Nestled against the coast of Loch Indaal on the west side of Islay sits the Bruichladdich (pronounced bruchh-lad-ee) Distillery. As far as mainstream popularity goes, Bruichladdich often sits in the shadow of the three southern Islay powerhouses of Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin, but this Islay distillery is not to be underestimated.
Bruichladdich was built in 1881, and was under original ownership until the 1930s. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, this distillery had a dizzying array of ownership changes, mothballs, and reopenings. Finally, in 2000 Murray McDavid purchased the distillery and all of its aging stock, refurbished it, hired legendary master distillery Jim McEwan, and restarted production.
With the new ownership and management came new vision, and to this writer, what a glorious vision it is. While they had plenty of aging stock to release as high-age stated bottlings, Bruichladdich went against the tide of the times with their new distillate production by focusing heavily on terroir, experimenting with different barley strains, switching from classic age statements to more wine-like vintages and cuvees, and bottling everything without chill filtration or added coloring (usually) at at least 50% ABV. Bruichladdich has summed up this new philosophy by dubbing themselves “Progressive Hebridian Distillers” (note that the Hebrides is another name for the western Scottish isles).
Bruichladdich currently produces three types of malt whisky: unpeated, heavily peated (around 40 PPM), and insanely break-your-tastebuds peated (200+ PPM). Port Charlotte, an ode to the small town containing a now-defunct distillery just south of Bruichladdich, is the name given to the heavily peated single malt. To add an extra level of romanticism, Bruichladdich has acquired the old stone rickhouses at the old Port Charlotte site and ages its casks that are to become Port Charlotte whisky there.
I suppose the Scottish Barley is what you could call Bruichladdich’s “entry level” Port Charlotte malt. “Scottish Barley” is a testament to the fact that only barley grown on Scottish soil was used to make this whisky. You can also currently find an Islay Barley release (they will even tell you the names of the local farms that grew the barley) and a limited edition 10 year old release of Port Charlotte. For all of these whiskies, it’s worth checking out Bruichladdich’s incredibly detailed website for more information.