Category Archives: Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich Black Art 6.1 Review

Black Art was always Jim McEwan’s baby. If you’ve ever been privy to one of his Bruichladdich tastings, you’d know he prizes this expression dearly. Said tastings also usually involved a recitation of a story involving Heidi Klum, but we’ll leave that one for Jim’s telling. The crux of the tale, though, is that the Black Art recipe is really not meant for mortal eyes. Everything about its mad design is hush hush, as the alchemy behind its creation was supposedly Jim’s most dearly held secret, meant for him and him alone. Until he took Laddie’s current head distiller, Adam Hannett, under his wing, that is. Now, a few years removed from Jim’s Bruichladdich exeunt, the Black Art magic lives on under Adam’s watchful eye.

So, what is the BA secret? Lemme see how best I can relate this (in typical cheeky fashion, of course)…

Can you imagine spending decades of your life working your way through the degrees of some Dan Brown Templar-esque secret society; pouring countless amounts of tithe money into the organization; sacrificing any precept of self-gratification through secret-slipping…and finally, finally, getting to the root of it all. Finally reaching that apex moment of great revelation only to discover it’s little more than…the Caramilk Secret? That’s kinda what we have here. I know we’re supposed to be wowed by this esoteric bit of alchemical concocting, but honestly…Bruichladdich’s Black Art is really just a cuvee of various wine casks. Yep. That’s the big secret. So be it. But hey…At least the packaging is cool.

And to be fair, in the typical Bruichladdich drive for transparency, we are given both vintage and age statement here. 1990 distillate, 26 years old. Of course, there could be older spirit in here, but it almost certainly wouldn’t be by much.

This is edition 6.1. And unlike the decimal series used for Octomore, the BA releases are limited to the .1’s. Ergo, this is the sixth version of Black Art we’ve seen, and the second version released since Jim McEwan moved on. Jim’s protege, Adam, is a talented dude, no two ways about it. He’s also got a little of the McEwan showman in him. But the spiel means nothing if the juice he’s barking about ain’t got the bite to back it up. And Black Art definitely has bite. While Jim’s creations (the large majority of them, anyway) tended to be all about bombast and boldness, there seems to be a little more nuance to Adam’s approach. In short, he might have a slightly more subtle palate than Jim. Easy, now…I said more subtle; I didn’t speak qualitatively on either distiller. I’m a junkie for Bruichladdich. You guys know that. I love both these cats.

But Black Art? Meh. Not my cup of wine-soaked whisky, if I’m being honest.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Always so jammy and sweet on the nose. But there is a faint hint of struck match too. Peppered berries. Raspberries in milk chocolate. A bit of artificial florality. Strawberry shortcake. The toasted (maybe crisped) top of a crème brulee. The fruit and spice are in nice harmony. And there is a neat old dusty, dunnage note buried in there too. It’s just the dissonance of too much wine that is like the squeal of an out of tune violin in an otherwise pleasant orchestral arrangement.

Palate: Sweet arrival, then wham! There’s the wine. A lot of fruit happening here. And less tannic than expected; in fact, it stays rather mouthwatering. That would be those bush berry flavours again (mostly raspberry again…what kind of wine casking was this?!) A brief hint of cedar (almost humidor-esque). Some more spice and some herb (cracked pepper and maybe a whiff of fennel). This is the softer side of the Laddie wine work, but it’s still too heavy for me.

Finish: Altogether too much of that weird, sour wine tang. And it takes way too long to fade. A little bit of green grape and oak at the end. Maybe some lychee.

Thoughts: These whiskies are lost on me. I appreciate some of the individual notes (especially those that scream of age!), but the whole is a bit of a cacophony for me.

80/100 (I concede it’s not awful, but it’s just not for me. 80 seems fair)

Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1 Review

Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1

48.4% abv

Score:  87/100


One of the buzziest malts available at the moment, I’d argue.  Black Art 5 hit our shores just a week or two back.  The buzz was immediate and intense, with plenty of questions flying as to whether or not the whisky justified the $300 price tag (up about $50 from the previous edition).  So, let’s see if we can’t find out for ourselves.

