I make no secret that I’m a fan of Bruichladdich – their spirit and their spirit – so take this review with a pinch of salt. That said, I think there’s something to be said for exploring new whiskies from a distillery you admire, as you bring with it a weight of knowledge, expectations and more importantly comparisons. That all sort of helps you triangulate where the distillery is going, as you know where it’s been. If you get a spare moment, do to read my epic write-up of my visit to the distillery. I think it gives a pretty good perspective on who they are and what they’re about.
But let’s get to business. Bruichladdich Cuvee 640 is one of three whiskies from the ‘Cuvee‘ range. I was a big fan of the First Growth series. In fact, one or two of those wine-finished drams would rate in my top ten whiskies. The Cuvee series, if I understand it rightly, is a sort of extension of that. Take great spirit, let it live for years in American oak, but finish it in casks that have previously housed wine or spirit. Cuvee 640, which I acquired recently, is the Eroica edition – and was finished in casks that held cognac, before being bottled at 46%. The bottle features the subtitle from the opening line of Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’, perhaps a ‘Übermensch’ hint to this being something that would be drunk by a superman or superwoman (or perhaps even just drunk with your underwear on the outside). All very well, but the taste?
Colour: warm oak, with a notable vibrant tinge. Not quite as far as orange, but certainly something unusual.On the nose: heady, but tightly packed together. Opens into really interesting – deeply interesting – fruits. A blast of apple and cherry. In fact, the kind of apple sauce you’d serve with roast pork. It settles into pudding straight away: juicy sponge cake, and then a rather refreshing mineral quality. A viognier wine. Just a hint of sage or thyme perhaps.
In the mouth: that unmistakable elegant yet thick Laddie texture (in the same way Dalmore has an unmistakeable texture). The apple and wine notes lead the way into this. A hint of bitter dark chocolate and oranges. It’s not as outrightly sweet as the nose promised, which is not bad thing. A mellow, Manchego cheese flavour. Perhaps red-wine style tannins on the back end, and suddenly you feel you might not be drinking whisky at all, but it’s now late at night and you’ve been sipping a superb Pinot Noir. Intense, yet sensual. At the end the spices embrace you, and then a gentle honeyed reminder that this is silky, complex whisky.
It is, of course, good. It’s very good and, bring Bruichladdich, it’s different. It is as good as those First Growth whiskies though? I don’t know. Value comes into this, and at £75-£90 a bottle, I still think it’s a good purchase to make. Yet the First Growth were about half of that (and at that price, I bought a stack of them), which has me thinking would I buy another or hunt down two bottles of First Growth at auction?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s exceptional whisky – unique, subtle, complex and deeply contemplative. A lot of other distilleries wouldn’t even get close to this, but I expect great things of a Laddie. This will keep me guessing and thinking late into the night – I suspect that, in itself, says a lot about the high quality of the whisky.