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Bruichladdich Valinch 48 2007

Greed. It’s everywhere in whisky currently. We’re often fed the justification from flippers and auctioneers that they provide a vital service as to their existence and purpose. The suggestion being by selling these bottles on the secondary market, they are enabling those further afield to purchase and explore such releases. This is a red herring: the bottom line is pure profit, with the whisky itself being another entry on an inventory.

This was highlighted in 2019 by visiting friends at different times of the year. They had spent a great deal of money to visit Scotland. Part of the appeal was visiting distilleries and being able to take back an exclusive bottle to share with friends. Unfortunately, several distilleries including today’s example of Bruichladdich, the bottle your own and exclusive releases had been wiped out by marauding flippers and auction vans. They left empty-handed and the forceful punch of disappointment lingered.

Think about that for just a moment. I doubt in whisky terms if there is anything more disappointing than being denied an exclusive memento to enjoy? Especially in the full knowledge that a large proportion is destined to be sold to the highest bidder. Enjoy your holiday: thanks for visiting Islay and Scotland. Maybe you’d prefer to pick up a bottle of Lagavulin 10 at the airport on your way out? A word of advice: don’t even think about the Lagavulin 10, although David (a Patreon supporter) enjoyed it so there you go – all opinions are valid.

In a way, it, unfortunately, exposed them to the problem we are now facing in Scotland around the auction aneurysm that will eventually explode. You don’t see many of these valinchs opened whatsoever. Generally, they double their value and the more unusual casks can go beyond this level. Throughout, the sense of the whisky is lost.

How do you combat the problem? Stop offering such an option to any visitors? The distilleries are clearly watching with Diageo’s recent pricing of the Lagavulin Jazz festival at a remarkable £395, which is more than double the price of the Feis Ile release earlier in 2019. In some ways, you cannot blame distilleries. They do all the hard work to produce this liquid and then a mere courier can obtain a bigger profit windfall from the release.

We’re seeing more distilleries moving to a direct to consumer aspect. Macallan has tried this recently much to the dismay of some retailers who would love to stock such releases. Long term what is the future for such releases? New distilleries may try to cultivate and own their own distribution channels and outlets. Harris distillery has attempted this with their hugely successful gin. I still find it bizarre that you cannot pick up and purchase such a bottle without filling in an online form, which in turn prompts the retailer to scurry into their office and await the email confirmation. Only for then to return with the said item nicely packaged – wasn’t technology meant to make things easier?

What does the future hold? Considering the options, I don’t have any easy answers. Whisky is a worldwide phenomenon and releases such as these valinchs perform a worthwhile role. Their variability is part of the appeal and the sense of the unknown. I have more to open and I’ll do so in good time. I hope you’ll do the same and not chase short-term gain over what truly matters; the whisky, friends and memories.

This valinch #48 is named after Ashley MacGregor, tour guide & shop employee. Distilled on 26th November 2007, this resided in cask #3288, a Portuguese fortified wine cask, until it was bottled in 2019 at 11 years of age. The strength was 57.4% and 425 bottles were released at the distillery shop with a price of £75 for a 50cl. My thanks to @whiskytravelscotland for passing on a healthy sample of this release.

Bruichladdich Valinch 48 2007 – review

Colour: orangeade.

On the nose: barley drops and an unsurprising reddish influence with bruised apples, grapes, orange peel and raspberries. Some brass, ginger loaf, a dough quality and blackcurrant. Cornflakes of all things, malty with some cinnamon, peaches and with time tobacco comes through. Adding water reveals almonds, jaffa segments and more fiery ginger.

In the mouth: very sweet and a little hot with a touch of earth. Tartness isn’t a surprise alongside a clammy nature with rubbed brass, pomegranate and strawberries. Unfortunately, water isn’t beneficial and removes these interesting aspects, leaving you with something drinkable but lacking a voice.

Conclusions

An inoffensive example of a distillery exclusive. I’m left thinking that this is a perfectly safe but inept choice. The Bruichladdich distillate has been chaperoned by this Portuguese fortified wine cask (which isn’t top-notch) and the end result is something a little muddled and a little meh. An unfortunate state of affairs given that this is £75 for 50cl. A touch of sweetness hints at the cask yet in reality beyond this, there is little to recall, or debate.

However, it is good that this series continues and a distillery tries to offer its visitors something different to the core range. Bruichladdich fans are used to finishes and wine casks, so this plays to the home market with aplomb.

We all want that souvenir of a distillery visit, whether it is a t-shirt or something more pleasing in liquid form. For the more adventurous, releases such as these that we can repatriate and break the seal amongst friends. This where such things come into their own and in doing so, memories are also revived. While #48 fails to deliver, it won’t stop me from trying further releases in this series and I hope you have the opportunity to do so as well.

Score: 4/10

CategoriesSingle Malt
    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      That’s the danger John. I don’t think it was the greatest cask tbh, so hasn’t stomped everything out like it may have.

      Bruichladdich in the early days would have utilised any casks they could get their hands on, good or bad. They survived.

      Cheers, Jason.

          1. Avatar
            portwood says:

            There is more than one type of Portuguese “fortified wine”, therefore, don’t automatically assume ex-port. Other Portuguese fortified wines: Madeira and moscatel de Setubal. The fact the words “Port” or “Madeira” – the more well known and respected fortified wines – are absent from the label, suggests to me this was aged in an ex-moscatel barrel.

          2. Jason
            Jason says:

            Hi PW

            Having visited Portugal, I can confirm you’re correct in that there is more besides Port.