I think most folks know by now that Black Art was Jim McEwan’s masterwork.  A recipe he held close to his chest, and with which he loved to play the angle of ‘secretive alchemist’.  It made for fun stories at his live events and plenty of talking points on blogs and reviews.  Without knowing the details of how it’s been put together, I can tell you is that it’s unquestionably a lot of sweet and sour wine cask interplay.  The final product is built of pre-renaissance Bruichladdich that has been re-racked into some sort of wine barrels procured under the Reynier-MacGillivray-McEwan era.  We know this, of course, because the age statement of 24 years stretches much further back than the distillery’s reopening and because the palate don’t lie:  there’s wine all over this one.

A couple bits of disclosure right off:  1) I adore Bruichladdich, and 2) I do not like the Black Art expressions.

But – and I’ve said this before – take that with a grain of salt if you’re one of those folks who likes the wine finished/matured malts that are so prevalent on the shelves nowadays.  I personally shy away from these expressions (though there are a few winners), but that doesn’t mean you won’t like ’em.  If this sounds like apologism, forget it.  I’ve said the same thing about Black Art before.  Different tastes make the world go ’round.

So, before we even dive in let me tell you what I expect.  A nose that is mature, sweet and appealing – rich in a big, bold fruity/floral melange – but a palate that arrives with a split second of magic before attacking the back and sides of the tongue with a tangy, wine-heavy tenacity.  Oh yeah…and a finish that disagrees with me entirely.

I guess the big story this time around though is that this one is Adam Hannett’s baby, not Jim McEwan’s.  He likes to say that he got the recipe from Jim, then promptly through it away.  I paraphrase, of course, but the message is the same.  So, who’s better at?

Nose:  Sweet and fruity.  Showing some age right off.  Sour candy.  Some orange and cherry notes.  A light smoke behind the jamminess.  Hint of dunnage.  Slightly floral mid-note.  Then more fruit compote.  A tick savoury too.  Toasted caramel.

Palate:  Decent arrival.  And…yep…into the weird wine-iness.  Maybe not as heavy as some of the past Black Art releases though.  Macerated dark fruits.  Slightly grapey, with some chocolates and brandy.  Peppers and spice.  Just a flirting with sulphur, but not heavy.  Back end is wet oak and tannins.

Thoughts:  Definitely different than Jim’s vattings, but some shared DNA, to be sure.  As expected, too wine topheavy for me, but an enjoyable slow sipper nevertheless.  Think I prefer this one to Jim’s creations.  Shhhh…don’t tell.


– Images & Words:  Curt

Head To Head – Bruichladdich Scottish Barley vs The Laddie Ten

Head To Head – Bruichladdich Scottish Barley vs The Laddie Ten


I think I promised this one a long while back.  With the moratorium on NAS reviews I had to shelve the concept, but we’ve yanked the gag now and are moving forward unimpeded, right?  So…let’s have a go at two Laddies that absolutely merit comparison.  For obvious reasons.

Here’s the thing…some distilleries historically have had a more sound rationale than others for avoiding age statements at certain points in time.  This is by no means an endorsement of the concept, but merely an acknowledgment that I see why it was done when it was.  However…this was all prior to the current spate of endless NAS expressions driving consumer trust into the ground.

Gaps in production and new start-ups are the most obvious reasons for wanting to use NAS as a Band-Aid solution, whereby a mix of old and young stock may have been necessary, or because there simply wasn’t any older stock in existence.  I am a little more forgiving of this in retrospect for distilleries such as Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Glenglassaugh, etc.  Nowadays, however, I don’t think we need to be quite so lenient.

Could these brands now give us expressions with a label that reads something like ‘aged 7 years’?  Sure.  And for some of them it would be a maverick sort of move that would play right into their buck-the-trends rebellious mystique.  Bruichladdich would be a prime candidate.  I like to think it’s a more mature market out there now.  People are willing to accept young whisky, so long as the price is fair.

By now we’re probably all familiar with the story of the grand launch of the Laddie Ten, Sixteen and Twenty Two a couple years back.  These were to be the bright, bold (turquoise!) future of the brand.  Unfortunately it was only a blink of an eye before demand outstripped supply and these malts were pulled from general release and replaced with an NAS offering under the banner of ‘Scottish Barley’.  The alcohol by volume was tweaked upwards a tick (from 46% to 50%, which we appreciated), but the profile took a rather drastic change.  In some ways this was a lateral move, but in others it was definitely a step backwards.

The point of this post is not to say AS or NAS is better (because, of course, that argument has never been about quality), it’s merely to stack up an age-stated expression against its NAS replacement, as we discussed doing long ago.  The conclusion you draw from there is up to you.

