...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Bruichladdich 10 year old 2008 Bere Barley

And then there was the Big Bere. All the Bere barley single malts I've tried (from Bruichladdich and Arran) are very different animals than all the non-Bere whiskies. And this one is no exception. But with an asterisk.


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: 10 years (2008-2018)
Maturation: bourbon and Tennessee whiskey casks
Barley strain: Bere
Source: Orkney
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

Some nice layering on the nose. Apple peels and lime zest. Smoked salmon and ocean air. Caramel sauce and tapioca pudding. But then the palate goes a completely different direction. A joltingly bitter grassiness smothers everything except for a hefty metallic note. A mojito and bitter citrus peels lie somewhere beneath. It finishes with bitter and tart citrus peels, like kabosu and limes, and lots of simple syrup, but even more mothballs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Having searched online, I've found no one else who had such a visceral reaction to this whisky's palate. Just my offline drinking buddy, Dr. Springbank, and I. Other reviews are all, "Fruits and spice!", which makes me wonder if something went weird with the contents of my bottle. Meanwhile, the nose is great! How does one grade a bottle of napthalene that smells like high quality scotch?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 79

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Bruichladdich 8 year old 2009 Organic Barley

The wee 7yo 2008 Islay Barley charmed. What will the 8yo Organic Barley do? It has another year of maturation, no wine casks, and came from pesticide-free barley stalks. It has that light straw tint to it that still thrills this drinker...

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: at least 8 years (2009-2018)
Maturation: bourbon and Tennessee whiskey casks
Barley Source: Mid Coul farm in the Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

At least three things are happening in the nose. First, there's a pretty combo of lemon custard and lychee. A darker side, made of paint VOCs and wood ash, curls around the fruits. It's a held up by a foundation of barley grist, peanut dust and dried thyme. After a while, it also gains notes of guava and milk chocolate.

Malt and sugar fill the palate's early foreground, with lemons and limes in the back. Gradually, the citrus moves to the front, adding in grapefruit, which brings in more tartness.

It finishes tarter than the palate, full of grapefruit and lemon juices, the malt and sugar linger in the distance.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

A complex nose gives way to a simple palate. Neither offend, but the nose leaves more of an impression. Again, the spirit leads the way, perhaps even more than the 7yo Islay Barley. Or at least this one feels younger. If I were to get a bit vague/abstract/obnoxious about things (and why stop now?), I'd say this pour would work best in spring's earliest weeks, as the last snow melts away, snowdrops begin to ascend and, FFS, can we just skip to March already?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 85

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bruichladdich 7 year old 2010 Islay Barley

I'd seen this wee set sitting on retailers shelves around the world for years before I got around to buying it:


As I'd mentioned in Monday's intro, I've always respected Bruichladdich's whisky exploration of various barley strains and sources. Often those bottlings have very little cask influence, which helps the drinker experience the spirit. A good thing!

I've tried other vintages of this set's trio, and even finished bottles of the earliest versions of Organic and Bere that came to The States, so this blind buy wasn't much of a risk. Dr. Springbank and Dr. Springbank and I opened these bottles a few days before this review, so I had a sneak preview of coming attractions.

First up, the Islay Barley.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: at least 7 years (2010-2018)
Maturation: refill(?) bourbon and French wine casks
Barley strains: Optic and Oxbridge
Source: eight Islay farms
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

Barley, honeycomb, apples, apricots, lemon peel and citronella arrive first in the nose. Hot candle wax, grass in the warm sunshine, and flower kiss candy appear later. The palate almost reads like breakfast cereal, with malt, confectioner's sugar and honey up front. Apple fritters, oranges and white peppercorns linger near the edges. It finishes warm, sweet and spicy, with fresh ginger and baked apples.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Utterly delightful! If other baby whiskies were this clean and crisp, you wouldn't hear me whining about them all the time. While it would be interesting to chart the whisky's complexity if this same batch was aged in refill casks for 18+ years, I'm very taken by the bright simplicity of the malt at seven years. I'd happily purchase a 750mL bottle of this batch were it easily available, four years later. Also, what French wine casks?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 88

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Bruichladdich Classic Laddie batch 21/208 (and another!)

This standard Laddie had never tempted my tummy, and I really struggled with The Eight, so I was flat out stunned when I liked my sample of The Classic Laddie four years ago. The one problem with my four-years-ago sample was the missing batch number. Every batch of Classic has its own combination of casks, helpfully shared on Bruichladdich's site, so I have no idea what I was drinking. But it still gave me hope that I'd come around to the distillery's standard unpeated release.

