There’s a galling trend for Bruichladdich to be quite expensive, but very good. And ultimately, worth it. It’s almost as if they know exactly how much they can get away with!
The first set are from the Micro Provenance series (previous reviews here) and were released initially as a 3x20cl set for £90 with an associated tweet tasting. I split this down the middle with my mate Jon but missed the TT. The relevant full bottles are still available for sale on the Bruichladdich website (£90 each and mostly quite young, although the Pomerol cask is more reasonably aged), but the 3x20cl set sold out very quickly.
Then High Noon, the Bruichladdich Feis Isle 2015 bottling (£100 for 50cl), some old whisky in here but very winey. Then the Master of Malt single cask laddie pair. These were the first to have their new glass stoppers (pretty cool) but at 12 years old and about £120-£130 on release, there was widespread outrage when they came online. They clearly sold very few and reduced the price to under £100 which was enough for the international bottleshare group to split the pair and hence, the review appears below. MoM need to be careful with their reputation.
Anyway, the world kept turning, and then Whisky Broker released a 12 year old Port Charlotte with a peculiar wine finish. This wasn’t expensive (although, as usual, Whisky Barrel bought up half the stock and is now selling it for 20% more) but takes away the taste of price gouging and rounds off the flight – enjoy!
2007 Islay Barley Fresh Oak, 468 bottles
Distilled in 2007, bottled in 2015. This single cask is the first ever release of the 2007 harvest of Islay Barley, matured in fresh oak. The barley was grown Rockside Farm on the wild west coast of the Rhinns by Mark and Rohaise French.
Nose - Remarkable. This smells old and elegant, like a big Glenfiddich, but with a red wine sauce backing. It has some youth too, some new make cereal behind it, but it so perfectly balanced with fresh red berries, furniture polish and toffee. Wonderful nose, epic cask - big expectations. With water, sweeter and slightly more gentle but no less fun.
Body - Ouch! Youthful intensity, sharp barley, lots of spice and power, seriously lacking in elegance although it certainly works. It's a bit like getting a whiff of someone else's fag and remembering your first cigarettes - it's strong and powerful and you know something important is happening, but the feeling doesn't really feel sustainable. With water, gentler, a bit more together. A lot more water brings sweet soap and less aggression.
Finish - Long, soapy and spicy. Lingering wood, numbing aniseed and tobacco in the mouth. Shorter finish with water and less dimensional - numbing blonde oak and tobacco.
What's not good about it - The delivery doesn't live up to the hype. It needs some old complexity and depth to round this out.
What's good about it - A fantastic nose, clearly something really special cask wise. Compelling and aggressive throughout. It's a pity they don't sell more of the 20cls of this though - one a decade would see you right.
2004 Ribera del Deuro, 303 bottles
Distilled in 2004, bottled in 2015. This single cask from Warehouse 11 contains Bruichladdich spirit matured full term for ten years in European oak that previously held wine from the Duero valley, one of Spain's Denominación de Origen on the northern plateau.
Nose - Big again. Deep and elegant, dusty and lacquered. Strawberry laces, cherry pipe tobacco and granite. Pure and excellent. Water brings a touch more tobacco, less fruit, but arguably it's more grown up, although a touch of deodorant suggests a teenager.
Body - Spicy, dark and big red wine. Sweet engines, like a big, dirty, wine finished Springbank - and that's before water, at nearly 65% ABV. Remarkable stuff. With water, some sulphur in the immediate delivery, balanced oak and gunpowder, granite, liquorice. Sweeter, but still mature.
Finish - Long, dirty wine (but no sulphur) and tobacco. Drying tannins and constrained spice. Rather compelling.
What's not good about it - Challenging, again, for sure. The sweetness promised in the nose, and that would round out the whole delivery, doesn't happen. But it really works.
What's good about it - Another epic nose, much more accomplished in the delivery. Fruit, balanced sulphur and a big dirty wine finish that's dry but not nutty or overdone. It's like the Longrow Port but drier and sourer.
1992 Pomerol, 296 bottles
Distilled in 1992, bottled in 2015. This single cask from Warehouse 12 contains Bruichladdich spirit that has matured in casks of European oak from one of the great winemakers from Pomerol.
Body - Big, juicy, but a bit dry and with copper coins at the side of the mouth. Pine nuts and privet hedge. Deep oak, and lots of age. Really drinkable too. I'm reminded of a big old Balvenie.
Finish - That immediate drying sulphur I love so much, then a little travel sweets, fried parsley, toffee. Perfectly spice. Wonderful stuff.
What's not good about it - struggling to find anything.
What's good about it - Finally a bottle in this set that fires on all cylinders. Balanced, old and elegant, intense and fruity, waxy and numbing. Brilliant.
