Bruichladdich is a relatively young distillery in many ways. Originally opening in 1881 it survived several moth-ballings and ownership changes until finally in late 2000, new owners, including the owners of the Murray McDavid independent line, took over and began the transformation of the distillery into one of the most innovative in the world. Today, Bruichladdich is unique in several ways, they obtain much of their barley from local sources and are the only Islay distillery that has in-house bottling. They’ve also tended to sidestep the ubiquitous 12yo, 15yo, 18yo, 25yo, etc. idea and instead have created a long list of wine cask finishes, no-age-statement themed malts (Rocks, Waves, etc.) heady eccentric expressions (Black Art, X4), the Port Charlotte line of heavily peated drams, and of course the over-the-top Octomore.
Here’s round one of some quick notes on the Bruichladdich Tasting at San Francisco’s City Club…
Bruichladdich 12 Year Old, 2nd Edition
The second go ’round for their 12 year old is barely peated and aged in a mix of re-fill and first fill bourbon casks.
The Nose: Crisp, but not necessarily bright with a little too much spirit. There are notes of under-ripe fruit, hard pears and dry raisins, coarse vanilla and a good deal of malty barley. There’s a hint of heavily salted nuts as well as a tiny rubbery bit of peat as well.
The Palate: A rather unremarkable entry starts with cider-y sweetness and heathery grain and moves into more spicy grain. There’s a nice balance here between the tannins and the acidity but it’s very mild flavor-wise and complexity-wise.
The Finish: Longer than expected, spicy and malty.
Thoughts: I was definitely not blown away by this one, it was decently structured but lacking in anything to set it apart. Kind of dullsville and light with restrained, crisp fruits and malted grain acting rather cautiously. This is marketed as an aperitif malt, which I suppose it would work well as because if its crisp simplicity but I’d rather start a night off with something a bit more interesting.
Bruichladdich 12 Year Old, 2nd Edition, Islay, Unchillfiltered
The saying on the label, “Anns An T-Seann Doigh” translates roughly to “made in the traditional way”, implying, I suppose, that anything not organic (including non-organic Bruichladdies, right?) is not made in the traditional way, which of course is pure foolishness. The “organic” tag is tricky one, there are plenty of farmers and food producers making delicious healthy stuff without pesticides and genetically modified strains that have opted not to pursue the expensive “official” organic certification. The idea of organic food is vitally important, but the business of organic food is one to be wary of. Certified organic food that travels 1000’s of miles to your table is not better or more eco-friendly than the non-certified organic food made next door. “Organic” is very hip right now and is in some ways almost more of a marketing term at this point than an actual sign of quality. Still, this is a very laudable effort. The 2003 Organic, according to Bruichladdich, is the first certified organic whisky and is made with organic barley from a farm near Inverness and aged solely in American Oak.
The Nose: This has a nice lush nose: plump raisins, citrus creme, sweet tropical fruits and soft grain notes. There’s a small amount of peat here that gives a slight tang that’s a little reminiscent of somewhat well-worn sneakers. This is not a bad thing, mind you, it’s faint and provides a nice counterpoint to all the creamy fruit
The Palate: Delicious, oily, smooth mouthfeel. Lemon creme, a little citrus zest and just a touch of rubbery peat give way to more graininess and baking spices. There’s a pleasant dryness at the end which isn’t tannic, more cinnamon and clove.
The Finish: Fairly quick and spicy with the youth showing up a bit more.
Thoughts: I was somewhat surprised by this one, I really enjoyed the fruity nose, the crisp yet smooth, creamy quality and the surprising complexity of such a youngin’. It does show its lack of maturity towards the end but overall a good whisky and a noble endeavor.
Bruichladdich Organic 2003, “Anns An T-Seann Doigh”, Islay, Unchillfiltered