Second in a series of three explorations of Bruichladdich’s many expressions, I have two of the Black Art’s, samples kindly donated by Yoav Gelbfish. Black Art is under “Cask Exploration” in their expression matrix, but its old too, and like all of their whiskies, very good indeed. Its a marriage of bourbon casks plus an undisclosed set of wine casks. Perhaps the using up of a lot of failed wine cask experiments? If so – expert blending and marketing. Smells and tastes like a lot of sherry and port casks in here to me.
Black Art 1 was £76 a bottle, 2 and 3 were £96 and 4 was £198, which perhaps says more about marketing and the market than the quality or intrinsic value of the whisky. I think the 3 was well priced, but now sells at the £200 mark. The 4 sold out as well . That’s supply, demand and price gouging, but there are better whiskies available at £200.
Aside from the economics of it, I like what the brand is saying about the whisky. Excellence is complicated, making it happen is a black art. Don’t ask what happened on the way to your glass…
Nose – Beautifully pitched waxy acetone, black cherries, rum soaked raisins, dark sherry and polished old furniture. Ripe, ancient feel to the nose, well waxed leather, some tobacco (fresh, dark, damp) and clean cardboard.
Body – Sweet, structured, fresh ripe pear. Some spice, good wood. Tropical burps.
Finish – Medium, good balance, winey edge comes through massively in the finish (port and sherry).
What's not good about it: Nothing really, maybe finish a little short, maybe a little rich – there’s a bitterness blip in there. But hard to find proper fault. Note that sulphur does play a small part, but it isn’t a taint here. Its correct. The casks are all good.
What’s good about it: Dark, lacquered nose you can lose yourself in, rich, sherried, great balance and structure. Stunning.
Nose – Less raisiny, more furniture polish. Flawlessly sherried nose, really beautiful. A little red chilli on the edge, just brightens up the richness. Verging on sour, but not at all there with it – suddenly makes sense, more elegant and more accomplished.
Body – Biscuity, cereal blast here with a back note that’s less luxuriant and less rich. While this is to some extent really the same whisky, here the barley is bursting through with a feeling of swimming pool changing room that’s not altogether welcome, and its shattering the illusion of excellence. This is the fine line between good and great. I can feel an oily decadence behind this which hints at what this could have been.
Finish – Very long, quite bright and wooded, spicy but balanced. Very good actually.
What's not good about it: Luxury let down on the palate, certainly not as oily and opulent as the 3.
What’s good about it: Fabulous nose, still a blockbuster dram, love the wine edge here again.
Comparing the two
|Black Art 3||Richer, waxier, darker||More luxuriant, more port||Savoury, loads of wine, a bit more peppery, long|
|Black Art 4||More restrained, elegant||More cereal, more wine, more honest||Long but more ordinary|
The three is the clear winner for me – they cost the same now, but even at the same price the three is the one to go for.