Nose - Flipping heck this session isn't getting any easier. It's like he's been blending all his favourites! Immensely dark and sweet, but with that compelling dry, sweaty sock edge that can balance deep toffee and a little metal. Big and beautiful. Expensive. With water, wax, fruit and luxury. Beautiful.
Body - Very, very winey. Dry and nutty, lots of playbark and almonds. Not as luxurious as the nose would suggest, but pretty damn delicious nonetheless.
Finish - Medium and metallic. Ozone and more playbark. How odd! Good fun though.
What's not good about it - Seriously dry on the finish, too much wine.
What's good about it - The best nose of the night. Some big whisky in here. Despite the balance problems, this is beautifully drinkable and I'd happily stick on this for many hours.
Now the MoM single cask laddies. These are low outturn because they bunged the rest into Darkness! casks for extra sherry. They’re already pretty silly. No denying the quality of the spirit even if the first fill tomfoolery is a distraction, but way too expensive.
15th July 2002 to 26th November 2014, 114 bottles. Special stopper!
Nose - Dark and intensely first fill bourboned. This smells like a sulphured sherry cask has been racked into a first fill bourbon. Not that this doesn't work on the nose - it's young, brutish and sweet, but simultaneously beautifully spiced, with raisins and big vanilla custard and pastry. A delicious nose. With water, sweeter, more Islay, some truffle honey.
Body - Deeply sweet, toffeed and balanced with drying sulphur and tannins. Lovely. With water, softer and more more rounded.
Finish - And then cabbage. Big, boiled cabbage and cabbage water. Palate destroying sulphur. Hidden behind this may be a brilliant whisky. Except I can't taste anything else but cabbages.
What's not good about it - Sulphur. Given the colour and sulphur you would call this as a sherry cask – maybe it was in one at some point?
What's good about it - Beautiful nose, lovely initial delivery. Destroyed by sulphur. The good news is that if you're not sensitive (and you should know if you are by now!) you'll love this. I'm somewhat sensitive, and really love it just up until the cabbage stage, and that’s too far for me. If you're very sensitive, you'll be unhappy with this.
28th June 2002 to 26th November 2014, 86 bottles.
Nose - More restrained, fresher cask influence and classic sherry. Quite young though, with dusty raisins, sherry soaked barley and slightly fetid (although no sulphur). A compelling, deep, joss stick like sweetness, if a little one dimensional, neat (but it is 63%!). With (quite a lot of) water, a lovely, complex sweetness develops - cask and spirit together. Polished furniture, leather and roses.
Body - Sherry bomb. Poised on lightly sulphured, nutty, quite dry. Meaty and toothsome, cabbage highlights. No problem though, lovely stuff. More peppery with water, much more with it.
Finish - Very long, slightly peppery, deep spicy sherry, lingering barley. Water, after all this talk of pepper, brings chilli and sesame snaps. There is, sadly, still some cabbage in here but I'm learning to filter it out.
What's not good about it - Still sulphur. For the price, it's another underperforming whisky (you could certainly do better elsewhere)
What's good about it - but price aside, it's rather delicious. A sherry bomb and no mistake.
Regarding the glass stoppers, these are pretty cool. They look good in the bottle and it’s an interesting curiosity. The deal is that these won’t degrade over time and there is a tight plastic seal which presumably won’t allow evaporation over time, so the whisky won’t disappear if stored for decades. Quite a consideration for “looking” whisky that’ll probably never be drunk (unlike these 12 year old indies).
The stopper is very tight indeed, you can pick the full bottle up by the stopper. To get it off you have to lever it off at the side (the wedge shape internally allows you to do so). It’s sealed by a plastic ring at the top edge of the stopper.
Goodness me we need some peat and something a bit more down to earth price wise. This Whisky Broker PC 12 sold out in minutes, and I scored one, but Sean sorted me out with a sample so I don't need to crack mine open just yet. Thanks Sean! Still sold under a different label by Whisky Barrel.
Nose - Immediately swimming pool - that wet towel thing with damp chlorine. Then the big peat and wine makes me think more of Longrow port cask. Not cutting it after the High Noon as it's another wine finish, and not quite as well done, but I'm pleased for some peat finally, and a lot of earth.
Body - Delicious. Dusty PC, sweet, balanced and clean, although not fresh. More fetid, but still fecund. Orange juice and liquorice torpedoes.
Finish - Juicy, ripe and correct. Long orange juice, bitter peat and oak between. Works well.
What's not good about it - Oddly, compared to the rest of the session, the nose is the weak point. Too much wine, not enough midrange. Mind you, bear in mind that this whisky came after some of the best laddie noses in the business!
What's good about it - Juicy, balanced, delicious delivery. Great fun to drink and very satisfying. And always fun to meet a whisky where the delivery outclasses the nose. Also, thank god for peat, the salt of the whisky world!