Distillery/Brand: Bruichladdich | Region: Islay | ABV: 50% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 7.4 | Palate: 7.0 | Finish: 6.8 | Overall Score: 7.1
If you’re into dancing and drinking whisky at the same time then I highly recommend visiting Bruichladdich’s open day during the Islay Whisky Festival.
Food trucks. Multiple bars. Live band. And over 300 dancing people at any given time. It’s an atmosphere hard to beat. Everyone’s having the time of their life.
Including us as we strolled in after a tasting at Ardbeg. After grabbing some much needed pizza we manhandled our way to the back of the distillery premises where the makeshift bars had been set up.
Along with this years’ official Feis bottle there were two more Laddies on the menu. The 2006 and 2008 Islay Grown both terroir whiskies from local processes. Both quite decent. However, the highlight of the day was the auction of two bottles of the 25 year old Yellow Submarine. Because once the auction was over they brought two more 30 litre bottles and proceeded to freely pour it out to an eager crowd. Mighty generous if you ask me.
After shamelessly going back for seconds (and it might have been thirds, too) I settled down at one of the picnic tables to sample this particular offering. This is a fifteen year old vatting of bourbon and wine casks with a virgin oak finish. It proudly states Progressive Hebridean Distillers – PHD – on it’s side followed by the age of the distillery : 135 (years). Hence, known as the Bruichladdich _PHD 135
My sample is from an open bottle (one of 1881) and served at 50% ABV
Nose: Quite sweet. Tangerines. Sweet melon. Vanilla. Cookie dough. It’s a touch floral. Some light honey. Poached red apples. At first there’s a hint of oak but which then starts to become quite prominent. White raisins. Lemon custard. Coffee cake. Not bad. 7.4
Palate: Ooooh. Oak. Maybe too much. Cinnamon. Very drying. Over brewed green tea. I’m not a huge fan of that taste profile, if I am to be completely honest. Ginger. Spice of an uncertain nature. Now more sweeter mid-palate. Dry honey. Melon. Kinder Eggs. Small oranges. Maybe some papaya. The over-oak prevents it from being very good. 7.0
Finish: Medium long. Quite drying. That oak again. That strong green tea. Again. My least favourite part. 6.8
Overall Comments: What can I say? It’s not an entirely bad whisky. I mean I wouldn’t call it lacklustre but it certainly doesn’t have the oooomph to send your tastebuds into overdrive. And I think it has to do with that damned oak. Not sure if the virgin oak is the culprit or it’s a few extra years too old. I guess we’ll never know.
Overall Score: 7.1
Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.5% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
I’m a huge fan of the Port Charlotte series from Bruichladdich. It is the brainchild of the legendary Master Distiller Jim Mcewan and is an experiment in cask exploration.
Port Charlotte sits in between the mildly or non-peated standard range and the highly peated Octomores. The PC spirit was laid soon after the distillery was re-opened thanks to the foresight of independent bottlers Murray McDavid. Jim Mcewan, who had worked at Bowmore since he was 15, was hired as Master Distiller and Production Director.
Under his guidance the PC series was born in 2001. The aim was to release a cask strength whisky every year from the time it reached five years of age. And so PC5 was the first in the series.
Now up to 11 the PC range has accumulated quite a following and for good reason too. No chill filtration, artificial coloring and served at cask strength this is a throwback to the days when there was no wifi and whiskies were hand made.
The PC 11 is titled Eòrna Na h-Alba which is Gaelic for Scottish Barley. Yes, you guessed it, all barley used in the making is Scottish. The spirit has been matured in Oloroso sherry butts and walks a lovely line between sherry sweetness and Islay flavors.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 59.5%
Nose: Quite salty. Lots of coastal sea air. Lemon. Peat. Hint of smoke. A little sour. Wet wood. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Coconut. Caramel. Takes time for the nose to adjust. The fumes are super strong. A couple of drops of water opens it up quite nicely. What’s not to like?
Palate: Smoke. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Peat. White pepper. Black peppers. Fish oil. Classic Islay flavors working well with the sweetness of the Oloroso. Adding a couple of drops makes it more palatable and creamier. Coffee comes out stronger as does the oak.
Finish: Cold cuts. White pepper. Oak. Chocolate.
This is not a beginners whisky by any standards due to the high strength and fairly strong peat levels. Takes very well to water, though. Can’t wait for the PC 12!
The Octomore is one of those cult series that needs to be collected. From it’s suave packaging to it’s lofty claims of the highest peat concentration in a whisky (169 ppm in this case) it has all the flair of a spectacularly executed heist.
