so keep neat. A pleasant, straight down the middle Laddie. £60/500 ml
Chieftain’s (distilled at Bruichladdich) 22 year old 1989, 51.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $130
A distinctive (and intriguing) Bruichladdich, with honeyed malt, vanilla pod, charcoal, exotic fruit, and dark chocolate bourbon balls, teased with suggestions of fennel and espresso bean. Tactile, leather finish. (A D&M Wines & Liquors exclusive.)
Less appetizing brine and zing, and showing more “weight” when compared to its sibling. Sweeter notes of toffee, fig, and vanilla fudge lay the foundation for mixed nuts, black raspberry, plum, nectarine, and ripe red grape. A soothing dram.
This has good breadth and hints of honey-nut cornflakes on the nose, with the distillery’s sweet, lemon-fresh/floral core still evident, but skewed more toward roasted notes, like toasted rice and sun-dried grasses; even a hint of the felt-festooned interior of a woolen mill. Water brings out meadowsweet. Raspberries lead on the palate, contrasting with the crisp, nutty chaff notes. It’s citric and gingery on the finish, but has drive and energy. £42
Bruichladdich 2001 15 year old (2016-1881-135-PHD), 50%
Single Malt Scotch | $123
The official Fèis Ìle 2016 bottling. This is a mix of bourbon and wine casks given a period in virgin oak. The finish initially adds a certain sauna-like element, but then the distillery’s lemon drops and flowers come through, alongside baked apples, coconut, and a touch of smoke. The alcohol burn is negligible, allowing more estery elements, melon, and red fruits to come through. A classic Laddie, in other words. (1881 bottles) £95
Also distilled in 2009, this is mid-gold in color and medium weight, with a mass of sage-like smoke. More cask influence than 7.1, with smoked coconut, and again a mix of sweet fruits and lemon behind this smoky lead. Oily and rich, but a little fragmented on the tongue; the elements are beginning to cohere to produce integrated complexity. Octomore in mellow mood, with smoked chestnut and a little farmyardy Pinot note. Another positive work in progress report. £125
An interesting nose that’s somewhat akin to a peach cheesecake with slightly burnt pastry, or a heavily caramelized crème brûlée. Overt smoke is in check when neat. In the mouth, however, it comes through massively, mossy and oily and sitting on top of those fat fruits and sweet malt. Thicker and more farmyard-like than Port Charlotte. Great potential, with a sweetness that shows it’s pretty much there. £150
Aged in bourbon casks and then enhanced in Rioja wine casks. A mélange of red berry fruits, firm malt, thick vanilla and spicy oak, along with a hint of grape skin, anise, and orange peel. Gritty, dry finish.
Aged in refill sherry casks. One taste bears this out with its dominant honeyed fruit foundation (lemons, melons, pineapple). Still, that Bruichladdich freshness and appetizing "sea breeze" character dovetails nicely. Fuller, more rounded, and with a bit more going on here than the Full Strength expression reviewed below, but not as appetizing.
Bruichladdich Full Strength 1989 vintage 13 years old, 57.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $90
Aged in used bourbon barrels. A fresh, appetizing whisky of brine and white pepper, with an underlying foundation of vanilla, barley, and grassy/hay-like notes. A very subtle teasing of citrus lingers throughout. Very clean and straight-forward, with an appetizing finish. A whisky aperitif?
Gordon & MacPhail Single Cask #1961 (distilled at Bruichladdich) 1989 Vintage, 57.9% ABV
Single Malt Scotch | $65
It is unusual to find a Bruichladdich whisky with this much sherry influence-this one is aged in a refill sherry hogshead. I must admit that I generally like a less sherried Bruichladdich-it makes it easier to appreciate the distillery's subtle complexities. While there certainly is more than enough sherry to go around in this whisky, the distillery character does manage to fight its way through. This whisky's strong point is that the sherry influence is clean and not insipid like some sherried whiskies. Chewy caramel, toffee, and ripe fruit notes are most evident in this whisky, with Bruichladdich's signature-an appetizing fresh briny character-emerging midway on the palate through to the finish. If you like Bruichladdich and you appreciate a cleanly sherried whisky, then I think you'll enjoy this one.