I reviewed these both individually a while back, but stacking them side-by-side helps shine a light on some highs and lows in both.  Additionally, this is almost certainly a more contemporary batch of the Scottish Barley than that I reviewed back then.  Tellingly, perhaps, the scores are slightly different than when originally posted.  Here ya go…

Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten

46% abv

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Some farmy notes and some big familiar buttery Laddie-ness.  Definitely some peat in there in spite of the label stating ‘unpeated’.  And an earthiness.  Mild hints of Springbank, to be honest.  A touch of leather.  Creamy and rich.  Hay fields and far off prairie fire.  Creme brulee.

Palate:  Still farmy here.  Some polished wood.  Citric and salty.  Savoury pastry.  Leaves some over-toasted marshmallow notes and an almost winey tang.  Or maybe that’s tea.  Lemon and orange attack.

Thoughts:  Much more complex than the Scottish Barley.  And the old school charm has won me over much more with this visit than I recall in previous tastings (and there were a LOT of them).


Bruichladdich Scottish Barley

50% abv

Score:  85.5/100

Nose:  Less on the familiar Laddie, with louder grains and a more biting edge.  I think I’d guess Arran blindly.  Maybe that’s just ’cause I’m tasting it alongside the heftier Laddie Ten.  Fruitier than the that malt, incidentally, but faux fruits…like candy or something.  Lemon and orange.  A slightly sharp, underdeveloped edge.  Raw pastry dough.  A little bit floral and a little herbaceousness too.

Palate:  Same pastry notes here.  Definitely a more biting (read: youthful) attack here than the Laddie Ten.  Scones with fruit jam.  Lemon and freshly milled grain (or maybe just flour).  Grassy and apple-y.  Not bad, but…well…youngish.  Not too young, mind.  We like young malts when they’re this well composed.

Thoughts:  This IS a downgrade from the Laddie Ten, no two ways about it.  Not a bad whisky, but how ’bout just a ‘here’s a younger version (sans sherry this time, I think) for ya since we don’t have enough ten year old stock’.  I’d buy that.  Especially for the honesty.

 – Images & Words:  Curt

Bruichladdich 12 y.o. (Second Edition) Review

Bruichladdich 12 y.o. (Second Edition)087

46% abv

Score:  85.5/100


I’m happy to say my friends and I did our part a few years back, drinking our way through many of the earlier Laddie releases and ensuring the distillery kept the cash flow strong.  It’s only now I rue the lack of foresight that might have had us squirrelling away a few of these old releases for future years and tastings.  Fortunately I came across a couple bottles of this mid-2000s 12 year old expression recently, and for a very decent price.  This ‘Second Edition’ would have been from about five years after the distillery’s 2001 restart, therefore built entirely on stock produced before the McEwan/Reynier era.  In other words…most likely very different juice than the teal tin brings us nowadays.

Not sure if any of you are like me, but I find I’ve started to mark the passage of time through my whisky collection and recollections.  The speed at which it rolls by is rather alarming when we look back at something like this malt and realize it hit the shelves nearly ten years ago now.  Obviously a lot has happened in the Bruichladdich camp in that time, but a lot has gone down in my personal life as well.  It’s arguable that this coastal Islay distillery is the one brand that has been most consistently present for me through it all.  As I write this, I have tried at least 73 different Bruichladdich expressions.  And when held up against the lot, this one holds its own quite well, boasting much more character than most 12 year olds currently on the market.

There is a recognizable Laddie DNA here, despite the different lineage, but this is not a whisky I can really see the current team producing.  Hard to put a finger on just what is different, but I’d bet dimes to dollars that this one was a recasking of spirit from dead wood into something more active for its last few years*, and also that there is something in here a little older than 12.  Not much older most likely, but maybe some 15 or so.  Speculation aside, it’s neat to try a piece of history that speaks to the days before the Laddie machine really stepped it up into high gear.

(*We do know that when Jim McEwan and the gang took over the distillery they spelled out a bunch of barrels they were unhappy with and recasked much of the inherited maturing spirit.)

Nose:  Slightly prickly.  Nice sweet barley notes.  A touch of dust and dunnage.  Lemon, orange and honey.  Something reminds of old books and old furniture.  A very different character than contemporary Laddie, but not better or worse.  Less on the butyric side, to be sure.  Gets softer and fruitier the longer it breathes (which brings a creamier edge too).  Maybe a drop of pear juice.  A slight floral overtone.

