Bowmore Laimrig

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15 years old
ABV: 54.1%
Cask: Matured in American Oak, finished in Spanish sherry butt
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Laimrig is the cask-strength version of Bowmore’s popular 15 year old core expression.

Nose: Opens with coastal air – salt and wet rocks. A little leathery with smoky milk chocolate and sherbet mingled with violets.

Palate: Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate! Rising smoky, salty tang with lots of spicy dried fruit. Dates, sultanas, raisins – very juicy.

Finish: Salty brazils, warm oak and a whisper of peat.

I was unsure at first with Bowmore. The entry-level expressions didn’t really get my tastebuds dancing.

This stuff, though, is dangerously quaffable. A refined salty peat, with a juicy, sweet sherry and chocolate character. Complex enough to be interesting, but at a respectable price for the age and ABV.

Highland Park Odin

Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 16 years old
Bottles: 17,000
ABV: 55.8%
Cask: First fill and refill sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I’ve been looking forward to this. Highland Park’s Valhalla series ends with year four’s release, Odin, following in the steps of Thor, Loki, and Freya.

As ever, the lads from Orkney have done a cracking job with their marketing and the online buzz for this whisky reached absolute fever pitch a couple of weeks back when the whisky was released.

But what’s it like..?

Nose: Sticky dates, lime skin, tangerine juice, spiced honey and grated chocolate. With time and water, brandy-soaked apples, sweet rolling tobacco and burnt paper ashes.

Palate: Thick and sticky with muscavado, fruity coffee, metallic tinned peaches, and crystallised ginger. A rising edge of smouldering tangy peat that brings sea salt and dusty dark chocolate powder.

Finish: Long, oily, smooth and drying with powerful smoked oak and soft ashes.

As ever, the Highland Park peat is dry and restrained, adding great smoky, ashy elements to the whisky without drowning out the softer fruity notes beneath. A splash of water really opens this up as well, though the full cask strength mouthfeel is gorgeously syrupy.

The sherry casks used here are absolutely wonderful. Such dark and rich bass notes of fruit and chocolate, but interesting flavours rise up beyond the clichéd “christmas cake” profile that we expect from other alleged sherry monsters.

I have to say, I think this whisky is worth the fuss and the price tag. It’s neither a peat, nor a sherry monster; nor is it a monster of any other kind.

Odin the Allfather is a gentleman of depth, power, subtlety and character.

Well played, Highland Park. Make more whisky like this soon!

Bruichladdich Black Art 04.1

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 1990
Age: 23 years old
Bottles: 6,000
ABV: 49.2%
Cask: ?????
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the 4th release of the Bruichladdich Black art, a 23-year old mystery expression whose secret recipe is known only to Jim McEwan himself.

It’s bottled at 49.2%ABV, most likely has a sherry influence, and that’s about all we know. People have pondered over the years whether it’s port, sauternes, shiraz, fino, PX, oloroso, rum… we’re told it’s likely around 6 different casks.

Nose: Icing sugar, slight smoke, dates, sweet tobacco, custard powder.

Palate: Golden malt, rich and oily with spices. Green apples, then sticky figs, soft dates, chocolate, Brazil nuts, and banana bread.

Finish: Long, chewy, oaky finish with wafts of fruit coming through.

Mmmmmm, interesting!

Jim mixes up every release of Black Art, so each one has different characteristics. I enjoyed the 3rd release very much, and this one’s just as appealing. Given time, it yields a lot of different flavours…

The Botanist Gin

Distillery: Bruichladdich
ABV: 46%
Style: Scottish Gin
More Info: TheBotanist.com

You’re seeing this increasingly – distilleries producing clear spirits in addition to aged spirits. Whisky’s a long waiting game, so being able to distill something that can hit the shelves immediately really helps cash flow in a small distillery.

Jim McEwan, the master distiller at Bruichladdich, entered into the task of gin production by sampling different grain alcohols. Typically, a gin is made by buying pure neutral grain alcohol and soaking botanicals in it. This is then re-distilled with a still that filters the vapours through a container holding more botanicals.

Jim went for a 100% wheat alcohol, due to the sweeter flavour. This gets loaded into the Laddie gin still, the fierce lady known affectionately as “Ugly Betty”. Betty is an old Lomond-style still, and so is squat and dumpy compared with the tall, slender necked whisky stills. She puts out an 80% ABV gin which is then watered down with spring water to a bottling strength of 46%.

