Bruichladdich

Review: Port Charlotte 10 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port+Charlotte+10+1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
10 yrs; ex-bourbon and wine casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is the first regular age-stated Port charlotte, matured in whiskies coming from about 65% first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, 10% second-fill bourbon berrels and 25% second fill French wine casks. With this, Port Charlotte now has its own bottle alongside its Bruichladdich and Octomore siblings (though I like the old bottle more…). Nonetheless, this is a terrific whisky - see below!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L162454 18/286 2018/09/06 15:10

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Beautiful, rich aromas – limestone, smoke, dark cacao, lemon peel, ocean shells, sea breeze, salt stone – quite farmy – turf fires, white pepper, charred green bell pepper, and a bit of vanilla and creaminess. What an awesome nose! Further to this, some pear, golden delicious apple, clove, and orange peel. There is a bit of really bright, tropical fruit – guanabana, perhaps? It’s quite slight. The palate is rich, full of rich earth and balanced by vanilla and gorse flowers. Dense dried fruit, almond, raisins, smoke, turf fires, marmalade, allspice, and a touch of sulphury pepper.

The finish is earthy and spicy, with clove-studded oranges, white pepper, pink peppercorn, rich earth, coconut oil, and heather. Cloves, too. A great whisky!

I had a great Port Charlotte last year – a cask strength cognac cask – how does this compare? The CC:01 has more smoke, more toffee, more smoke, and more cognac (hmm…), but less earthy richness and fruitiness, particularly dried. This is a bit broader and richer; I like it more (but both are good)!

This is quite a terrific edition to the baseline age-stated Islay whiskies -  Bowmore 10, Bunnahabhain 12, Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig 10, Caol Ila 12 and Lagavulin 8. Those are all terrific whiskies, and all a different take on islay. Not to single out Kilchoman, who are also producing terrific and distinct whiskies.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A very nice peated, earthy whisky for the price. If you quite like the style, like me, it’s a worthwhile buy. If you are an Islay fan, this is probably a must-try. If you don’t like peated, earthy whiskies this probably isn’t worth your money.


Review: Octomore Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
~60%
Aging
Typically 5-7 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This whisky generally represents the most heavily peated whisky in the world, in terms of parts per million of phenol (the peat flavor components) in the barley before the whisky is distilled. The peating levels vary - often around 170 ppm but one release 6.3 was peated to 258! For comparison, Port Charlotte is peated to 40 PPM and Caol Ila and Lagavulin are peated to about 30-45 ppm. That is a lot of peat!

It needs to be noted, however, that the peat level is measured when the barley is smoked - not after it is distilled. Thus, depending on how you distill, you can bring out more of the smoky or earthy character of the peat - or not much at all. So it isn't really a proper measure of how peaty a whisky is, but rather an indication of its potential. Above a certain level, as with bitterness units in beer, I imagine our palates can't distinguish any difference. The whisky is expensive, but only 5 years old - it is a delicate balance with peat because the smokiness of a whisky will decrease with years in the cask - so it can be a balance of peatiness and maturity.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 6.1 (57% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: P/132371 26 MAR 14

  • Bottling Date: 2014

This batch was peated to 167 ppm and matured in an ex-bourbon cask.

The nose is full of smoke – not only from the peat but also seemingly from the barrel char, slightly. Incredibly earthy, too – with sharp peat, salt, brine, apricot, honey, bourbon barrel char (sure enough, it’s an ex-bourbon cask!), and porridge. The palate is thick and spicy, with lots of brown sugar and caramel alongside peppery peat, caramel, smoke, and chilli flakes. And rich chocolate mousse. It’s pretty soft for 57%! The finish has incredible marine, mineral, and peat character. Dark chocolate, clove, cinnamon (like mayan hot chocolate), white pepper, rockpools, and of course smoke, moss, and damp earth. This really is a clear cut representation of peat – really quite brilliant stuff.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low at $230.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 7.1 (59.5% ABV, 208 PPM)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This octomore is big, smoky, earthy, and strongly youthful. The peat is sharp and rich, with interesting notes also of dried brown rice and bubblegum. Yet, the rich peat is incredibly balanced with the sweet toffee, brown sugar, and hazlenut skins. The finish is rich, earthy, smoky, and salty. Awesome stuff.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low at $225.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 7.3 Islay Barley (60% ABV)

  • Bottling Code: L/150264 15/218 10 05 15 12155114

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The barley in this release was sourced from James Brown’s Octomore farm. Distilled in 2010 from grain harvested at Lorgba field, peated to 169 ppm, and matured on Islay in American bourbon barrels and Spanish wine casks of Ribuera del Duero.