Palate:  Spicier arrival than expected.  Like a cinnamon and ginger dusted fruit salad.  A fleeting taste of banana cream pie.  Still citric.  Big grains and woods here too.  More coastal on the palate than the nose hints at.  By that trait, it is decidedly Laddie.  Definitely has some nip to it.  A lot of personality for a 12 year old.  Leaves behind apple and toothpicks.

Thoughts:  Enjoyable as hell, beyond simply being a nostalgia act.  An easy drinker, if not a showstopper.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich The Laddie Twenty Two Review

Bruichladdich The Laddie Twenty TwoIMG_6349

46% abv

Score:  89/100


Here’s another older Laddie. This time a little more naked than many of Bruichladdich’s previously offered mature expressions.

In 2012 the distillery launched a revitalized age-stated range consisting of the Laddie Ten (composed entirely of stocks produced by the current team!), the Laddie Sixteen (from distillate produced under the former owners) and the Laddie Twenty Two (also made by the forebears). I remember reading that this was to be the distillery’s core offerings going forward. There were immediate questions, of course, primarily regarding how a core range could be built around finite mature stocks, when there was a substantial gap in production between the old owners and the new. But…we drank and were happy for a while.

Sadly, not long following, the news leaked that this trifecta was being pulled from the range due to supply issues. No surprise (well, the removal of the Laddie Ten was a surprise), but infinitely disappointing nevertheless. Was this all a matter of Bruichladdich’s having underestimated demand or was this trio merely the ‘next-man-up’ iteration of the Laddie DNA, and an affirmation that previous mutterings about this being the core range were nonsense? I dunno. Either way, if you didn’t stock up at the time, chances are good that you’re most likely out of luck now.

While this 22 year old raises all sorts of questions about the distillery’s mature stock, concepts of core range and plans for future mature releases, it shows what Bruichladdich can be (and should aspire to!) when just left alone to mellow in a clean oak barrel. Nice whisky, this, very nice.

The Laddie Twenty Two is what I dream Bruichladdich will be once again in a few years. Mature, soft, unpeated (or at least only mildly so) and as sweet and tasty as salt water taffy. Here’s hoping production grows to where it outstrips demand for a while and some of this malt is left to mellow for a couple decades.

If you can find a shop with any of the remaining bottles, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Highly recommended.

Nose:  Quite soft.  Lemon meringue and banana cream pie.  Herbal with some pepper and ginger.  Very soft fruits in the vein of faint peach and melon.  Vanilla ice cream.  Soft grains and sugar cookies.  Slightly briny.  Soft and impressive.

Palate:  Like toothpicks soaked in lemon juice.  Soft dessert notes.  Candied ginger.  A touch of orange and more herbal notes…almost Sauvignon Blanc-ish.  A little more fruit, but not sure what exactly.  A little wine-ish at the back end, but not overpowering.

Thoughts:  Great (and far too drinkable) example of older Bruichladdich.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich 18 y.o. Review

Bruichladdich 18 y.o.028

46% abv



Here’s one from the ‘long gone and sorely missed’ category.  Not just because it’s obsolete (which it is) or because it’s really good (it is that too), but because it was from the era when Bruichladdich was operating with seeming impunity; untouchable in their blitzkrieg of never-ending new releases.  Old, young, finished, natural, peated, unpeated, multi-casked, you-name-it.  They did it all.  This slew of releases pissed some off (read: collectors and completists), but delighted others (like yours truly).  Nowadays Bruichladdich is still a bit of a maverick, but there’s no denying it…times have changed.

The whisky we’re looking at here was not born under the tenure of the current Laddie team, but was distilled in the very late 80s or early 90s, prior to the distillery’s closure and subsequent reopening in 2001.  From then on, its adoptive ‘parents’ had different ideas for raising this one to maturity than did its birth ‘parents’ and did an about face with regard to bringing it into its teen years.  Let me explain…

When the ownership/management team of Reynier/Coughlin/McEwan and the gang of 30 or so other new owners took over the distillery in 2000 there were apparently some concerns about cask quality of the existing stock.  Master Distiller Jim McEwan (hopefully no further introduction needed by this point) worked his way through the warehouses and came to the conclusion that some of the whisky was indeed maturing away in substandard barrels.  The story goes that much of the distillery’s existing stock was subsequently re-racked into higher quality barrels.  Many of these whiskies found their way into former wine vessels, courtesy of Reynier’s connections in the wine trade from his former life in said industry.  I mention this here as I can only assume that this was some of that re-racked spirit.

