Peated or unpeated…..that is the Islay question. The Isle of Islay is renowned for it’s peated whisky the world over. It is the mecca of peated whisky and people travel from all over the world each year to visit the small Island whose primary source of industry is whisky production! In fact, Islay is a Scottish whisky region all to itself! Bruichladdich Distillery both breaks and embraces that peated heaven stereotype. The Distillery itself has had a turbulent past having been founded in 1881 and suffered 4 closures since then. The last closure was in 1994 after which it lay dormant until December 2000 when it was bought by Independent Whisky Bottler firm Murray McDavid. Never hear of them? I bet you’ll have heard of their lead man, none other than Waterford Distilleries owner, Mark Raynier. The team employed Jim McEwan as their Master Distiller and between purchase and May 2001 they dismantled and rebuilt the distillery reusing as much of the original equipment as possible. To this day, the production process is totally manual ensuring that the distillery has a wealth of skilled workers who man the various processes.
The distillery is fiercely passionate about their barley and only use the best of Scottish barley. By their own words, they do not see the farmers as their suppliers, but see them as their partners in the whisky production. They fiercely believe in Terrior which, in short, is how environmental factors, soil types and location has an impact on the final crops growth and quality. In addition, they never use artificial colouring and only use non-chill filtration in all their whiskies. It has all the attributes of a distillery that only wants to produce really great whisky and isn’t in it just for profit. But profit is important, of course, and in 2012 the distillery was sold to Rémy Cointreau for £58 million. While it was sold to a huge multi national company, it appears that nothing has really changed in its production processes. And why would it? Raynier and his group took a closed distillery and made it into a ridiculously successful one in a relatively short time. They also have a great website, one of the best I’ve comes across for a whisky company so check it out here. If you have a bottle there is also a transparency code on it which you can enter into the website. This gives you the break down of your bottle including the number of casks, the different barley types, the ages of the blend and the cask types! It,s a really cool concept for a whisky nerd like me!
Right, onto the juice. For it’s unpeated range, it is simply known as the “Bruichladdich” range and to the fore of that is the Classic Laddie, which we will look at today. The other range is “Port Charlotte” which is a heavily peated expression and “Octomore”, the super-heavily peated expression. Port Charlotte gets its name from the little village two miles to the south of Bruichladdich while Octomore takes it’s name from the farm at which the distillery takes its water supply. So lets have a look at the Classic Laddie, all 50% ABV of it!
Nose – Massively sweet and fruity nose with a touch of earthiness. Honey, toffee and old style boiled sweets. Also strangely reminds me of walking into a house with someone baking cookies (most likely my own house, the wife loves baking!)
Palate – Is this really 50% ABV?? Very refreshing for such a high ABV with a lovely viscous mouth coating. Pink lady apples, grapes and spoons of sugar at first taste. These make way for some plums and pears.
Finish – Nice medium to long spicy finish. Remains sweet until the very end where the last linger of taste seems to reveal some sea grass saltiness.
Overall – Man did this deliver for me. €55 for a well balanced and fantastically enjoyable easy to drink 50% ABV whiskey? Yep….it’s now a firm favorite on my shelf!
Big thanks to Stephen Magennis of “Barry and Fitzwilliam” for sourcing the bottle for me.