Mary, one of the distillery’s “ninja grannies” decided one day to make a cheese cake. To make it more fun, she decided to add some Botanist gin to the recipe. Somehow, she “accidentally” used the concentrated pre-bottling strength gin… and you can guess what kind of an afternoon the staff had at the distillery when she shared it out!

Nose: Mint, juniper, aniseed, cumin, lemon, touch of coconut.

Palate: Very refreshing neat. Tangy salted lemons and bitter citrus peel.

Finish: Slightly drying cloves.

The Botanist contains nine base botanicals which include juniper, cassia bark, angelica, liquorice, and citrus peels.

The condenser box contains twenty-two foraged botanicals from Islay which are infused during distillation – these include three types of mint, bog myrtle, sweet Sicily, heather, and (to my delight) gorse.

Gorse is that yellow flower you see growing on knarled clifftop bushes by the coast. At the right time of year, they smell of coconuts – a bit like the smell of some sun cream, or maybe even a Piña Colada.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2007
Age: 6 years old
ABV: 50%
Cask: American oak ex bourbon casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

In France, the concept of “terroir” explains the character of wine, cheese, whisky, brandy etc by considering the place in which it’s made. The soil, climate, variety of barley, locality to the coast, location of warehouses, origin of cask, colour of the stillman’s underwear (!) all feasibly impart an effect on the flavour and overall character of a whisky.

Many distilleries, due to demand, have to import barley from abroad. This would compromise the terroir of the spirit, so Bruichladdich only use Scottish barley in all their whiskies. For this expression, they’ve gone one further and made it exclusively with barley grown on Islay. Specifically, at Rockside farm just up the hill where Kilchoman distill their whisky.

Nose: Farms, stable-smell of hay and straw, salty again, wet flowers.

Palate: Creamy. Salty porridge with apple. No citrus this time, but a touch of menthol and spicy nutmeg.

Finish: Hazelnuts and a little more salt.The barley in this was grown in 2006, distilled in 2007 and matured purely in bourbon casks until it was bottled at 50% ABV. Apparently, the Islay farmers were paid for their barley (at least partially) in whisky!Lovely dram this is – it’s so farmyardy, but not in a bad way at all. On the nose is stables, hay, horses, leather, mud etc and the palate’s creamy and cereal-rich. Yummy.

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley “The Classic Laddie”

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 50%
Cask: American oak ex bourbon casks, and European oak ex fino sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

First and foremost in the Laddie core range, the vibrant aquamarine bottle of Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, “The Classic Laddie”.

The story goes that, when Mark Reynier (one of the band of independent investors who rebooted Bruichladdich) first visited the distillery this is what colour the sea water was in Loch Indaal.

This is a multi-vintage whisky (a.k.a. No Age Statement, or NAS) but I have it on good authority that it’s around 5/6 years old. When it comes to their whisky, Bruichladdich don’t keep many secrets.

Produced in a mixture of American oak ex bourbon casks, and European oak ex fino sherry casks, the whisky is unpeated and bottled at 50% ABV. As always, all the distillery’s bottlings are non chill filtered and free from colouring.

Nose: Salty, earthy and grassy with limes and bananas. Slightly rubbery with a strong mineral smell.

Palate: Salty custard with limes and cinnamon. After sitting in the glass a while, vanilla sponge cake.

Finish: Oily walnuts, sultanas.

Deceptively simple at first but reveals more character with each sip. Very approachable and smooth at 50%. A solid introduction to the core range of Bruichladdich whiskies.

Bruichladdich Cuvee 640 Eroica

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2012
Age: 21 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 46%
Cask: American Oak, finished in Limousin European Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Salty Atlantic air, dried apricots, clementines, kiwis, apples, mint, and waxed leather. Bit of dark chocolate brownie in there too.

Palate: Golden honeyed malt with drying notes of Moroccan herbal mint tea, sweet raspberry, blood orange, Turkish delight, and citrus pith.

Finish: Dry and oaky, with Brazil nuts in dark chocolate.

Oh yes, indeed. That lovely Bruichladdich maltiness with a salty edge and silky mouthfeel, with refined French fruit and wood aromas wrapped around it.

I enjoyed the 407 PX but most of the character came from that first-fill sherry finish. This is still a malty, salty unpeated Atlantic whisky but the Cognac barrel has imparted subtle and soft notes of fruit, herbs, chocolate and nuts.

Vive le France ❤

There are three Cuvée bottlings in this particular series: 640 Eroica, 407 La Noche Bocca Arriba (PX), and 382 La Berenice (Sauternes/Barsac wine). All the same stock from American oak, and finished up to 21 years old. All are still available on the market (try Whisky Exchange) for around £90-£100.