Bruichladdich Ternary Project

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2021
Age: Multi-Vintage
Bottles: 4,000
ABV: 52.1%
Cask: Multiple

I’ve been a bit of a Bruichladdich fan boy for many years and I’ve had the pleasure to try dozens of drams from all three lines (Unpeated, Port Charlotte, and Octomore). This is definitely a first for me: a blend of casks from all three varieties!

Nose: Berry compote & sticky toffee. Damp bonfire. Ozone and wet rocks. Musky perfume. Hard cheese rind. Maybe a touch of brandy in there?

Palate: Stewed plums and blueberries. Thick and viscous mouthfeel. Oily black coffee and very dark bitter chocolate. Dry and ashy. Very coastal and mineral-rich. Tart cranberries and pink peppercorns. Lovely.

Finish: Tingly with creamy oak. A touch of porridge and more ashes. Lasts a long time – I’m still smacking my lips 15 minutes later.

An intriguing, smoky, and very dry dram. Lovely wafts of sour fruits, wood smoke, and a coastal mineral-rich backbone. The smoke is ever present but never overpowering. Very similar to wine-matured Port Charlotte I’ve had before.

Here’s the cask breakdown:

Classy and intriguing and evolves plenty in the glass. The wine influence is clear and it goes beautifully with some dark chocolate. It’s definitely a slow-paced thinker of a dram and should be a delight for any Laddie nerds.

Overall: 8/10

There’s only 4000 bottles available so good luck if you’re entering the ballot!

Ardbeg Day 2013 “Ardbog”

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 52.1%
Cask: Ex-bourbon & Manzanilla sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another year, another Ardbeg Day release!

This is an older example from back in 2013 and is a salute to the peaty marshlands on Islay. The thing about this bottling that piques my interest is the Manzanilla cask finish. Ardbeg whisky is no stranger to a sherry cask, but almost always of the PX/Oloroso end of the spectrum.

Manzanilla is a much lighter style of sherry, more savoury and even (I think) a little bit salty. Consumed cold, it’s a thirst quencher on a hot day in the same way a cold pint is.

So how will a coastal pale sherry marry with a coastal peated whisky? Let’s find out.

Nose: Sweet blackberries, coal dust, leather and dry leaves. A coastal breeze with a touch of bread dough and marzipan.

Palate: Red fruits: cranberries, redcurrants, raspberries; giving way to a whoosh of coal dust and wood smoke, then followed by salty caramel and peppery oak.

Finish: Quite dry and ashy with dark chocolate and vanilla oak.

I’ve been a fan of this ever since I first tried it. Oddly, in the smoking lounge at the Four Seasons in Hamburg over a cigar (as you do, like).

It has a lot of the hallmarks of Uigeadail but the fruitiness of the sherry is balanced out with a good spectrum of savoury flavours, becoming dry and lip-smacking on the finish. There’s even a touch of yeastiness, which I’d associate with a pale sherry, so that tallies with the cask choice.

Overall, this is bloody lovely. A less sweet Uigeadail with tons of depth and a lovely dry finish. Delicioso!

You can still pick this up on the secondary market for about £140+

Ardbeg Supernova 2019 Committee Release

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottled: 2019
Age: NAS
ABV: 53.8%
Cask: Ex-bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another space whisky has landed! Ardbeg’s 5th edition of Supernova promises to be “an abduction of the senses”. Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them?

I’m generally a big Ardbeg fan. Their whiskies have this great oily quality to them – sometimes mechanical, sometimes more like chocolate syrup or thick black coffee. There’s smoke too, granted, but it’s not the peat-smoke that conjures up muddy bogs or TCP – it’s more a faint backdrop of smoky logs on which other flavours can build.

Let’s put it in the glass!

Nose: Very coastal and briny with dark bonfire toffee, coal dust, fresh mineral oil. A touch of cocoa powder and acrylic paint.

Palate: Seriously thick and oily. Smoked caramel with cardamom pods and seaweed, becoming ashy and peppery.

Finish: Lip-smacking and long. That coastal oiliness just keeps going.

This is the best Ardbeg I’ve had in years! It’s intensely coastal but also well-balanced with sweet, briny, smoky flavours working in harmony.

Arbdeg’s NAS releases can divide opinion, particularly with odd cask choices and bordering-on-ridiculous marketing. This release is a showcase of what the distillery can do so well: a powerful mix of coastal notes and peat but with a great depth and complexity that draws you in and effortlessly puts a smile on your face.

My bottle is disappearing fast and I shall be very sad to see it go.

This went on sale on the Ardbeg site at £140 and is available on other online shops for £200+.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Series

Ten Years of Octomore: A milestone for maturity? Or has the experiment only just got going?

The Laddie Team have been quietly toiling away for a decade now as they work to perfect the production of Octomore, their madcap beast of phenolic thunder.

Experimental as ever, there are many alterations here regarding age, cask, barley, bottling strength, and peating levels.