            It’s only in the comments that the Port belief has manifested itself. The review sticks with fortified wine as per the label.

            Thanks, Jason.

      1. Avatar

        2020, same old gripes re whisky prices and value. I read this in conjunction with whiskysponge latest (why can’t Diageo/Ferrari sell us a reasonably priced excellent whisky/motor). As an older anorak having drunk from the 80s whisky loch, I find that all whisky nowadays is a bit pricey in respect of age or quality and I really struggle to find the value (also a gambling term, also pertinent to whisky purchasing). I do think that we “bottle chasers” and hardcore whisky fans have lost a bit of perspective and got a bit “above” ourselves. We have no inherent right to demand that the industry gives us quality whisky – we can simply choose not to buy their indifferent produce, the same as not buying designer bread or anything, anybody wants to sell us. The whisky industry has been in existence long before us and will be about after we’ve shuffled off. Any notion that it (the business) gives a “flying shit” about us or our opinions is wide of the mark. It all comes down to the bottom line – how much is somebody prepared to pay for a particular bottle. If a rich bloke in China wants to buy a beautifully presented, older aged and lovely tasting whisky for ten grand to share with his equally rich friends, then fair dinkum – it’s almost certainly nothing (albeit tasty) I would/could consider on my limited funds. The problem with the time served, modern day whisky fundamentalists is the misconception that whisky is “ours”. It’s not. We’re just fans, but we’re so enthusiastic and engaged, that it feels like ours and we get a bit shirty when non ninjas get the “best” stuff. BUT – we have the knowledge (= power) to know what represents proper value so I won’t be swapping my two latest bottles of 70cl 46% Signatory ucf Clynelish for a same priced 50cl twatty cask of mentalness from any producer. I will continue to buy quality whisky for a proper price and a £10 of £20 premium if it hits 3 or 4 of my own favourite flavour profiles (yep, drinking it) – because whisky is more about who you’re drinking with than what you’re drinking (that said, they won’t half play up if it’s shit!). Happy New Year, already.

  1. Avatar
    Greg B. says:

    Sounds like yet another of the endless Bruichladdich/McEwan-era small-volume experiments that seemed almost to be done in desperation at the time to generate cash. This sort of thing is what has turned me off Bruichladdich the last few years. Distilleries need to have a range of known, dependable products, whereas Bruichladdich (and some others) seem determined to try to confuse instead via constant churn. Just because you are able to so something, doesn’t mean that you should.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Greg

      Yes, there was an Aldi mentality back then. Pile ’em high and bottle on a regular basis. From memory, one year, Bruichladdich bottled 43 releases!

      Less is more perhaps?

      Cheers, Jason.

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    Ed says:

    When is it okay to sell whisky? I have to admit I’ve bought a few dusty bottles at local auction that I made a profit in on the dedicated whisky sites. I also bought a spare of a bottle that was dirt cheap and plentiful at the time but I reckoned that it would double in price and after 2 years it has. I see it as providing me with money that covers my own expensive habit of purchasing whiskies for opening. I’m more opportunistic in a side deal kind of way than the folks who queue for daftmill. What’s my moral compass here?

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Ed

      There’s an important distinction I think, or at least to me. Those that queue to sell immediately often don’t have any interest in the said whisky. It is merely the pursuit of profit and warrants the scorn of many. Then, there are those that may stumble across a bottle years later, or it has become life-changing money.

      I’ve written another valinch article (#40) today, which will follow in February, that taps into this.

      Cheers, Jason.

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    Welsh Toro says:

    Seriously (and here I go yet again) what is the point of this whisky? Okay, Bruichladdich get to flog some stuff on the books. Go ahead and buy it – but why? I’m glad you mentioned the distillery visit experience because it’s all part of the same thing. I love whisky and I love the whisky community but whisky distilleries are corporate entities that want your money in exchange for anything they can get away with. Let’s dump the idiotic romanticism. Thank goodness there are still some good ones out there. We all thought this was a bubble but it just gets bigger and bigger. I keep telling my friends to stop being suckers and buying overpriced whisky but they just can’t resist buying the latest overpriced (insert distillery) bottle. Let’s be honest, if the whisky was improving this might be justified but it’s not. Good to get your notes on this one Jason. WT

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi WT

      I’ve given up trying to predict the bubble and when it will pop – and it will eventually. This whisky is a nice keepsake or reward for visitors who come from afar. I never really thought too much about it until I saw how excited friends were to visit Bruichladdich, something I just took for granted. Like haggis, Irn Bru, Scottish water and the country itself.

      People are buying overpriced for the wrong reasons. They see the range of investment articles online and the ‘buy buy’ dynamic that distilleries, ambassadors, auctioneers and the industry are fanning. Personally, I think we’re in a very mundane whisky period. It has levelled out. So much is of the same ilk.

      Cheers, Jason.

  4. Avatar
    Smiffy says:

    I have to say a Bruichladdich micro-provenance series release made me stop and question what I was doing. It was a fourteen year old whisky that had been matured in a Calvados cask and I desperately wanted it (for my own personal consumption) but the price made me stop and walk away. I can’t justify buying whisky for silly money just to drink it and I don’t believe in flipping whisky, just like with houses, classic cars and motorcycles, it feels deeply unethical and dishonest whilst ruining market you’re buying and selling in.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Smiffy

      I know many will feel the same. The MP series is fun but as you quite rightly point out, it’s not cheap and let’s not start on Octomore. There is no guarantee that you’ll enjoy the whisky either, and with a non-impulse buy price tag, it makes sense to step back and consider all options.

      Cheers, Jason.

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