I do quite like most things Bruichladdich does. Here, extreme peat…extremely marine, and not as smoky as one might expect – though very peaty and farmy. Friends of mine have described this in terms of various animals – cows, sheep, etc. – lots of complexity and it’s not a grimy spirit by any means. I’d love to visit Islay as this is likely a whisky where terroir would come in – the surroundings, how it is matured, the landscape. Brilliant whisky.

Well, I suppose on to more proper tasting notes – lots of spice, lots of minerality, toasted sesame, and vegetal notes not unlike some clean mezcals. Long, and complex, drying as well. Iodine, milky tea, smoke, toffee, apricot, seaweed, salt stone, preserved lemons, smoke, vanilla, and light creaminess, with time. Ginger and melon on the palate, and melds so well with the earthy barley, peat, menthol, and smoke – finishes with lots of maritime character, spice, mixed dried fruit, the lightest touch touch of oxidized wine, and smoke. Brilliant, from start to very long finish.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). It’s a hair breadth away from “exceptional”, though.

Value: Low. Pricy stuff.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 8.1 Masterclass (59.5% ABV, 167 PPM, first fill ex-bourbon barrels)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Sooty, and intensely earthy – moreso than smoky. Rich, and deep, too – it is very much like a faceplant into peat. Spicy, too – cacao, cinnamon, and nutmeg. There is a light bracing of vanilla and oak, too – with yellow apples and pears gradually making a slight presence on the nose, too. My reference on this tasting is Octomore 7.3 – that one is much smokier, yet just as earthy – and more oily.

The palate is richly earthy, as one might expect, and very peaty. The orchard fruit and a sweet creaminess slightly offset the deep earth of the peat, and we have rich dark chocolate coming in too. Interestingly, Chinese 5-spice (with pronounced anise) and orange peel too.

The finish is so rich in peat, it tastes like I actually just chewed and spit out the funkiest peat you can imagine. Some light cinnamon and oak, but it is very much about the peat.

It’s quite complex in terms of the incredibly rich earthiness, so much so that I don’t have the vocab to fully describe it. It’s balanced, but not that broad in a way that some of the better Octomores are - not nearly as gorgeous as the magnificent 7.3, which composes a symphony compared to this one solo. Still, very good.

Also, goes very well with hoppy beers, if you were ever wondering…

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low (almost average) at $135. And yes, $135 was a steal….


Review: Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port Charlotte CC01 2.jpg
ABV
57.8%
Aging
9 yrs; ex-cognac cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a cask strength travel retail edition of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich’s line of heaviy peated single malts. This has been fully matured in cognac casks, not just finished, which means we benefit not only from the cognac liquid soaked in the cask but also the cognac oak because significant aging took place in the French oak barrels. I’m always surprised there aren’t more cognac finishes, but I expect it’s because cognac producers are less willing to give up barrels or “wash” new barrels for the Scotch industry.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: CC:01

  • Bottling Code: L/161648 17/329 2017 1106 13:23

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I love the farmy nature of Bruichladdich distillates. Intensely earthy smoke, like a peat fire, yet, it’s offset by the cognac character which comes through with surprising presence – raisins, rich dried fruit, baking spices, and cardamom. It’s quite sweet. The smoke is much more intense than my recollection of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. Hmm...one of the better cognac finishes I’ve had, which is surprising given all of the peat. If you like peated Scotch and you like cognac, I think this one is a must-try. We also have green olives (Castelvetrano), green walnuts (very distinct, if you happen to have a walnut tree – it’s a nutty, piney aroma), coconut, lemongrass, and sea salt. Very nice nose.

The palate is ashy and smoky, yet contrasted with all the fruit-forward cognac notes. Again, I’m surprised at how assertive the cognac is amidst a powerful smoky single malt. It’s also quite sweet – quite a juxtaposition of flavours from lemon rind to sharp earthy peat to burning wood.

The finish is slightly sweet, carrying on tannins and baking spices with more peat fires. Grows in medicinal notes too. Takes water very well, and I think I like it most with a touch of water so it’s around 48%.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It’s close to average, but still a bit pricy, unless you’re a peat head and like CS peaters.


