I've been lucky enough to have taken part in two twitter tastings before, and they have been excellent fun. When The Whisky Wire announced that they were doing one with Bruichladdich, I leapt at the chance to be involved.
Bruichladdich is an Islay distillery, but their style is generally less peat-heavy than other distilleries there (although there are certainly exceptions to that rule, like the mighty Octomore). This, along with their younger, cooler marketing make them one of the most approachable Islays. Their Feis Ile open day is also the most fun on the island, but don't tell the other distilleries I said so.
Last year, Bruichladdich fans held their collective breath when it was announced that the fiercely independent distillery was being sold to Remy Cointreau. Happily, the new owners seem to have taken a very hands-off approach and it seems to be business as usual.
Part of that business is the deluge of different bottlings; their website currently lists 48 different expressions – although sadly this doesn't appear to include Waves, one of my favourite Bruichladdich bottlings.
It's perhaps not surprising, then, that I haven't had the chance to taste any of the drams on today's twitter tasting.
My initial impressions on the nose are of sweet vanilla, and peardrops. It's light and surprisingly alcohol-heavy, despite a modest 46% ABV. I see several mentions of cheese in the twitter discussion, but I don't get it! As it sits in the glass, other aromas become apparent - almonds, and a more tropical fruitiness, with a definite banana quality.
Water releases some of the caramel notes that others on twitter have been mentioning; the fruit is lighter, becoming a light citrus lime.
Young and brash in the mouth, with lots of alcohol bite. It's not nearly as light as the aroma suggested; there's a richness from the wood of the cask, and a growingly peppery finish. Water obviously pushes that harshness back, and it's sweeter overall. There's a distinct lemon sherbert character that I'm not just imagining, as twitter supports me!
Overall it feels a young whisky, but very drinkable and surprisingly complex for all that.
Islay Barley 2006
A truly Islay whisky, produced using barley grown on the island itself – although it had to be sent off-island to be malted. The nose is richer than The Organic – honey, barley and, bizarrely, a hint of pea pods along with a definite hint of the sea. As it sits in the glass, I can smell something that makes me think of crops in the field before the twitter hivemind identifies it for me - oil-seed-rape fields.
Water lightens it up somewhat – the honey is still there but there's more of a citrus orange background, and some wood from the cask starting to come through; it's faintly reminiscent of being in a warehouse filled with gently maturing whisky.
Sweet and fruity in the mouth, with much less of the youthful harshness The Organic had, there's golden syrup and a warm, cooked spice character. Several mentions are made of crumble topping and I think for me it's the ginger and cinnamon type spices that lead to that impression.
Water brings out a more grainy tone; the sweetness is less pronounced and there's orange peel in there, but it retains those warming ginger and cinnamon spices and a stronger pepper finish.
Perhaps not as multi-layered as The Organic, but it's richer and more satisfying for me.
The Laddie Ten
Originally released to celebrate ten years since Bruichladdich re-opened in 2001, this was also one of the first whiskies to come with a date statement on it – something Bruichladdich have traditionally shied away from.
The first thing that comes to mind on the nose is the sea; it's mellow compared to the previous two, and lacks the sweetness. There's a definite TCP edge to it, and despite the lack of peat manages to be very Islay in style - I feel like I'm stood on the beach of Loch Indaal.
Watered, the aroma allows a hint of peat to escape, with the sea taking a back seat.
In the mouth, it's deliciously smooth; there's a slight toffee flavour and definitely a slight peat warmth showing through. There's some fruit there too, suggesting at least a little sherry cask ageing in the mix. Water tames it a little too much for me; the sweetness remains but the flavours are more muted - although the sherry shines through more. For me, it's a dram better drunk neat.
Overall, it's a fantastically drinkable whisky, and for the price it really should be in any whisky lovers cupboard.
Black Art 1989
Also known as Black Art 3 this the oldest whisky in the tasting, at 22 years. The nose is fruity, filled with raisins that are more Pedro Ximenez than Bruichladdich. There's a waft of tobacco, a hint of darkest chocolate and - thanks again to fellow twitter folks for identifying it - raspberry vinegar.
Water quietens the sherry and allows the whisky character to come through more, although it's still sweet and rich.
The first impression in the mouth is of thick, sweet fruit syrup that is immediately burnt away by a surprisingly big alcohol hit which yields to a lingering, spiced dark berry finish. Water tames the alcohol, which allows the syrupy fruit to linger far longer, slowly evolving into a perfectly balanced spiced honey tail and a delicious tannic finish.
This review was originally published 6th March, 2013. It was last updated 1st June, 2023.