It’s this latter notion that plays a fairly large part in what constitutes the profile of this 18 year old Bruichladdich.  A quirky malt with a very multi-faceted personality.  The wine influence is substantial, but in all fairness somehow never seems to really get to the point of ‘in-your-face’ upfrontery.  Instead, it sweetens things up a bit and brings some of the darker notes to the fore in what was most likely a fairly mild whisky to begin with.  I’d be willing to bet this spirit was formerly mellowing in a rather inactive second or third fill bourbon barrel.  Much speculation on my part here, but it’s sort of rational deductive reasoning and based on some relative knowledge of what was happening at Bruichladdich through the past couple of decades.

I think I might have liked this one a tick more if the wine influence was dialed down a bit (i.e. a shorter finishing period).  As it stands, this is still a good – almost great – whisky, and I’m one of those who is just glad to have been around through the glory years of Islay’s renegade distillery prior to the Remy buyout.  We may never see that sort of freedom and ‘fuck you’ salvo in the industry again.

Nose:  Slightly floral.  Sugary.  Poached pear, a touch of stewed peach and then deeper plummy notes.  Honey and sweet wine.  A salty, flinty and savoury backbone.  Mince pie.  Just a touxh of salt licorice.

Palate:  A hefty chunk of wine influence here, I’d think.  Immediately tannic and redolent of yeast and grape.  Fairly deep threads of spice and tangy fruit notes.  Plenty of wood singing too.  Not the best of finishes, but the arrival is almost entirely high notes.

Thoughts:  This is an evening dram.  Rich and bold.  Not perfectly balanced, but its quirkiness more than makes up for it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich Legacy Series Three 35 y.o. Review

Bruichladdich Legacy Series Three 35 y.o.139

40.7% abv

Score:  93/100


Bruichladdich wasn’t always guerilla marketing, peat wars and CADD (*cask attention deficit disorder).  Before they began pouring brimstone down our throats and bouncing from one weird wine finish to another (all of which were somewhat fun in their own way), there was a more naked and old school whisky snoozing away in the casks alongside Loch Indaal.

Years ago, long before the socially savvy and indescribably charming Jim McEwan took over the reins as Bruichladdich’s master distiller, there were other hands involved in the production and management of Bruichladdich’s stocks.  Some of these other hands being slightly more famous and curmudgeonly than others (ahem, Wee Willie), but the whisky produced under these various owners and managers reputedly seems to have been of a rather uniformly high quality.  The wood policy, on the other hand, was apparently questionable.  Fortunately, however, some of the whisky from these times long gone has survived not only intact, but as a shining example of just how good older Bruichladdich can be.  Hopefully this is a foreshadowing of what may come to be in a couple more decades from the ‘Laddie guys.

This whisky we’re drinking here is a 35 year old malt from the Legacy series.  It was quite probably one of the first production runs of Invergordon Distillers after acquiring the distillery in 1968, and was released within a year or two of the distillery’s 2001 rebirth.  The only fingerprint the new owners would have had is in making the decision to pull it from the barrel and bottle it.  Or perhaps this was freshened up in a new cask for a short spell, as Jim is wont to do.  Rumour has it he did a lot of recasking when he arrived, helping to triage some dying spirit.  Either way…this is clean, pure and absolutely glorious Bruichladdich.  If you ever get the chance to try the distillery’s old distillate, do so.

Nose:  Beautiful, sweet and old.  A touch of cherry.  Fresh peach.  Soft creamy vanilla.  Pear with white pepper. Pink grapefruit.  A slight soft putty note.  Faint cinnamon.  Clean, fresh oak.  Just a touch of florals.  Soft and beautiful.  As you can tell…everything is soft, gentle and barely there.  Great integration.  Complex and outstanding nose.

Palate:  Almost tropical here.  A lot of wonderful soft fruits all mixed together.  Crunchy underripe pear.  Fruit salad.  A little more wood showing now.  Slightly drying, in fact.  A palate built on fruits and woods.

Thoughts:  This is a sexy old malt.  Unquestionably the best Bruichladdich I’ve ever tried.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 Review

Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1IMG_6363

49.2% abv

Score:  84.5/100


Whatever closed door deals-with-the-devil or blasphemous alchemy Jim McEwan is engaged in when concocting these Bruichladdich Black Art releases is slowly becoming a thing of whisky lore.  People love to talk about this kind of stuff.  People other than McEwan himself, that is.

