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
Distilled in 2014 from barley grown at Octomore Farm, with a peating level of 194 ppm, and aged 5 years in barrels from Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Jack Daniel, and Jim Beam. There’s a maritime note and prickly ginger on the nose, with a bit of smoke and a hint of cloves. Sinuous on the palate, with sweet cereal, big spicy peat, and dark chocolate. The long finish yields ashy peat and chocolate-covered ginger. (18,000 bottles)
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.
Made with barley malted to 139.6 ppm, distilled in 2014, and matured 5 years in first-fill Jim Beam, Jack Daniel, and Heaven Hill casks. Citrus fruit and unripe bananas on the nose, and in time, clean pine notes. Vanilla, salted caramel, chewy orange, and prickly woodsmoke on the palate. Lively, prickly, prominent peat, a suggestion of honey, and more citrus fruit in the lengthy finish. (30,000 bottles)
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.