Then two months ago I found this bottle in an Ohio liquor store:


The batch number can be found on the side of the bottle. Here, it's 21/208:


I looked up the receipe on the site, and.....um......it's best if I just list it out:
  • One cask of CHILE (CABERNET SAUVIGNON) HOGSHEADS 1ST FILL
  • Five casks of FRANCE RIVESALTES VDN (MUSCAT) THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL THEN FRANCE BORDEAUX PESSAC LEOGNAN HOGSHEAD 2NDFILL
  • Six casks of Islay Barley USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 24 casks of USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Seven casks of SPAIN RIBERA DEL DUERO (TEMPRANILLO) HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL, THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL, THEN ITALY AMERONE HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL
  • Six more casks of Islay Barley USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Three casks of Organic Barley SPAIN SHERRY BUTT 1ST FILL OR 2ND FILL, THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 2ND FILL
  • 24 more casks of USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Three casks of FRANCE PAUILLAC (CABERNET SAUVIGNON, FRANC, MERLOT) HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
What, no fucking pruno cask? Lame.

JFC.

Anyhoo. I also had on hand a good sized sample of batch 16/261 from 2016:

Shall I?
  • Five casks of FRENCH OAK RED WINE HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
  • 12 casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 10 casks of Organic Barley FRENCH OAK RED WINE HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
  • 23 more casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 13 more casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Five casks of SPAIN RIBERA DEL DUERO RED HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL

Not as terrifying!

I don't know, this seems like less of a Taste Off and more of a Taste Oof. Here goes something.


BRUICHLADDICH, THE CLASSIC LADDIE, BATCH 21/208, 50%ABV

NoseOaky American Chardonnay mixes with California Pinot Noir, with a dash of sawdust, upon my first sniffs. Then it picks up mint leaves, lemon juice, apple Jolly Ranchers, and Fritos. Diluted to 43%abv, it feels more pulled together, but with a big dose of cinnamon and a hint of orange oil.

Palate - It starts raw, sweet and bready. With time, notes of lemon candy, honey, cinnamon red hots and Sauternes appear. After being diluted to 43%abv it reads rawer and weirdly bitter. Some tart fruits and dulce de leche sweetness sits underneath.

Finish - Hot, sweet and tart. Cinnamon red hots floating in buttery Chardonnay. Once diluted to 43%abv, it gets bitter and tart, with more than a little tree bark showing up.

Words Words Words - Attempting to lead with the positive... Enjoy(?) it neatly, do not add water. The neat palate isn't bad as a dessert pour. On the other hand, the neat nose never ever ever works for me. It's like a personal solera bottle, but with wine added. My friends, Dr. Springbank and Dr. Springbank, seemed to like it better than I did, possibly because there are no butyric acid notes. I think they're hiding under a blanket of wine. The butyric acid notes, not my friends. Probably.

Rating - 76 (neat only)


BRUICHLADDICH, THE CLASSIC LADDIE, BATCH 16/261, 50%ABV

Nose - Either the wine is better integrated or it's just less, per the recipe. There's some actual malt in here, along with notes of milk chocolate, marshmallows and apple juice, with hints of saline and wet stones in the background. Diluted to 43%abv, it reads bigger and very toasty. Milk chocolate and almond butter up front, damp moss and ocean in the back.

Palate - It begins tart and very ashy, with an almost rum-like sweetness. Quite a bit more raw heat on this batch. A bit of lemon candy. After a while it's all Mt. Gay Rum and ash. At 43%abv, flowers and vanilla take over, while the odd bitterness from the other batch shows up here too.

Finish - Just lemon, honey and heat. At 43%abv it goes ashy, with some woody bitterness, maple syrup and flowers in the background.

Words Words Words - I adore the smell of this whisky. I do not adore the flavor. Overall, it's approachable as long as it remains undiluted, and it might match well with some desserts. No sour milk nor baby barf notes on this one either, likely a positive for many drinkers. If you have this bottle, you may just want to nose the hell out of it.

Rating - 79 (neat only)


Final thoughts...

