Here’s a thing that’s almost as rare as hen’s teeth. A new travel retail whisky with an age statement. Cheeky. Sure, it’s a relatively young fellow – just 8 years – but it has an age statement, which goes against the current trend. No harm in that is there? Just a number. On the bottle. Nice and honest about the contents. Sure there might be older whisky in there, but the youngest is 8 years old and by law 8 goes on the bottle – and Bruichladdich aren’t ashamed about that. See how easy it all is?
Of course, the irony is that Bruichladdich were pioneers of the sense that you did not have to put an age on the whisky in the first place. Mark Reynier used to describe ‘the tyranny of the age statement’, in fact. But that was long before ‘No Age Statement’ (NAS) whiskies were hijacked by brands to sell ‘stories’ to people instead of aged whisky, perhaps hoodwinking punters with regards to the value of the whisky in the process. This began to break an established convention of selling quality by age, a convention that dates back a good century if one looks at the trade advertising records. And those old whiskies, like this Laddie Eight, could still be a young age, but back around the 1890s declaring the age was reassurance of a guaranteed minimum level of maturation and quality (though it was not necessarily always displayed on the label itself). But that’s a bigger article, and I’ve gone off on one again.
Travel retail rising
I make a point of it as there aren’t many brand new travel retail whiskies that have an age statement. I recently attended a very lovely event put on by World Duty Free – a whisky brunch, as it happens, in a lovely place in Mayfair, and hosted by food writer Signe Johansen. We were served very nice things on a whisky-themed menu, like this:
The hollandaise sauce was infused with Ardmore whisky, and I’m still drooling. Of course, we got to sample plenty of travel retail whiskies in their natural state, and on the whole they were pretty tasty. There was no particular agenda for the day, other than to showcase new releases and talk about the breadth of what was on offer in travel retail these days. Indeed, travel retail or Duty Free – the glass-and-chrome shops you see when you’re scuttling through an airport on the edge of despair – is a booming market now, and many distilleries choose to view this as an excellent opportunity to make limited edition whiskies – or at the very least create something a bit different.
Of course, there are a couple of whiskies I’m reviewing today, which I came away with from the event. Both are from Bruichladdich, and both are limited edition runs for travel retail. One is a classic Bruichladdich unpeated release, and the other is from their smokey alter-ego, Port Charlotte. The Laddie Eight comes in the classic Bruichladdich livery, badged like the Classic Laddie or The Laddie Ten / Sixteen; it is bottled at a wonderfully meaty 50% ABV and costs £44.99. Meanwhile, Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 has spent its youth in Cognac casks (hence the CC – presumably the 01 means the first of many?), bottled at 57.8% ABV, and is available for £67.99.
Bruichladdich Laddie Eight
Colour: yellow gold to pale gold.
On the nose: fresh, grassy, coastal. Green apples. Mango. A touch of grapefruit. Soft goat’s cheese. Pancakes. Haybarns in the spring. Black olives in brine. Floral honey. Batter? Hoppy. A spring breeze of a whisky.
In the mouth: much the same of the nose, though more lively and fun than anticipated. Plenty of minerality. In fact, my immediate thoughts are that wine-os would really love this. Grapefruit and apples, all mixed with honey. Spicy, vibrant yeasty fizz – oh-so-Champagne. Grassy again, like a more honeyed Aultmore. Quite a lot of wood notes making this a lively fellow.
Cheeky young fun. It’s nice to get back to the core Bruichladdich spirit after a while spent with Octomores and experiments – I had almost forgotten that house style. It ain’t perfect, but I’ll admit this really scratched a whisky itch for me. Mood: seaside picnic: fish and chips, washed down a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Margate, though, not the French Riviera.
Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01
Colour: same! Yellow gold to pale gold.
On the nose: so Port Charlotte is meant to be heavily peated, yet this smells perfectly mellow and approachable. Quite an alluring peat actually. Touch of ash and tobacco hidden beneath a velvety layer of green olives and Manchego cheese. The cask takes this some place else though.
In the mouth: oh yes. So, heavily peated after all. But it’s very sweet: cherries, BBQ sauce. Quite meaty, of the headier beef brisket kind. Maybe pork belly. Charred oak. Very peppery and woody, and that warmth absolutely lingers in the mouth – yet it isn’t too bitter, but hits the spot rather nicely. Simple flavours here, but superbly executed. And superb Laddie texture once again. The important thing here: wonderful balance, and all very velvety and mellow. It’s brooding stuff, too – comes and goes like a thunderstorm washing across a BBQ on the beach.
The Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 is never going to live up to the mighty Port Charlotte PC12, because that was utterly, utterly fabulous, but it’s still very good and at a far more accessible price.
It’s a shame they’re not each five quid cheaper, but I think the strength makes up for it on both accounts. Overall I actually preferred the Laddie Eight, but that’s because it’s been a good while since I’ve spent some time with the real, core, old-school Bruichladdich whisky, and it reminds me of the epic Laddie Ten. So if you’re loitering like some shifty so-and-so in the corner of Duty Free, skimming down your phone frantically for whisky reviews before your family divorces you for taking so long, then either of these whiskies will be excellent value for the taste. You like peat? Go for the Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01. You don’t? The Laddie Eight. Both are good choices. Just buy one and get on the damn plane.