A heist of the senses that is.
With it’s high strength spirit (59.5%) and enormous peat levels one could be mistaken for thinking it is undrinkable and a gimmick at best. Something to pander a 5 year old spirit, perhaps. They could not be further from the truth.
Nose: A smoky pudding of peat and caramel infused with the loveliest of ginger vanilla. Dusted with the charred remains of lemon crusted kippers. The high strength takes a while to get past the nose but once it holds you it doesn’t let go.
Palate: Crisp like green apples and raisin cider with a lemony hardboiled sweetness. The burnt sea comes in next on a wave of peaty seaweed and ashy iodine.
Finish: Long and magical with the same lemony soot found on the palate.
This is truly an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like a young fiery king hell bent on pounding you into submission.
When you have that many expressions as Bruichladdich you really have to sweat your marketing department for new ideas. Sometimes they do a good job. Sometimes they don’t. This is one of those don’ts.
I picked this expression up after reading some decent reviews about it and how scarce it was on the ground. Bere Barley, the oldest barley ever to be grown and from which original whisky was first made, yields less than 50% of normal barley crop and it apparently destroys all the machinery. Yet, someone decided it would be a good idea to use this barley to produce this unpeated dram.
Nose: A bit weird. Cut green chillies tossed in an edamame salad and drizzled with lemon linseed oil and condensed milk. Now I don’t mind linseed oil since it’s a common friend amongst Islay whiskies but this particular one is frankly too stale for my liking. As if left in a cupboard for ages and then discovered by surprise.
Palate: That same stale linseed oil is back on the palate and ruins everything that followed afterwards like the honey, lemon and chocolate. It’s not nice at all.
Finish: Touch peppery with some lemon drops.
But that yucky oily business spoilt everything for me.
Bruichladdich are the ever experimenting single malt brand and, even though, it’s hard to keep track of them all there are few expressions that are below par. The Organic is another example of a decent (not mind blowing, mind you) expression – this one made purely from organic Scottish barley.
The lightly peated nose evokes images of green apples strewn on moist grass as you sit on a wooden porch made damp from the morning dew. Completing the picture is a basket of freshly laundered clothes atop which sits the tiniest bale of hay.
The delivery is full bodied and sweet smacking of honeyed cinnamon, moist lemon slivers and a touch of fennel. All this enveloped in a feathery wisp of smoke.
The long and oily finish is chewy and a little minty though, as it fades, it develops a slightly bitter chalky characteristic.
Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte
Colour: Pale Gold
I know people say ‘What the hell is Bruichladdich doing? Churning out an expression a day?’ But you know what? They make sure each expression is worth the trouble. And the PC8 is no exception!
Obvious smoky peat on the nose, of course. Let’s get that out of the way and try to find what’s hidden amid the swirls. First some nuts. Then a nice piece of sausage on the barbecue grill. Accompanied by a glass of honey milk. Sprinkled with a nice pinch of rock salts. Quite glorious actually.
The 60.5% makes it a touch hard to get around the alcohol and the only flavors I can make out are black peppers, honey and smoke. A couple of drops of water opens up the nose and makes the liquid a touch more palatable. This enhances the honey in the mouth and introduces a touch of salt. Must be that rock salt.
The dry long (extremely long) finish is curiously minty with a touch of fennel. Certainly a powerhouse malt to be handled by seasoned experts only.
Sherry can go horribly wrong or wonderfully perfect. So it was with a sense of trepidation as I uncorked this bright blue opaque bottle only to discover the poetry that is perfectly balanced sherry.
Set against the backdrop of a musty, yet oddly comforting, wooden laundry room comes the interplay between the brilliantly balanced barley and grapes. The odd spices then work in tandem with the subtle oak to produce, what has to be of late, one of my favorite noses.
The delivery is pure sherry passion and juicy juicy barley. The full bodied liquid then courses the palate like a sweet honey river infused with licorice, aniseed and cinnamon. Oaky mild spices finally round off an absolutely scrumptious experience.
The long all-spice finish, mixed with a crumbling slice of apple pie, rounds off my newly crowned favorite ‘Laddie.
Rating : 94
Exceptionally beautiful nose of stewed pears dipped in sherry resulting in a big statement. The palate is sweet honey with mild undertones of leather and tobacco. It has a medium to strong finish full of nuts, apples and gentle smoke. An excellent example of getting the best out of maturing in Oloroso Sherry casks.
Rating : 87