This release on paper seems a seductive and an almost irresistible bottling. A gorgeous label to attract your attention, the soul stirred by the prospect of an anniversary and then you have the hint of forbidden fruit with a pre-closure Bruichladdich whisky. Yep, given the offer, a sucker like myself was only going to purchase this on all fronts.
It’s easy to write off 2020 in one fell swoop, but there have been moments to celebrate. Such as the Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar reaching the ripe old age of 20. To celebrate this momentous occasion there have been a variety of releases, which have sold out faster than a Rees-Mogg sneer. That ladies and gentleman is way beyond supersonic. So much so, that there have been slim pickings for anyone looking to join the celebration. Given how collectable or flippable the Thompson Bros. releases are nowadays this shouldn’t come too much of a surprise. I can recall an Ardmore with a lovely label being one such example, but even I may have missed the others…
This Bruichladdich was selected by non-other than Hideo Yamaoka under the Whisky Mew label. This might be a new name to many of you, but for many of us, Hideo has been a fixture at shows and festivals for many years given his passion for whisky. You can read a little more about him in this article, or in fact, the Whisky Show Old & Rare best summarised him as:
‘One of the best-known whisky collectors and experts in the world, movie producer Hideo Yamaoka famously needs two apartments in Tokyo – one for him and his family, and one for his whisky collection. Hideo Yamaoka not only has an apartment in Tokyo for his stellar whisky collection, he also has one of the most impressive palates. Hideo is able to identify whiskies blind with a success rate that has earned him The Spirit of Speyside’s Best Nose award and he’s won the Feis Ile nosing competition on numerous occasions.’
I’ve met Hideo a couple of times briefly, but the most memorable was the first random encounter at Ballindalloch distillery during the Speyside Festival. The distillery hadn’t opened and it was early morning and for whatever reason, the Tormore4 were on site. We bumped into Hideo as he was walking around the distillery and recognising a fellow whisky enthusiast, we exchanged pleasantries. To commemorate the occasion, he immediately opened his jacket and pulled out an independent bottling of 40 year old Glenfarclas that he was enjoying and offered us all a dram… that my friends is a classy entrance and set us up for a wonderful day.
This Bruichladdich as distilled December 1992 before being bottled in December 2019. Selected by Hideo Yamaoka for the Thompson family, cask #2865 was a bourbon barrel and was bottled at 54.1% strength.
Mark also kindly sent over a Claxton’s Bruichladdich released ages ago. I guess people love to give samples from this distillery and of course, Jura. So, it seems like the perfect opportunity to review a younger model. This release was distilled on 23rd August 2002 and bottled at 16 years of age. A forceful 61.2% was the final strength and resided in a sherry puncheon, but first, we’ll kick off with the Whisky Mew. This cask kicks off 2021 in style.
Whisky Mew Bruichladdich 1992 Dornoch Castle Whisky Bar 20th Anniversary – review
Colour: a golden tan, slightly faded by the Scottish climate but still Tranent radiant.
On the nose: a hypnotic arrival of peat and coastline but armed with a gentle elegance to it all. The sprinkling of sea salt takes us into the fruits with wine gums and some apples and pears. There’s a cider note to it all, strained tea leaves, vanilla, caramel and a waxy harmony. Time reveals a hint of pineapple and the addition of water turns things more resinous, nutty, waxy and fragrant.
In the mouth: are you sure this is Bruichladdich? A gorgeous elegance to proceedings and some of those old school characteristics many of us fondly seek. More of the apples, black peppercorn, caramel and a sandy aspect. There is a touch of peat but refined and delicate now which comes through a little more on the finish. Some chocolate, waxy again in parts. Adding water releases kumquat, fennel and more oily and chewy aspects with smoke coming through more. However you approach this whisky, there is a lovely complexity and balance to it the experience.
Claxton’s Bruichladdich 2002 16 year old – review
On the nose: amber, dried reeds, some cherry notes and toffee. Quite pleasant, chocolate, a Hovis loaf, radicchio and a mustiness. Adding some water unlocks some cinnamon, walnuts, red pepper and lots of soggy wood.
In the mouth: a little uncouth and shortcoming when it comes to character. Jammy in parts, more cherries and a pleasing tartness but it needs water. This brings out more of the wood with a hint of the sherry influence with figs, cranberries and orange, but mostly, it’s a sense of wood that dominates and lingers.
The Claxton’s is a bit of a bruiser. Far from a sherry monster – which is a term I dislike – it has a robust and relentless nature. Lots of dominant woodiness overpowers the subtle elements of the Bruichladdich distillate. I suppose this is the new Bruichladdich that we know today. An interesting bottling in some respects; so much strength which may have benefited with more maturation.
Referring to my tasting journal for the Whisky Mew, the score simply reads 8? and by that, I’m swithering. What constitutes the difference between 8 or 9? On a 10-point scoring system, each step is significant. The keyword in our guide being exceptional. So, I ask myself a few days later just what more would I want from a single cask Bruichladdich? I’m really struggling to find much to criticise with this Whisky Mew which seems a splendid pick for a momentous occasion. Not every business will make it out of 2020 and many others won’t reach their 2nd decade of existence.
I’ll dust off the 9 and quite happily place it on this bottling.