Having said that, the format of the four bottlings remains in keeping with releases:

  • The 10.1 is a straight-up ex-bourbon cask bottle made with Scottish barley.
  • The 10.2, as in previous years, is matured in European oak (this year a first-fill Sauternes).
  • The 10.3 is made with 100% Islay grown barley.
  • And, of course, the 10.4 is matured 100% in virgin oak, although this year it’s 100% European Limousin instead of American Oak or a mixture of both.

I’m keen to see how this year’s adjustments and experiments have turned out. How will the 10.x series stand up to its formidable predecessors? What new tweaks has Adam Hannett pulled from his bag of tricks?

Blind Tasting

At the request of the distillery, having sent the very generous 200ml sample bottles wrapped in mysterious black paper, I tasted each bottle blind, scribbled some notes, and took a pop at which bottling I thought was in the glass. Afterwards, I unveiled the bottles and consolidated my notes.

Thanks a lot to the Laddie Team for sending these out! 🙌

The Octomore 10.1

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2013
Age: 5 years old
PPM: 107
Bottles: 42,000
ABV: 59.8%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Let’s start at the beginning!

This year’s .1 release is in keeping with previous years in most aspects – the age, ABV, and cask type are very typical of previous years. The most noticeable difference is the PPM down to 107 from last year’s 156 (and earlier bottlings being more typically between 160 and 180PPM).

The literature describes this year’s Octomores as having a “softer smoke”. As a dram that’s always differentiated itself on phenol levels, it’s interesting to see the distillery explore this – especially as 107PPM is still nearly 3 times peatier than your average peaty whisky.

Nose: Pear skin, fruit syrup and dry wood smoke. Washed cheese. Unvarnished furniture.

Palate: White grapes: floral, sweet, and luscious. Pear juice. Rising chilli-flake heat with wood resin and soft smoke.

Finish: Sweet and long with a mild peppery smoke.

I was so convinced on tasting this that it was the 10.2. There’s a lovely soft floral character beneath the smoke which I associated with the sweet Sauternes wine it was matured in.

Really impressed with this one! For me the .1 bottling is usually quite savoury and austere but this is packed with delicious fruity notes. As the most affordable of the range, I reckon this will be a great crowd pleaser for Octomore fans old and new with that extra fruity dimension complementing the smoke very well.

Overall: 8/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.1 in the Bruichladdich Shop for £125.

The Octomore 10.2

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2010
Age: 8 years old
PPM: 96.9
Bottles: 24,000
ABV: 56.9%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, First-fill Sauternes
More Info: WhiskyBase

A Sauternes cask, you say? That rings a bell.

Many years ago, the Octomore 4.2 bottling “Comus” was aged in Sauternes casks and was described as “a velvet glove, wrapped around an iron fist”.

This bottling is 3 years older than Comus, with a lower ABV/PPM. All-in-all, I’m expecting a much tamer animal.

Nose: Quite coastal and fresh. Ozone, washing up gloves, burnt sugar, damp barley, rock salt.

Palate: Hard boiled sweets, grapefruit, vanilla sugar. Creamy with ashy peat. Builds heat. Luscious mouthfeel, silky.

Finish: Mid length. Peppery and tingly with oak, cloves, and wood smoke.

Very clean, yet powerful with a coastal/citrus profile. I was convinced this was the 10.1 when I tasted blind. It’s not as floral/fruity as I expected but I’m happy to have my expectations challenged!

The sweet edges here are very much more in the boiled-sweet category, and the mouthfeel is just beautiful. A cliché it may be, but this is the refined and subtle Octomore of the group.

Overall: 8/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.2 in travel retail. Heinemann have an exclusive on this for a few months.

The Octomore 10.3

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2013
Age: 6 years old
PPM: 114
Bottles: 24,000
ABV: 61.3%
Cask: Bourbon Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Islay Barley for this year’s bottle comes, once again, from the man known on the island as “The Godfather of Soil”, Farmer James Brown. I’ll never get tired of that!

As well as a lower PPM, this year’s .3 bottling has no traces of wine cask, sticking to 100% Bourbon maturation.

Nose: Mineral rich, coastal, and vaguely rubbery. Damp hay.

Palate: Sweet vanilla and smoked honey. Very cereal rich and farm-yard-y with milk chocolate and cinnamon.

Finish: Quite short, with black pepper and more honeyed cereal.

By process of elimination, this should be the 10.3 Islay Barley. It’s a bit heavier flavourwise than the others, so I think it’s a good bet (and it was!).

I’ve loved previous Islay Barley releases (the 6.3 being one of my favourite whiskies of all time). This is more in keeping with what I’d expect from the 10.1 in terms of savoury peaty character.

It’s a good dram, but fell a little flat for me compared with the others. I prefer a touch more sweetness and fruit in an Octomore.

Overall: 7/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.3 in the Bruichladdich Shop for £175.