Attend one of his tastings and he’ll happily tell you to naff off when pressed for details on this malt (though in that friendly affable Ileach manner).  Secrecy itself has become the sales pitch.  The hook here that gets the tongues a-waggin’ and the rumours milling is that Jim simply refuses to disclose what exactly the component barrels are that constitute these special ‘Laddie releases.  The truth may never come out, but the hallmarks of a lot of wine-cask tomfoolery are all over the end product.  No surprise, really, considering the Laddie warehouses boast legions of former wine barrels with interesting varietal names stenciled all over them.  This is almost like the secret weapon in the Bruichladdich arsenal.  They have a broader palette to work with than most other whisky makers.  While most distilleries will be maturing spirit within the confines of bourbon, sherry and perhaps port vessels, Bruichladdich can harness the influence of Château d’Yquem, Château Margaux, Cabernet Franc, Brunello, etc.  Almost an unfair advantage, in terms of pure flexibility.

The real question is, though, does it work?  In some cases, yes.  Absolutely.  In other cases…well…

Let me be frank here (cause that’s what we do).  This 23 year old is a bit of a Frankenstein show for me.  It’s not cohesive.  It’s not really pretty even, aside from the snazzy packaging, that is.  There’s some charm, sure, but you have to go deeper than the surface level in order to find it (i.e. this is not bad as a nosing whisky…but not quite so special on the palate). 

But hey…I’m just one guy.  What do I know?  I know many out there who feel differently about this whisky than I.  A lot of folks really love this drink. 

It does seem, however, that most people are either really on board with the Black Art releases, or really not on board. I probably lean more towards the latter group, while recognizing it as not a bad dram, but simply falling outside my preferred flavour camp.  As always…caveat emptor.

Nose:  Quite jammy.  Chocolate doughnuts…with chocolate glaze.  Some wine or sangria-like notes.  A touch of a salty seabreeze.  A vague whiff of suede.  Sour purple ju-jubes and wine gums.  This is a heavy, heavy dram. but I like the nose quite a bit actually. 

Palate:  Great immediate arrival, with a lot of spice and deep threads of sour dark fruits, but quickly bitters into oversaturated wine notes.  Not my thing, I must admit.  Apples and apple skins.  Like chewing on a stick of wine-soaked wood.  An odd spice note.  Touch of leather.  Faint licorice.  Like black wine gums.  Somewhat sour and punchy.

Thoughts:  A nose that shines, but a palate that only dimly illuminates.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich X4+3 Review

Bruichladdich X4+3 091

63.5% abv

Score:  82.5/100


This is gonna be a hit or miss malt for many, I can imagine.  It simply does not boast a profile that falls in line with most preconceptions of Scotch whisky.  Actually, I’ll go a step or two further and say that this is one of the oddest whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Imagine mixing young Scotch, old Canadian whisky and citrus-scented cleaning products or polish.  That’s about as close to the profile as I can articulate before we get to actual tasting notes.  For those of you out there with one eyebrow cocked in cynical questioning…relax.  Irrespective of where your mind initially takes you with the above descriptors, rest assured that this is actually a pretty decent whisky.  Albeit very young and aggressive.

X4+3 is Bruichladdich’s infamous X4 spirit (read: quadruple distilled Bruichladdich) that has napped for a brief three years (hence the ‘+3’ in its appellation) in very active barrels.  And I mean VERY active.  The flavour notes imparted by the cask are kinda like a high note held on a very tightly strung instrument.  Struck and left to resonate at an incredible pitch for a very long time.  The abv here, and Bruichladdich’s wonderful adherence to the practice of foregoing chill filtration, ensures this one will be clinging to your teeth and tastebuds for hours after sipping.

As one might expect, an incredibly pure spirit maturing in new vibrant wood means an end product that is razor sharp.  Don’t come into this one expecting a mellow, wizened old dram.  This is meant to be approached as an anomaly in the whisky world.  This is Jim McEwan being Jim McEwan and having a bit of fun in the halls of his Wonka-esque laboratory.  Having said that…it is still infinitely sippable, and very, very sweet.

From the ledger of the good people at Bruichladdich:  “In 1695 Martin Martin, a Hebridean traveller wrote of an ancient powerful spirit, which translates from the Gaelic as “perilous whisky”. he was told by the natives: “one sip and you live forever; two sips and you go blind; three sips and you expire on the spot”. Humbly, and in the typical Bruichladdich spirit of adventure, we have re-created this legendary, quadruple-distilled blockbuster dram.”

