Round II of notes from a recent Bruichladdich tasting focuses on 3 uniquely finished expressions:
Bruichladdich 16 Year Old, Cuvee E, Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes Cask
Sauternes is Bordeaux’s exceptional trademark sweet wine, and Chateau D’Yquem stands far enough above the others to earn the ranking of Premier Cru Supérieur. Sauternes is the best-known example of sweet wine that has been made from grapes affected by the fungus Botrytis Cinerea otherwise known as “Noble Rot.” which basically dries out the grape somewhat and leaves more concentrated sugars. It’s a unique wine and therefore easy to see why Bruichladdich would think finishing their 16 Year old bourbon barrel aged malt in such a cask would be a good idea.
The Nose: With a wonderful Vin Santo nose, plump raisins, and citrus zest, the Sauternes really comes through. Honeyed malt and Sweetened vanilla all balanced by nice oak. Really voluptuous, rich with being cloying.
The Palate: More voluptuousness here with the mouthfeel, honeyed entry. Lemon meringue pie, ripe melon and raisins are balanced expertly with soft, rich vanillin and tannins from the oak
The Finish: Not overlong but still very nice, those elegant tannins remain as does a honeyed heather quality.
Thoughts: Beautiful stuff, this is an example of a great wine cask finished malt. There are nuances of the Chateau D’Yquem, subtle hints and textures, but they’re there to emphasize the malt, not turn it into something it’s not. This would be a great dessert malt with cheese.
Bruichladdich 16 Year Old, Cuvee E, Chateau D’Yquem
During Bruichladdich’s last dark period (1994 – 2000) they distilled whisky only once, during the summer of 1998. Some of that spirit ended maturing for 10 years in Manzanilla casks and some ended up in Oloroso casks…
The Nose: Nice fruit forward nose, the Oloroso is very prominent with notes of blackberries and red fruits. There are also nice touches of Caramel and French vanilla ice cream balanced by faint leather and tobacco leaf notes.
The Palate: Man…what happened? The interesting fruit & whisky combo of the nose loses out to a strange syrupy mouthfeel and an overwhelming burst of cherry cough syrup and/or cough drops. There are other red fruit notes but they’re overwhelmed. Towards the end, it seems like things get a little briney but there’s very little left of that leather and tobacco leaf to balance things here, way too sweet and faintly medicinal.
The Finish: A lingering saltiness and vaguely nutty with just a hint of smoke.
Thoughts: A really interesting nose is nullified by a really interesting-but-not-in-a-good-way palate. Strange consistency, cloyingly sweet, way too much like something you’d take for a sore throat. It wasn’t an unpleasant dram, I suppose even the cough syrup was presented well, but still…cough syrup…for me it also just didn’t work well.
Bruichladdich 1998 Oloroso
Bruichladdich 17 Year Old Rum Cask
This one was matured for 15 years in American Oak and then spent two more in rum casks from distilleries, Uitvlugt and Enmore, in Guyana. Guyanan rums from the Demerara River region are typified by their darker, molasses character.
The Nose: Very, very sweet, sugary nose. The sugar cane rum-ness really comes though nicely with notes of apricot jelly and ripe stone fruits. Hints of salted nuttiness help to balance out the sweetness a little, but this remains a really sugared nose.
The Palate: Nice mouthfeel…syrupy in a good way with an entry full of brown sugar, a bit of light molasses and honey. It’s very sweet, but just shy of cloying. Good orgeat and marzipan cookies notes develop and while some needed oak-aged tannins emerge later, they struggle to be heard under all the rummy sugar.
The Finish: Medium and still very sweet with some nice sugared tannins.
Thoughts: An interesting whisky…at least I think it was whisky. The rum casks definitely make their presence known, perhaps even too much. For me, the sugar cane quality was so strong on the nose and palate, it overwhelmed the whisky a little bit. I did enjoy it quite a bit, it’s smooth,and surprisingly complex within its sugared confines, but I felt some of the whisky character got a little lost.
Bruichladdich 17 Year Old Rum Cask