The good folks at Bruichladdich have not been shy about promoting the provenance of their whisky since they re-opened in 2001. The common theme throughout every release has been that the raw materials, and the people involved with making the whisky, are just as important as the people they are selling the whisky to.
And this shows. If you’ve ever been able to visit the distillery, there’s a palpable sense of pride and camaraderie that almost oozes from everyone there. From the cleaners to the master distillers, from from the PR team to the bottling hall. There’s an undeniable feeling of community about the place that is infectious.
And the whisky isn’t bad either! They’ve arguably made the job tougher for themselves than they needed to. For example, when producing whisky, you could contest that an approach where a focus on uniform output is achieved, that this equates to a more sensible – not to mention cheaper – way to operate. Whereas letting the base materials (in this case, particularly, the Barley) lead the dance, can lead to a costly fluctuation in quality.
Regardless of this, it’s a testament to the hard work and vision of Head Distiller, Adam Hannett and his predecessors that Bruichladdich continue to fly the flag for the idea of terroir in whisky. And Since they’ve been good enough to send me down samples of some recent releases. Here’s what I think…
High Provenance Islay Barley Series
Age: 7 | ABV: 50% | RRP: £55
Sweet proving yeast, toffee and buttercream. Icing sugar dust, with a tarte tatin cooling 2 rooms away. Some light spice – notably vanilla and maybe a touch of dry heather. With a bit of juicy lychee in the background.
More sweet and citrusy than the nose would suggest. Soft buttercream (again), fudge and sharp grapefruit soften into a thicker, bitter (maybe even burnt) hazelnut and then give way to cracked black pepper on muesli and a maltiness to end.
Soft but sustained. Slight citrus clings then a creamy malty coating for MUCH longer than I was expecting.
High Provenance Islay Barley Series
Age: 8 | ABV: 50% | RRP: £70
Healthy greens, blanched, and doused in salted butter, some fresh herbal influence – parsley, with very slight flecks of chive and tarragon – and a bright, sparkly and clean zest to finish.
Wow. The clean lemon fizz persists and thickens (not quite to a curd, think more lemon syrup). Creaminess ensues with some of the fresh greens coming back to visit, a slight grassy edge with thin spun sugar and soft mint.
Again, deceptively long and balanced. Creamy bubble-gum coating, with a hint of minerality and Robinsons orange barley water.
Age: 8 | ABV: 50% | RRP: £75
Dry river reed
Oily and viscous, grapes (green ones), apples (green ones), and runny honey (not green). Dunnage warehouses, some dry mint, menthol and maybe even some gunpowder tea leaves. (I like tea).
Green fruits have stayed for the party, but there’s also a myriad of complexity with it, lime oil, prickly pears, waxy minerality. With great pronunciation stability, like Bill McLaren narrating the Works of C S Lewis.
Clingy and deviously lengthy once more. Black tea with a squeeze of lemon and a sea-salted cream cracker fade.
I think it is fair to say that the days of Bruichladdich claiming that they are “experimenting” with different types barley are numbered. As far as I’m concerned, they are much closer to mastering production with different types of barley. This is a cracking trio of whiskies, from a distillery with a passion for ingredients and who are daring enough to do it the “hard way” successfully. To put it frankly, at a time where the industry is seemingly becoming more and more focused on the maturation end of the process, it’s a breath of fresh air to try these unapologetically different whiskies with barely a reference to oak/finishing/re-racking etc…
Suffice to say….
Big ups to the ‘Laddie peeps. More like this please!
PS. You should know by now that you don’t have to believe or agree with me, GO AND TRY SOME!