Cask strength Bruichladdich? Bruichladdich that’s been matured entirely in a wine cask? Colour me excited, for those words are ever-so-slightly pornographic for this whisky drinker.
Long-time readers of Malt will know that I love this distillery, and for any newcomers I’ll direct you to the likes of this post when I visited Bruichladdich in the summer of 2013 and was given a splendid bonus tour by Carl Reavey.
Should life ever get too stressful, all I have to do is close my eyes and picture myself back at the distillery. Lochindaal lapping gently against the shore in front of its white-washed walls. Barley swaying in the hills above. The force of nature that is farmer James Brown of Octomore Farm (who, upon greeting my bride of three days, lifted her up from her feet). The distillery shop styled like a surf shack, and filled with happy people. Yet, as with any distillery I admire, I’m that little bit harsher on judging its whiskies – because I constantly expect great things, and new moods.
One of the reasons I love Bruichladdich is their knack for experimentation. The Micro-Provenance Series highlights their sense of adventure – it is an “exploration into cask evolution”, which for fans of a distillery is an absolute god-send, a kind of glimpse behind the curtains to see what goes on. You get to see how warehousing, wood and climate (or rather, micro-climate), impacts the flavour of whisky. For geeks, that’s just plain cool. Such bottles are now available only through the distillery website, though some of the older ones in the range can be picked up here and there.
Cask #1310 previously held Italy’s great Amarone, a rich, raisiny, dry red wine. The spirit that went into this cask was distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2014, though only clocks in as a 9-year-old. That’s not a wine-finish, by the way – no, this whisky has spent its entire life in the cask. Only 501 bottles are available, at £90 a go, and it comes in at a potent 57.3% ABV.
Colour: extremely dark. Mahogany. Henna, with a touch of blood. On the nose: not too intense, but there are some big flavours here. Plenty of port, sherry, Armagnac notes. Mulled wine. Hazelnuts. Old school desks, pencil shavings, sandalwood. Leather. Curiously some musty notes typical of very old wood, which is remarkable given the age. Warm, plum jam. Cloves, bay leaves. It goes on…
In the mouth: oh my… classic Laddie texture, that velvet quality, medium-to-thick viscosity. On one hand its a touch dry, and on the other its mouth-watering. A lovely mix of sweet and bitter flavours though: 85% plus dark chocolate, pepper, nutmeg, vanilla, coffee. Musty, in a good way. The fruits here aren’t your typical dried fruits, they’re a touch sharper, a touch more lively. Cherries. Redcurrants, very much so. Blackcurrants and blackberries. Just a touch of maple syrup. Autumnal indeed, and with a very, very warming, woody and peppery finish. In a way, with that strange woodiness and musty quality, it really does remind me of a much older whisky, though at a far higher strength given what the angels would have taken. And to think this is only 9 years old and starting to evoke some of those flavours, or at least trick me into thinking they’re present.
That makes for a unique experience and that’s what I tend to be after these days. Give me a typical expression and I’m politely bored. Give me something left-field and I’m all yours.
Bruichladdich Cask #1310 Amarone is indecently good. In fact, it’s brilliant: a sexy Bruichladdich that made me go a bit wobbly at the knees. I kept nosing the glass for a good half an hour after it was empty, as it’s very sensual stuff. If it was a prospective partner on a date, then I’d be talking gibberish, and giving it all my best lines in an attempt to keep it out for the night as late as possible.
But is it for everyone? Well, I’m not sure that’s really the point of this series. It’s for fans of the distillery who want to explore, to go deeper into that Bruichladdich warehouse. To experience the experimentation. It’s very much worth the price tag, in my opinion, but you’re probably already there with me.
All I can say is: this is one of the most enjoyable and fun Bruichladdich whiskies I’ve had in ages.