Review: Bruichladdich The Organic 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Organic.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Ex-tennessse barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This was made from organic barley farmed at mid coull cross farms in daltross, from a 2008 harvest (crop rotation means this farm only produces it every 7 years!). It was matured for 8 years before its release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: : L/161658 17/333 2017 1115 15:55

  • Bottling Date: 2017

    Very creamy – with some nice corn notes....seems there is some first-fill bourbon in this one. Very raw, oddly, it is sharper and feels more raw than the 2009 islay barley release which is 2 years younger. Fresh, sharp pear and banana, green grass...doesn’t have the same raw earthiness and farmy nature of the Islay Barely 2009 (I am tasting them side by side) but still has a very nice nutty grain nature to it. The palate is big, still with quite the influence of bourbon, slightly salty, earhty, and nutty, and some dried fruit – the finish is very earthy, with light vanilla, oak, custard, and pear coming in at the end. Very nice! I like it with just a touch of water, to dilute down to 46-48%.

    I quite like it, although I do tend to like the less bourbon-cask driven Laddie’s – a bit less sweet, more earthy, and less dessert-like. I love the whisky, but do prefer Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley style more (if you don’t know what I mean, think of first-fill bourbon scotch whiskies like Balvenie single cask – speaking of which, if you like that, you’ll probably like this...). There is a slight bit of dissapointment that they aren’t done quite the same way so I can compare the barley more one-to-one, but I guess I’d need new make to do that...

    Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Very nice stuff.

    Value: Low, at $110.


Review: Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Islay Barley.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a 6 year old product from the Craggan, Cruach, Island, and Mulindry farms on Islay - matured for 6 years and now released. The barley was publican and oxbridge, not the best yielding, but used for flavor.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: L/160404 16/176 23 08 16 12:02

  • Bottling Date: 2016

    Earthy, farmy, and clean – nicely grain driven as are the best bruichladdich whiskies. Sharp marine and salt notes on the nose, lemon peel, vanilla, root beer...the palate continues in the same way, farmy, earthy, sharp, and salty with dried pineapple and clove. Magnificent stuff – complex, interesting, rich, full. Quite unique in the whisky world, in my view – this profile – earthy, barley driven, with fruity and an incredible marine essence to it. Finish is very biscuity, roasted malt type finish.

    Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

    Value: Average. But on the high end of average at $85.


Review: The Laddie Fifteen Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
15 yrs; 85% American Oak, 15% Ex-Sherry
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This was a limited release some years back, the second release of a Laddie Fifteen - aged for an extra 5 years from the standard Laddie 10 and bringing in some of that extra Islay aging - it was from 85% american oak and 15% ex-sherry Spanish Oak.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 1st Edition (2006)

  • Bottling Code: 1ED/0006 24 Apr 03 13:50

  • Bottling Date: 2006

The nose is full of vanilla and oak, and fascinating complexity bringing it all together. Bruichladdich certainly does pretty well with age. Peach, dried tropical fruits, caramel, vanilla and some palm sugar as well. It is nicely creamy. The marine character is there – some minerality and ever so light seaweed. The palate is peppery – oak, papaya, dried chanterelles, and a light tanginess reminding me a bit of dried mangoes. A nice finish full of spices and oak. This is nice, but it is so hard to compete with the nose and complexity of the old Laddie 10, sadly, discontinued (though there are still limited editions being released, albeit different bottlings with more of a limited edition focus). 

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: N/A


Review: The Laddie Classic Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
50%
Aging
American and French Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

Sadly, the Laddie 10 in its standard form is no longer with us (it still comes out as a special release, but it is a different whisky) - it was one of the gems of Scottish whisky, as many would attest - but supply and demand has come in the way - as with much of Scotch. This Laddie - now a part of their regular lineup -  is all things good bruichladdich: unpeated, non-chill-filtered, 100% Scottish Barley, and bottled at 50%. It is matured from a mix of american and french oak barrels, and a blend from a number of single malts of different ages.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L/160165 16/175 19 08 16 11:04

  • Bottling Date: 2016

    Quite floral on the nose, with crisp dried flowers and shrubs: dried heather, lavender, bog myrtle, and dried mint. Cucumber, ripe yellow apples, lemon zest, honey, tangerine, buttercream frosting – oh, and terrific barley. There is a definite bourbon influence. The nose is actually quite dry, and the oak feels like dry, freshly cut oak.  Not quite as dark in colour as the Laddie 10. The palate is full of earthy barley and dry oak, with vanilla, dried peach, cucumber, palm sugar, and finally drying out with some clove and rich barley on the finish. The character is very Scottish – I am reminded much of the smells of the Scottish hills in the highlands.

    It doesn’t have the fascinating complexity and balance of the Laddie 10 (RIP) and it has less of a marine character, but it is still very good. I’m glad to find this. I always liked the standard Laddie 10 (sad to see it gone). They’ve done some good work to keep this broad and complex, though it is younger. Those Laddies are still good...

    Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

    Value: Average at $70. But in terms of Scotch whisky alone, it’s perhaps at a “high” mark.