An immediate and perhaps surprising smokiness which brings to mind cask-aged mezcal (tepeztate to be precise), and it is this green, celery-accented element playing off some oily, nutty, and farmyard notes that gives balance and intrigue. Water reveals its youth, but there’s enough cask action to add some weight to the palate, where the natural sweet spirit shows itself. Keenly priced. Worth a look next time you are flying. (Travel Retail exclusive) £68
Elements of Islay Br4 (distilled at Bruichladdich), 54.7%
Single Malt Scotch | $85
More from Bruichladdich. The latest in the Elements series is clean in a freshly-showered kind of fashion. The fact that it’s backed up with bran, agave syrup, and pancake batter just helps to emphasize this image of a sunlit breakfast. The palate is sweet, fat, and juicy, typical of how texture is as important as flavor with the Laddie. In time there’s some cinnamon with a preserved lemon acidity that enlivens the finish. £55 (500 ml)
Fruit is the common thread to this lightly peated whisky; red fruit, that is. Red raspberry, red currant, red seedless grape, strawberry, and red apple. A gentle sweetness (creamy vanilla, light molasses) balances all this fruit. Not overly contemplative, but delightful. This is definitely not the same Rocks I reviewed two years ago. It is richer, darker in color, and tastes more mature. It's an improved version, and my rating reflects this.
Smoke comes at you immediately, the morning-after smoke of a spent fire, mixing with reeds and rushes, a touch of coconut, and light oak. Water is needed to bring out sweetness alongside the Band-Aid note typical of many young peaty whiskies. The palate is a lot sweeter than the nose suggests, bold and quite thick; honey adding a sticky quality that then moves into creosote and antiseptic cream. It needs hefty degrees of dilution. A work in progress. £100
Since its reopening eleven years ago this year, Bruichladdich has been growing barley on Islay—a laudable move. This glimpse into the developing program shows what seems initially to be a delicately fragile dram that soon reveals an intense sweet depth behind the spring flowers. This purity of intent continues on the palate with a thick creaminess that’s typical of the distillery, while a tart finish adds interest. Precocious, but already beautifully balanced. £38
Finished in Madeira casks. An interesting contrast to the 15 year old. This one is more challenging than soothing (and quite dry too -- especially on the palate), with dominant red fruit (currant, raspberry, strawberry), plum, baked cinnamon apple, polished leather, bourbon, almonds, and just the hint of smoke and brine. Dry, resinous finish. An intense Laddie.
A departure from the first edition of Bruichladdich 20 year old, and very Glenmorangie-esque-given that it was aged for five weeks in Mourvedre wine casks before being bottled. The wine influence is evident, both in appearance (a pinkish hue), its palate (berry fruits), and even its nickname ("flirtation"). It is quite a sweet Bruichladdich, with chewy toffee, ripe berries, background pit fruits, and earthy/ resinous spicy notes-especially on the finish. A Bruichladdich fresh Islay sea breeze character fights its way through, but it is a struggle.
A very fruity “Laddie,” flowing with tangerine, apricot, pineapple and pear. Background notes of honey, vanilla, and a wisp of smoke. The typical Bruichladdich fresh, appetizing, brine notes are restrained, emerging ever so subtly on the finish. Nicely rounded and clean throughout.
The Whisky Exchange Elements of Islay Br2 (distilled at Bruichladdich), 49.3%
Single Malt Scotch | $88
The second bottling from Bruichladdich in this range shows the ‘traditional‘ side of a distillery that is famed for the variety of its expressions. This, in other words, is Bruichladdich in its sweet, honeyed, gentle guise partnered with American oak to produce a mashed banana character, an unctuous palate, and a light touch of almond on the finish. Lovely. £55 (500 ml)
A replacement to the original 10 year old, which is now off the market. A clean, straightforward dram with a lightness and freshness which is very inviting. Notes of vanilla cream, light caramel, tropical fruit (coconut, pineapple), clementine, pear, and a hint of currant. Appetizing, subtly briny finish.
Finished in a rum cask. Gold with a greenish tinge. Notes of ripe barley, demerara sugar, toasted marshmallow, and sultana, with underlying vanilla and subtle brine emerging on the finish. A pleasant, easy-going Laddie. (Bottled for Bayway World of Liquor)
Distilled in 2008 from barley peated to 167 ppm and matured in virgin French oak casks. Sweet smoke and oak on the initial nose, with quite assertive spices. Freshly sawn timber, dried fruits, and emerging vanilla. Slightly earthy on the palate, where big spice notes continue with peaches, orange, and milk chocolate. The finish is relatively long, with cloves, licorice, ginger, and chili. Bold is the word! (12,000 bottles)
The 8th in a series of “Links” releases. This one’s further enhanced in Chateau Latour Bordeaux casks. Bright, fruity notes of red raspberry, rhubarb, and candy apple. Teasing fresh brine emerges occasionally, along with citrus, mango, and vanilla. A very perky whisky.
