I had a brief email chat with Rab from Bruichladdich recently. To condense the tale, he ended up letting me know that he was about to send some samples of new releases over, for review. My -abridged- reply was;
“What! I’ve only just got those 4 Octomores through! Are they making you work your lunch-breaks or something!?”
Then I saw what was in store, at which point my concern for his work/life balance was eroded slightly – have a look at this!
Black Art Background
Sadly, I’m somewhat lacking in the experience department when it comes to the “Black Art” range from our friends on Lochindaal. The premise is that head distiller, Adam Hannett, gets the freedom to create whatever he likes from the ‘Laddie warehouses, with the focus being on experimentation and expression. The resulting liquid is then bottled, usually with the very minimum information provided on what exactly has gone into it! As a result, the Black Art series has achieved an almost cult-like status among some whisky lovers, with dedicated followers rating it alongside their best work. High praise indeed! Now it’s my turn…
Bruichladdich Black Art
1994 edition 07.1
Age: 25 Years Old
Jammy (blackcurrant and damson) and sweet, with oak underpinning. Musty sweet-pea and orange perfume, with the rise of a thinner and more spirity plumb liquor at the end.
Sweet jammy-ness returns with a fizzier zest – it’s fresher than I thought it might be, orange and lime syrup with fresh lime juice. VERY slight spice from pepper and cardamom, before some grapefruit and plumb are muscled out by said jammy-ness once more…
Medium length, with some ground ginger and coriander heat, quite linear with suggestions of the journey on the nose.
Now let me be clear here, one of (if not) my favourite Bruichladdich EVER was a 1984 vintage which was drawn specially for the Bruichladdich Day tasting in 2015, directly from Ex-bourbon Casks. When I read the specifications for this new bottling and realised that there were some common themes (same age, but slightly different vintage etc…), I got excited. This incarnation, however, notably contains whisky that has been aged in refill squat hogsheads for the entirety of its maturation. Now, I’ve not knowingly tasted spirit matured in these rarer barrels, although I imagine I must have, so excitement has morphed into intrigue, let’s go….
Rare Cask Series “The Untouchable”
Age: 30 years old
Maturation: Re-fill Bourbon and Re-fill Squat Hogsheads
Thick and malty at first. Malt loaf and pistachios, unsalted butter, muscovado, treacle and double cream. Then from the deep bronze dark there comes light, candied lemon peel, Chantilly cream flexed with orange zest. Not overstated, more Stoic and lasting.
The reverse of “The Nose” experience initially. Domineering citrus and slight gooseberry sharpness hand you back to a caring and neutral bready profile. Oats and barley with light floral honey slowly wrap you up in a very homely serving of lemon drizzle cake, with some suggestion of bread pudding in the off…
Lighter feel than expected, longer flavour. Initial cereal warmth gives way to an altogether chewier juicy affair. Quite literally, orange and strawberry chewits, some freshness in the form of peppermint hangs for an age with hazy reminders of grated citrus peel.
Two contrasting whiskies from a distillery that knows both the value of tradition and the importance of innovation!
The Black Art is good whisky and it has been executed extremely well. And to that end I can thoroughly understand the reasons behind the reputation it has earned. However, what I’m sensing here is (regulars here may have guessed by now) wine casks. Now, I’m not saying that there should be a blanket ban on wine casks being used in whisky maturation (who would I be to say that!) – but what I am saying is that, thus far they have served only to confuse my palate.
My honest hope is that, with their innovative outlook, the team at Bruichladdich can win me over on this point. And with the massive pool of skills at the distillery, there’s every likelihood that they will!
The ‘88 Bruichladdich is an excellent representation of the distilleries make at the time, and where the spirit is left to talk. Occasionally (such as in the case of this whisky) it breaks out into song. Here, I can only give praise for this dram, it’s genuinely brilliant.
Regardless of my pickiness, you all know that you don’t have to believe me! Get out there and try some!
See you soon.