Review: The Botanist Islay Dry Gin by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
None
Recipe
11 Classic + 22 Foraged Botanicals
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This classic gin was developed by Jim McEwan at Bruichladdich and has been an important factor to their success. It is brilliant. It is composed of 22 islay foraged botanicals, alongside 9 classic gin botanicals (for a total of 31). The 22 are a fun bunch:

  • Trifolium repens: white clover
  • Crataegus monogyna: common hawthorne
  • Melissa officinalis: lemon balm (balm mint)
  • Thymus polytrichus: wild thyme
  • Mentha x villosa: mojito mint
  • Betula pubescens: downy (white) birch
  • Filipendula ulmaria: meadowsweet or mead wort
  • Ulex europaeus: gorse (smells like coconut!)
  • Myrrhis odorata: myrrh (also cicely or sweet chervil)
  • Trifolium Pratense: red clove
  • Mentha Aquatica: water mint
  • Tanacetum vulgare: Tansy
  • Juniperus communis:  common juniper
  • Myrica gale: Bog myrtle
  • Artemisa vulgaris: mugwort (common wormwood)
  • Mentha spicata: spearmint
  • Chamaemelum nobile: chamomile
  • Galium verum: lady’s bedstraw
  • Calluna vulgaris: heather
  • Teucrium scorodonia: wood sage (woodland germander)
  • Sambucus nigra: elderberry
  • Cirsium arvense: creeping thistle

Also, a terrific bottle.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A
  • Bottling Code: L16083 16/308 2016 12 08 11:57
  • Bottling Date: 2016

This is nice gin...you can tell at once from the nose. Exceedingly complex, with juniper notes at the fore, which is the way I always like my gin. Mint, menthol, coriander, dried coconut, almond, and grass. Sweet, with some confectioners sugar, and yet so shrubby and vegetal – juniper, pine, cedar, orange peel, lemon peel, and marine notes – which I particularly like. I think they’d get lost in cocktail, but those salty, mineral, light seawater notes are in there. Really, it’s worth a try just for that, and this is what excites me about the uniqueness and terrioir of this gin. The palate is easy, with light sweetness and vanilla countering the mineral water and pine/juniper/cedar/shrub notes. The finish is lightly citrusy and spicy. And a touch of salt. This is terrific – a sharp, balanced, complex gin.

If you like dry sipping gins, you need to try this one. It will mix very well too in all sorts of cocktails, though cocktail selection should be careful if the subtlety is to remain. One of my favorite gins. Brilliant!

Assessment: Highly Recommended.


Review: Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port Charlotte 1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
10 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's heavily peated line, though not as peated as their ultra peated Octomore line. Bruichladdich is a distillery which genuinely cares about the character of the barley that they put into their expressions, often making bottlings from barley sourced from a single farm, just from Islay, or just from Scotland. The distillers believe it makes a difference. This Port Charlotte is a standard of the brand, while there are also other cask strength limited editions often found in travel retail.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L32393 14/110 44 10 04 14

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Burning, phenolic peat and smoke - medicinal, vegetal, and interesting. We also have apple, fresh apricot, and some jamminess and butter bringing in complexity amidst the peat. A bit of rubber too. The palate brings quite a sharp, quick burst of smoke balanced with sweetness and vanilla before slowly drying out and lending even more dryness and smoke. This is very enjoyable, though perhaps a bit flat in places. The dryness works so well with the peat!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review: The Laddie 10 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
10 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This expression, which used to be a standard of the lineup, is now replaced with the the 8 Year Old or occassional limited releases of another 10 year old. Though I haven't formally tasted the 8 year old, my recollection from a brief tasting is that it is not the same in complexity or elegance as this is - but the loss is another to the advent of large scale NAS and the reduction in the age of whisky to temporarily meet demand. To their credit, though, they have kept the age on the bottle.

Bruichladdich produces unpeated single malt for its Bruichladdich line of whiskies (and peated for its Port Charlotte and Octomore lines) so it's not peated (at all), unlike many of the whiskies of Islay.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 3/15/201310:30:00 AM

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Towards the end of the standard Laddie 10...

Quite confectionary and even salty with a bit of a spicy edge on the nose. Good mouthfeel (gotta love un chill-filtered whiskies!)…brilliant barley in here, with some nice grainy earthiness and cereal character. Lots going on - light oak and tannin, vanilla, dried mango, lemon, very light honey, celery, seaweed, and light spices – old clove particularly. Complex, for sure. Interesting with the addition of water – it really comes out. More vegetal notes (some sautéed onion!), the sweetness comes through, and the body even seems to grow a bit and the tannins integrate a bit better. This one is sorely missed for good reason.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $70.