The Micro Provenance series is Bruichladdich’s web-exclusive range of single cask bottlings. This is made from barley grown on Rockside Farm (now owned by Kilchoman) and has been aged in virgin oak. The oak doesn’t dominate the nose, allowing fresh cereal sweetness to develop, along with an estery lift and some jasmine/meadowsweet florals. The palate is where creamy vanilla and white chocolate show through. Fresh, balanced, and bottled at the right time. (468 bottles) £90
Aged half in used bourbon barrels, half in refill sherry casks. Thicker, more viscous, and with much more depth than the other three Bruichladdichs reviewed here. The whisky oozes syrupy vanilla, marshmallow, caramel, and marzipan, accentuated by coconut and other tropical fruits. Bruichladdich's signature freshness and brine emerges, but oh, so subtly. It finishes firmly dry and oaky, thanks to all those years in wood. Initially this helps to cut some of the sweetish viscosity of this whisky, but it lingers a bit too long for my palate. I would like to have tried this whisky a few (or perhaps even several) years back.
The most heavily peated of the three (35ppm phenol), but rather gentle for such smoke intensity. No doubt this is partly due to its sweet underbelly of vanilla cream puff, honeyed barley, and melon fruit. The other factor is that the smoke influence is not medicinal like some other Islay whiskies, but rather more of a leafy bonfire smoke, with burning embers and teasing brine on the finish. Like Waves, Peat comes across as a bit youthful.
Bruichladdich Octomore (Edition 01.1), 5 years old, 63.5%
Single Malt Scotch | $185
This is the new super-peated (131 ppm phenol barley) Bruichladdich. “Super-peated” seems almost like an understatement. Ultra-peated, perhaps? Intense smoke on the nose and palate, with notes of freshly tarred road, cigar smoke and ash, licorice root, bacon fat, kalamata olive, and smoked seaweed. Struggling to emerge are youthful orchard fruit, honeyed malt, brine, and soft vanilla. Long, smoky finish -- like licking the walls of a peat-infused kiln. A very invigorating whisky. It’s a few years younger than the other ultra-peated whisky, Ardbeg Supernova. I think if they were both the same age, I would like them equally (and score them equally -- I gave Supernova an 89). But the Octomore does taste a little green, which was not noticeable in the Supernova. I think Octomore will be very good in another five years, and amazing in another ten. Let’s hope the lads at Bruichladdich are holding some stocks back.
Using this ancient barley variety is a challenge for a distiller. The yields are low, the mash thick and hard to work, but I’m delighted that Bruichladdich has persevered. It adds a more overt cereal note to the whisky, taking the Laddie off into a different world of honey-nut corn flakes. There’s also a surprising rose-like perfume. It’s young, so add water to cut its more, er, bracing qualities. In fact, have it with ice and soda. (Travel Retail exclusive) £58
Its color suggests sherry cask influence, and its aroma confirms. The initial impact on the palate is lush fruit, followed by a clean honeyed malt foundation. Toffee and nuts emerge, with that satisfying Bruichladdich freshness and brine kicking in on the finish, providing some balance for the somewhat waxy, sherried sweetness. (A Park Avenue Liquors exclusive.)
Another Travel Retail exclusive, and while you might expect something delicate given the age statement, what is delivered is a thick, buttery/creamy opening that, for a second, teeters on the brink of sourness then pulls back to be more like ricotta cheese. It then settles into vanilla, floral notes, white chocolate, and sweet barley. The palate is thick once again, with lemon cheesecake giving a needed clean acidity. Quite a bulky youngster that’s best with water. (Travel Retail exclusive) £45
Bruichladdich Octomore ‘Comus’ 4.2 2007 5 year old, 61%
Single Malt Scotch | $200
Comus is the name of a frankly terrifying English folk group who taps into the dark, pagan spirit underpinning that music. An apposite name then for the Laddie’s most heavily-peated variant. If you want to know what it’s like to stand beside a kiln, then sniff this, but the distillery’s sweetness is retained, here in the guise of pineapple and banana. The palate is like eucalyptus lozenges, with light maltiness before that Laddie thickness makes things even sweeter.
Aged in bourbon oak and then finished in Guigal Hermitage Rouge Syrah wine casks. Bright notes of red raspberry, rhubarb, currant, plum, and (not surprisingly) grape, with background notes of vanilla and caramel. I find the syrah notes entertaining on the nose, but too dominant on the palate for balance. The fruit becomes waxy and hides a lot of Bruichladdich subtle complexities. (Bottled exclusively for The Party Source.)
Only moderately peated (15ppm phenol), but a consistent influence. Quite fresh: reminds me of a walk around a traditional distillery, with notes of steeping barley, kiln smoke, and youthful spirit. A subtle, intriguing thread of gin botanicals (especially citrus peel) weaves its way through the palate. Otherwise, the smoke and fruit keep your attention.