While it's true that nothing like Classic Laddie is bottled elsewhere on Islay, I don't understand the need to attempt Black Art Junior with baby whisky. I'm not against tossing in a few wine casks, in fact it often works very well with Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte bottlings. But both of these batches feel like a mish-mosh; a mix that never mixed, not in the blending tun, nor in the bottle. I'm now looking forward to the next three Laddies, all of which are less cask-bothered and more spirit-centered. I am not looking forward to getting through the rest of my turquoise bottle.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Laddie Frickin' Dah: Bruichladdich TIRDs on the way

While I respect Bruichladdich's occasional transparency — like detailing the Classic Laddie recipes — and fully cheer on their focus on barley strains and sources, I rarely enjoy their standard unpeated productions. Perhaps like former-owner Mark Reynier's Waterford Distillery, Bruichladdich's frequent use of wine casks overwhelms many of their terroir studies. Or maybe their unpeated spirit doesn't sit well on my palate. Thus I get them intellectually, but I don't gots them organoleptically.

Or maybe I will now. So I'm going to try it out. Here are the whisky bottles I bought:


The schedule is thus:
  • Tuesday - The Classic Laddie (bottled in 2021) compared with a 2016 batch of Classic Laddie.
  • Wednesday - Islay Barley 2010
  • Thursday - Organic Barley 2009
  • Friday - Bere Barley 2008
Next week I'll taste a trio of official Bruichladdichs that have absolutely nothing to do with this week's group, but should be a hoot anyway. Now, for the "Classics"...

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ledaig 20 year old 2001 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 285

Another late work night, and I sit down at 11:48pm to type up my tasting notes for this heavily-sherried Ledaig. I can only think of two more things to include in this introduction:

1.) I like Ledaig.
2.) Can the SWA require quotation marks for sopping wet aggressively re-seasoned "refill" sherry casks? Et vos, Gordon and MacPhail?

(No, I'm not going to pretend I remember any of my high school Latin, other than "Canis est in via".)

Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice - Cask Strength
Age: 20 years (2001 - 5 May 2022)
Maturation: refill sherry butt lol
Cask #: 285
Outturn: 498 bottles
Exclusive to: United Kingdom
Alcohol by Volume: 58.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose says someone's grilling ribs at the beach. Sage, oregano and grapefruit peels swirl through the BBQ smoke. A whiff of manure stays in the background. The palate offers herbal (oregano, rosemary, dried mint) and bold citrus (yuzus!) to go with chocolate, Robotussin, ume candy and salty pickled ume. It finishes with yuzu, lime, mesquite smoke, Robotussin and mint.

This is a big one, so I'm trying two dilution strengths:

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The herbal notes ascend in the nose, now joined by mossy smoke, baked plums, and hints of milk chocolate and almond extract. Smoked paprika, oregano and plum sauce fill the palate. The finish gets very sweet, like dessert wine sweet. Smoky residue and lime juice rests in the background.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Oregano, lemon peel and wood smoke arrive first in the nose, followed by ink and almond extract. Straightforward peat and sweet on the palate, with a little bit of bitterness in the back. It finishes sweet and herbal.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It's difficult to squelch Ledaig's spirit, but this heavy cask almost succeeds. One can be thankful this whisky didn't sit in its sauced-up vessel for any longer. Perhaps this is a peated whisky for sherry bomb fans rather than a sherried whisky for peat bomb fans, if that makes sense. It's most complex at full strength, but drinks better once diluted. I'm not sure if all the parts ever really merge, but I am a sucker for all the plummy notes and dried herbs. Thus I'm won over despite myself.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Ledaig 19 year old 1997 Cadenhead Small Batch

Today's Cadenhead Small Batch is indeed a small batch; more specifically, it's one Ledaig hogshead. Its bottles were sold in the US of A, and I remember seeing it on the shelf. And not buying it. I had my reasons. Those reasons are called "money". Anyway, yesterday I stated my feelings about Ledaig at this age range, so I'm certainly ready for this stuff.

Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Small Batch
Age: 19 years (1997 - 2016)
Maturation: Bourbon hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 53.7%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose has three lives. At first it's all metal and farmy funk. Then it gets peachy, with citrons and charred marshmallows in the background. Finally it settles into ocean brine, earth and malt. The palate also starts out metallic and farmy, then tangy citrus and sweet stone fruits move in while salty smoke plays coy. It finishes with a good mix of tart, sweet, salt, and smoke (in that order of strength).

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose gets smokier as the fruits retreat, though there's a fruit tart way in the back. The palate also gets smokier, but sweet citrus stands its ground, with hints of dried herbs and peppercorns around the edges. Smoke and citrons fill the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Full reveal: This was the 15yo's Taste Off partner. Though the 15 year old won the battle, this 19yo was still very good. This older cask read simpler and milder, and though the finish felt very balanced, the palate and nose were wobblier. I'd still take wobbly Ledaig over nearly every other peated malt on the planet, so owning this bottle wouldn't be a tragedy. And yeah, it's probably a December whisky too.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86