Today, we’re going to have the rarity of me actually reviewing a Bruichladdich. This was partially due to a recent infestation that took residence at my humble abode in preparation of a distillery tasting. A stockpile of bottles across the decades was compiled and then mostly enjoyed. Truth be told, we never got through them all, as we had accumulated too much Bruichladdich for a single sitting!
These Valinches are a special memento for distillery visitors who want to take home a 50cl exclusive bottling. Retailing for £75, these are easy money for the flippers, who tend to double their cash at least, depending on the type of cask. The opportunity to try and share these releases is becoming increasingly difficult with the booming secondary market nowadays. For the tasting, I managed to acquire eight different types of Valinches with the intension of opening them all. From memory, we managed about four, so we’ll be talking about these in the coming weeks.
I’m excited at such a prospect, and I know you are as well.
Putting the cards on the table, as I have done previously in my review of the Super Heavily Peated release bottled for the Ukraine. I’m not a big fan of Bruichladdich. This is based on post-revival whiskies that are variable with the brand overshadowing the contents. However now and again, they do deliver something that even someone like me will appreciate. When I wrote that review, Bruichladdich was in the forefront of my mind due to their misguided We Are Islay campaign, which to an onlooker actually translated as Kilchoman.
Nearly six months on, and the distillery is still in the forefront of my thoughts. Such a fact is, I suppose, a good thing, given the emphasis on marketing, proving that it does indeed work. Firstly, several previously enthusiastic fans have commented to me on their concerns about what’s coming out of Bruichladdich under the guidance of head distiller, Adam Hannett. I’ve not had enough exposure to the releases, but I do find it interesting that different individuals have uttered the same criticisms.
Then we have the recent news that Bruichladdich intend to open their own floor maltings on Islay to cater for their needs. This is tremendous news if the project does materialise. I do recall Ardbeg seriously considering such a move, only for their parent company to be dissuaded by the costs involved in building and maintaining such a feature. This also addresses a major flaw in their Islay message, as currently the malt is shipped off to Inverness for processing before returning to the island. Anyone who tried to take a ferry to Islay will often have to fight for space alongside lorries hauling deliveries for Bruichladdich. This is an exciting development and far more tangible than nonsense such as setting Guinness World Records to which the team seem to fall prey.
Also at the forefront of my mind is the growing battle that I’m dubbing Terroir Royale from now on, or Bruichladdich versus Waterford. Recently, I commented on my Instagram feed how confused I was becoming between posts from either of these distilleries. A single post from Bruichladdich about an Islay farm with an accompanying photograph had me believing it was actually a Waterford post. The trick is to read the text which I acknowledge, but in these heady social media times of double tap for like and move on, it’s easy to become confused.
With the malting news and acquiring the 30 acres at Shore House Croft for in-house agricultural shenanigans, Bruichladdich is upping their game. Waterford would counter that they’ve been working with several farms from day one, and rightly so. They live and breathe terroir, even in the midst of an oncoming Terroir Royale! Let’s not even talk about Hillrock distillery that achieves Terroir Plus status, but we’ll keep that for another article.
Many enthusiasts have possibly tired of terroir already; others are rejuvenated by the prospect of discovery. Personally, and I have to acknowledge here my co-editor’s links to Waterford for transparency, it always comes down to the whisky itself. This will be the defining aspect, regardless of the message, branding or price tag. That moment when the liquid truly matters, and only then will I decide if everything prior was indeed worth the effort. Until then, I’m pulling up a ringside seat with a big bucket or popcorn and a bottle of Irn Bru for the cage fight.
Right now, we have a distillery valinch to review, so let’s ditch the maltings, terroir and world records in favour of some whisky, shall we? This SHC:01 2006 was a single cask release of 1134 bottles at 62.9% strength. In reality, it is a Port Charlotte bottled at 11 years of age from a first-fill sherry cask and was bottled sometime last year before promptly selling out.
Port Charlotte Valinch SHC:01 2006 – review
Colour: Bashed copper.
On the nose: Peated toffee – is there such a thing? A lovely chemistry between the earthiness of PC and the sweetness of the cask. Cranberries mingle beside beef jerky, roasted coffee beans and Hobnob biscuits. Tayberry jam, cinnamon bark and juniper berries bring a richness to proceedings. A restrained nuttiness follows suit featuring toasted pecans, vanilla with treacle and a balance with the peat. Water highlights the dried fruits and all-spice.
In the mouth: No burn and not dominated by the cask. Initially the traditional sherry note flavours of walnuts, honey, sweet tobacco take centre stage. Then the earthiness moves in with black peppery, figs and a sticky toffee pudding dynamic. More coffee beans and a warmed ginger sponge round off an enjoyable romp. Water showcases more peat, wet soil and fruit loaf.
I’ve found the distillery Valinch’s over the years to be hugely variable. Sometimes cask dominated to the point of prompting a fit of anger. This SHC: 01 is a different beast altogether. A true reward for the weary traveller and as much as I loathe the shenanigans of Bruichladdich, occasionally every Christmas comet or so, they do produce something worthwhile. This is such a moment.