Nose:  Incredibly clean, with lots of lemon and lots of vanilla.  Some orange, and definitely grapefruit.  Even pineapple.  Big woody notes (not dissimilar to a Canadian whisky…the old Alberta Premium releases, in particular).  Vanilla ice cream and orange creamsicle.  Chocolate, both milk and white.  Lemon coconut macaroons.  Pine Sol and an almost cut-spruce freshness.  Maybe even a vague hint of mint.  Softer than imagined, though, somehow.

Palate:  Oh wow.  What an arrival.  Enormous, and almost overwhelming.  Citrus fruit, rind and pith.  There’s a tartness and tang here I adore.  Grilled pineapple.  Again…25-30 year old rye (Alberta Premium!).  A lot of wood here.  Spice and sour ju-jubes.  Candied ginger.  Distilled fire.  A lot of syrupy texture.

Thoughts:  Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (malt), but I kinda dig this profile.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley Review

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley176

50% abv

Score:  86/100


Bruichladdich is no stranger to No Age Statement whisky.  In fact over the past ten or twelve years they’ve probably been one of the most visible proponents of the concept.  I think this approach was first viewed by the distillery as a necessary maneuver in order to get whisky on the shelves throughout the first decade of production after their 2001 reopening.

Considering how fundamentally opposed I am to the idea of opaque marketing with whisky, I imagine it’s somewhat surprising (even to myself, if I’m to be honest) how much I adore and support Bruichladdich.

Let’s face it…no other distillery has done as much to reinvigorate the whisky world over the last few years as Bruichladdich.  They’ve pushed hard for higher bottling strengths – first 46% as a standard, and now 50%.  They’ve foregone artificial colouring.  They’ve made a mockery of the concept of chill-filtration.  Their employment of local labour is staggering, especially viewed in contrast to the two-man crews running some of Diageo’s multi-million litre producers.  Their innovative cask play, phenol manipulation (and exploitation!), terroir-first approach, experiments with organic barley, unprecedented guerrilla marketing, over-the-top bottle designs and simply unparalleled passion are more than enough reason to keep dollars flowing from my bank account into theirs.   There’s no two ways about it.  Bruichladdich have made whisky exciting.  I do begrudge them the NAS thing, but absolutely support them in perpetuity for everything else.

So that’s Bruichladdich.  Now let’s talk about this Bruichladdich: the new Scottish Barley core release.  This malt supercedes 2011’s Laddie 10, the distillery’s first proper 10 year old under the new regime.  Unfortunately, if all the sources I’ve culled are correct, Bruichladdich simply couldn’t keep production at a level that would support an ongoing 10 year old at this time.  That particular malt was met with such positive acclaim and widespread demand that the distillery finally had to step away from the idea of the Laddie 10 as their core expression and back up a few steps into the NAS territory again to give themselves some breathing room.  The Laddie 10 is still available at the distillery, from what I understand.

Oh well.  There are worse problems to have than overwhelming demand, I suppose.

The logical first question would most likely be whether or not the Scottish Barley is a step down from the Laddie 10.  And I honestly wish I could answer that for you.  Unfortunately I don’t have a bottle of the Laddie 10 open at the moment.  In a couple weeks time I will be able to try them head to head and assess which comes out on top.  There may be slight score adjustments to the respective reviews at that time.  Either way…that score is a personal assessment.  Don’t get hung up on the number.  Instead, just read the tasting notes below.  At the end of the day, though, this is a really good whisky.  Well worth your time.  Well worth your money.

Nose:  Orange.  Maybe a vague touch of tangerine or something semi-tropical.  Scone dough.  Very mild vanillins.  Rosewater Turkish Delight.  Lemon.  The barley is still recognizable through it all.  Sweet and balanced.

Palate:  Some nice heat on arrival.  Barley sugar sweetness up front.  A nice candied fruit follows.  Grassy Sauvignon Blanc tones.  A very slight (but very nice) fuel note that dissipates with time in the glass.  Still getting some orange.  A touch of pepper.  Toothpick and apple skin.  Quite drying.  None too complex, but doesn’t need to be.

Thoughts:  This is NAS, so the immediate assumption is youth, and while there is certainly a heft of young whisky in here, I think there are a few slightly older casks thrown in to add a little softness and knock the edges off a bit.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt