Bruichladdich really push the concept of terroir. The term comes from french wine production and refers to the location of where the produce comes from and how vital that is to the success of the product.
To prove their point they developed the Micro Provenience series of single cask bottlings. The concept was very much ahead of the curve in providing the entire life story of that whisky something which is coming to the fore today but of less interest five or six years ago. The information on the label included barley type, distillation date, bottling date, cask type, warehouse location and cask number.
The casks chosen have all been something interesting or unique. For example a rare and interesting wood or distillation method. I own three Micro Provenience bottles including a 9 year old Bruichladdich which was quadruple distilled and aged in fresh bourbon. The X4+9 and the X4 spirit is a wonderful tale all on its own and after 9 years you have a wonderfully intense wood driven spirit which I enjoyed (with water!).
To complement and enhance the concept, live tasting with the master distiller were organised with first Jim McEwan and then Adam Hannett. The first three tastings were small samples of the full size bottles which would be available for sale after the event. The latest two tastings have been around a theme and all the cask was used to make the samples so as many Laddie geeks as possible could participate.
Each online tasting has been different to the previous one and I have been involved in all of them apart from the first one. I was also lucky enough to also get a set for the next tasting which will be in April and involve the Octomore whisky brand. These are really interesting events and really drive the Bruichladdich brand well onto a receptive audience.
The fifth outing for the live tasting was broadcast at 7pm GMT from the laddie shop on Islay. In front of the camera was Head Distiller Adam Hannett and Production Manager Allan Logan. Off to one side and monitoring the social media accounts were Christie and Raymond and almost certainly many more people making sure the event went without a hitch.
The main purpose of the evening was to collectively open, share, discuss and taste three Port Charlotte casks which all came from the same batch of malt in November 2005 and had all been aged for the same amount of time and originally filled into fresh bourbon barrels. The only difference has been the journey through wood which each whisky had taken in those ten years. This then was an education in how wood influences the final product we drink at home.
Whisky Number 1 – Fresh Bourbon
This sample was the control sample in the experiment if you like. This has spent its entire life in the same cask before being bottled at a natural strength of 56.9% ABV. This one was also matured in the Port Charlotte warehouses. Port Charlotte in Port Charlotte.
Colour – washed out yellow
Nose – sherbety lemon, subtle heathery peat but very much in the background, a buttery creamy note as well
Palate – more of the herbal and heather flavours with tropical fruit
Finish – long and lingering smokiness. clean and crisp finish
Whisky Number 2 – Bordeaux Finish
This sample spent 10 years in the fresh bourbon before being transferred for 9 months into a fresh Bordeaux red wine cask. This one was bottled a natural strength of 59.9% ABV.
Colour – rusty orange
Nose – red fruits of raspberries and strawberries. reminds me of a syrah casked Bruichladdich I had in MP4 but with more earthiness
Palate – thick and chewy mouthfeel with tannins and chocolate oranges
Finish – another long finish of smoked malt, sweetened apple juice and more herbs
Whisky Number 3 – Virgin Oak Finish
This sample was my favourite from the night. It was my first time tasting a well constructed virgin cask matured whisky so the amazingly different character really took me by surprise. This whisky again had spent ten years in the fresh bourbon before being re-casked into a virgin cask with a medium toasting level for only 6 months. The barrel was 300 litres in size so slightly larger than a hogshead and made from french oak before being bottled at 63.5%.
Colour – toffee brown
Palate – caramel and toffee with lots and lots of crystallised ginger. lots of oak spices. amazing how much character can be injected into a whisky after only six months
Finish – more fiery ginger mixing well with heathery peat
The stand out performance for me was the virgin oak finish. It was really obvious to me that playing around with virgin oak is not for the faint hearted. I could see that the aging can be very aggressive on a whisky so the dangers of over kill are very real. That was not the case in the cask we sampled it was a delight to drink. Each whisky also did not feel overly aggressive when drank neat. This is something which I have always found in Bruichladdich and a result of the slow and clean distillation with lots of copper contact during the production process to get a very pure spirit.
These online tasting are great fun to do when you have bought the set. To sit down at home on your own or with friends while comparing notes with the head distiller is a great experience for any whisky hobbyist. However, even if you missed out on the bottles they are still an interesting mine of new information on the distillery.
From the 90mins the highlights from the night included hearing the career progressions of both Allan and Adam from there first day at Bruichladdich. Allan has a particularly interesting story to tell being there from the first day of the resurrection of the distillery. Questions were also asked on cask and if any whisky has been matured in ice wine casks (they are). We heard about future plans for a malting floor in hopefully 3-5 years and considering planting their own scottish oak trees so future generations have a supply of scottish oak that could be turned into casks one day.
Interestingly, from the Netherlands came a question I have been meaning to bring up with the distillery at some point. When I visit other distilleries they are very determined filling casks at 63.5% is the optimal strength and to fill straight from the barrel is only to do with saving money on casks. To get the answer from Bruichladdich on why they do it and why they think it gives from an edge was very interesting and most importantly saves me asking! Allan also pointed out that it was in the best interests of distilleries to fill casks at the same strength to make selling to blenders a simpler process.
What I really enjoyed is seeing the interest and passion the employees have at the distillery. That passion is not all about whisky either these people are around the stuff all day every day so you can imagine it can get quite tedious after a while. They are also so passionate about their island and island life. Bruichladdich employees 74 islanders and is the largest private employer on the island. Without employers like Bruichladdich then some of those people would perhaps have to move over to the mainland and an already dwindling population would get smaller.
Bruichladdich whisky products are absolutely premium products. The prices asked for the whiskies are very much about as much as you would want to pay but you do get the quality you deserve for the price. More importantly though if it keeps an island community together then for me that will always be a price worth paying.
Until we meet again for #laddieMp6 friends!