Classification: Islay Single Malt Scotch
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).
Much more could be said about this unique distillery, but we'll save it for future reviews. 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.
- Distilled, aged, and bottled onsite
- A marriage of predominantly ex-bourbon casks with some sherry casks
- Non-chill filtered, no coloring added
- Non-age stated (a "multi-vintage" release)
- Bottled at 50% ABV
Nose: Soft buttery biscuit and heavy, rolling layers of vegetal, somewhat briney peat. Smoldering hay. White peppercorn. Faint barley sugars. Clean, nuanced, and laid back. ½ tsp of water adds some fresh garden strawberries and green apple to the aroma.
Palate: Peppery heat up front that fades out as the dram develops to reveal smoldering peat (like burning driftwood on a beach), sea air, smoked meat, burnt toffee, and unsweetened cocoa. ½ tsp of water sweetens the dram, bringing barley sugars and summer fruits into the fold.
Finish: Cocoa, oak char, charcoal, and some green vegetal notes. Long.
Buying Recommendation: Must Try! In my opinion, this whisky sits right beside Laphroaig Quarter Cask, Ardbeg 10 year, and Lagavulin 16 year in the heavily peated class. It's not as briney as Laphroaig, as meaty as Ardbeg, nor as smoky as Lagavulin. Rather, this peated Islay malt has a unique character all of its own that is well worth exploring alongside the other classic peated stalwarts. Make sure to try it with a bit of water to coax out those lovely fruit notes. This bottle typically runs around $60. While that may seem high compared to other entry level Islays, remember that you are not getting a 40% or 43% and chill filtered whisky. Expect to pay a bit more to get a bit more; in my opinion, its money well spent.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.