Weary travellers, who have followed the Whisky Rover persona prior to moving into this new luxurious version of Malt, will know I have a particular place in my heart for Bruichladdich. From experience and discussion, it’s a fair outline that there are distilleries we love and others where our convictions are shall we say, not quite as strong. This latter category is where you’ll find the revived Islay distillery.
Distinctions must be made as I’ve had some lovely Laddies – apparently that’s what the fans refer to them as – distilled prior to the distillery revival in 2001. Since the reboot, fanfare and inventive marketing the whisky sometimes has taken a backseat. Perhaps it is just bad batches, or I need to spend more time with its wares, but I find whisky from here to be very cereal based, tepid and lacking vigour.
If the Black Arts were a metal album, it would be the cheesiest air guitar perm adorned listening experience full of hype, latex and little substance. Marketing and branding clearly covers some of these cracks rather well and I prefer the Port Charlotte distillate so not everything from these stills is tainted.
When Mark (Tweedlord) and I (Darklord), discussed the future and our plans for this new version of Malt it was fairly straightforward. We wanted to create a platform for some of our favourite writers who like you, appreciate honesty, transparency and offer criticism when it is rightly due.
No mysterious scoring system where 98% of everything seemingly lands between the goalposts of 80-90 thereby devaluing the review or sanding down any negatives. There was this conviction that several sites – or blogs if you prefer – were doing great things but were going seemingly unnoticed. Together as a team we could create a destination for whisky that did not wish to have alliances with the industry or engage in secret handshakes in the corridors of power to gain access to invite only events.
What does this have to do with Bruichladdich? Well, we all have our favourites and disappointments as noted. Our preferences as a team were not discussed, although my love of Bruichladdich has been the butt of Twitter exchanges. Within our team I have an editorial title, in reality it’s more likely a grunt from Halo or one of the stokers feeding the fires in Metropolis. Mark and I, ensure that we have daily content and it looks good. If that wasn’t enough, there is the biblical catalogue of going through existing articles and aligning them into the new visual format. There is no discussion around scores, topics, flogging of staff or the pursuit of marketing contacts. This is a different beast. The public flogging will come later.
My time with whisky has highlighted many aspects and a consistent theme is the power of a single cask. This vessel can offer a moment of brilliance and universal symmetry, or create the worst liquid imaginable, which I refer to as Jura. Every dog or distillery has its day with a single cask and yes Jura has offered an excellent whisky once with the 1986 Cadenhead 30 year old and the same miracle applied to an Auchentoshan Bordeaux distillery cask. Point being, we all have that potential for greatness even if fleeting and once again I find myself sitting down with a private cask of Bruichladdich.
This sample was kindly provided by Michael at the Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch that offers a fine selection of whisky and tastings. If you’ve been involved in the Scottish whisky scene in recent years then you may have met Michael who is as passionate about today’s whisky almost as much as the history of whisky.
Several of the private casks from Bruichladdich I’ve tried have been rather benign and inoffensive.
Whether this was the result of poor wood or the team still trying to harness the new make spirit or open up much needed revenue streams, I’ll leave to you. We’re seeing many of these casks come to market, as individuals or syndicates see the enjoyment of owning a cask right through to the very end.
I’m fortunate myself to have some casks and shares in casks. It is a journey I enjoy whatever the outcome and financial implications. There are many considerations including the final package itself. This private bottling from the mysteriously titled Whisky Syndicate No.3 was distilled in July 2006 before being bottled in April 2017. The final outturn from the sherry cask was a harmonious 300 bottles. The majority will have gone to syndicate members and what remained was shipped to our European friends to enjoy. The Carnegie Whisky Cellars managed to acquire the remaining UK based bottles, a number less than 30 from memory, for a shop exclusive priced at £85.
The Syndicate here have gone for a more traditional label, harking back to the simpler days. No fancy labelling, which I am a fan of when it comes to elaborate designs seen from our continental cousins. Dabbling and exploring in old whiskies I’ve grown to appreciate the unassuming label that offers all the details. Bottled by the Whisky Broker, the most interesting aspect of this Bruichladdich is the one I’ve left till last. This 10-year-old is bottled at a ridiculous 68.1%, itself harking back to the bygone practice of filling the cask at a higher strength, rather than the universal 63% seen nowadays.
Bruichladdich Cairdeas 2006 10 year old review
Colour: a golden syrup
On the nose: it’s far from the pungent menace I was expecting due to its high strength. Yes, there’s a tinge of alcohol but nothing excessive. Dried fruits appear with raisins, figs, coconut and a touch of nutmeg, sweet cinnamon and your usual vanilla. There’s a varnish-like quality drifting into beeswax and milk chocolate. Quite enticing for a Bruichladdich and can you feel my pain as I type that? Water reveals orange, plastercine and a floral aspect.
In the mouth: robust is the initial thought but far from fiery. The sherry cask is subtle and of good quality without dominating the spirit. Spent tobacco, blackcurrant jam and vanilla alongside cinnamon, but rather than being individual flavours they have all united creating something else rather distinctive but I cannot quite place. Golden syrup and walnuts follow and its almost a shame to add water but lets try. An ash like quality now towards the end but prior to this it’s fruitier with melons and apricots.
This summary has bounced around in my head for a while. One option was to move onto the score below without stating anything. I knew regular reader and Bruichladdich fan Jude would not allow this. Huh, again the single cask is thought provoking and every dog has its day including the Laddie.