The Octomore 10.4

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2016
Age: 3 years old
PPM: 88
Bottles: 12,000
ABV: 63.5%
Cask: European Limousin Virgin Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I clocked this one straight away on the colour alone – it looks like a well aged sherry cask!

The .4 bottle has always been virgin oak, but typically American oak with its sweet, sunny character. European oak is a lot drier and harsher. An intriguing prospect, and I think a first for Octomore!

Nose: Resin. Damp clay. Smoky red wine and redcurrants. Lovely cask funk, very nutty (chestnuts, I think). There’s also a distinctive coastal tang of salty minerals.

Palate: Quite jammy. More red wine. Dry rolling tobacco. Dry smoke. Cacao and black pepper.

Finish: Long with tobacco ash and tart cranberries. Really lip-smacking.

I like this a lot! It has pronounced wine characteristics and very dry mouthfeel.

Tasting this rather blew my mind, since the whisky has never actually seen any wine! It must be all the tannins from that virgin European oak – amazing to think how much flavour in red wine actually comes from the wood itself.

I think it was the right call to bottle this at three years old. Any more time in such active oak would’ve made the whisky too woody.

I think the three year age statement is going to put a lot of people off, particularly combined with the likely £150+ price tag but they’d be missing out big time – this is the standout dram for me.

To sip it is very redolent of drinking a dry red while smoking a cigar. It’s totally bonkers and I absolutely love it.

Overall: 9/10

You’ll be able to pick up the Octomore 10.4 January 2020 in the Bruichladdich Shop.

Kilchoman Port Cask 2018

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2018, Distilled: 2014
ABV: 50%
Cask: Port
More Info: WhiskyBase

Oh my! A port-cask matured Kilchoman.

I was very lucky to try the 1st edition of this at a tasting a few years back. It was jammy, earthy and all-round delicious. Let’s try the sequel!

Nose: Redcurrants, Easter egg chocolate, dirty puddles, leaf litter, engine grease, bonfire smoke, and nicotine.

Palate: Tobacco and maple syrup. A smoky serving of spices: cinnamon, clove, white pepper. An acidic red-wine edge to it – like a peppery Shiraz.

Finish: Chewy, earthy peat that lasts and lasts.

I’m a big fan of this style of whisky – it’s raw and punchy and full of the aromas of the outdoors.

Available now for around £70-£80.

The Kinship Port Ellen 34 Year Old

Distillery: Port Ellen
Age: 34 years old
ABV: 61.7%
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Cask: Sherry Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

In the wake of this year’s Feis Ile (The Islay Festival of Malt and Music), Hunter Laing have released a set of six extremely rare whiskies to celebrate Islay whisky – The Kinship range.

Hand-picked by legendary distiller Jim McEwan (formerly of Bruichladdich and Bowmore), these whiskies represent the best and rarest examples of Islay spirit. They also mark the creation of Laing’s brand new distillery “Ardnahoe” which is situated on the shores of the Sound of Islay, close to Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.

I’m a massive Bruichladdich fan so I’m delighted that Jim McEwan will be production manager when the distillery goes into operation early in 2018.

Anyway, on with the Kinship whisky! The oldest and rarest in the range is this: a sherried Port Ellen that was distilled shortly before the distillery’s closure in 1983.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Thick candle wax, menthol, dried rosemary. New leather and citrus peel. Quite maritime in a minerally way – think chalky clifftops on a windy day. With water becomes more citrusy and a little soapy, like washing up liquid (but in a good way). Over time it gets sweeter and richer with vanilla cake sponge.

Palate: Lemon throat sweets, brown sugar, clove oil, sour cherries and gentle wood smoke.

Finish: Tingly, ashy and long. Creamy oak and a touch of vanilla.

Jim McEwan described this as “a tidal wave in a glass”. The nose is indeed a powerhouse and it transports me directly to being outdoors on the Scottish coast – much like Lagavulin 12 or a cask-strength Caol Ila.

The palate, though smoky, is a lot gentler – even at the full 61.7% strength – and you get to enjoy a deeply pleasant and life-affirming finish that lasts and lasts.

Frankly, I was a little concerned that this had spent 34 years in sherry. For my palate, that can really spoil a good whisky. Luckily, my fears are unfounded – this must’ve been a good quality refill cask and at the incredibly high ABV it’s had a remarkably slow and careful maturation over those years allowing the spirit to dominate the flavour, not the cask.

All in all, this is a really elegant and well-rounded whisky – classy, complex, and delivering all that coastal/citrus goodness you’d hope to get from a Port Ellen.

Many thanks to Nickolls and Perks for sending me this sample! Now bear with me while I weep at how badly I can’t afford whisky like this…

Currently, these Kinship bottles are available from the Ardnahoe Distillery Shop on Islay. The Port Ellen is £1,800 per bottle.

Kilchoman 10th Anniversary Release

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2005
ABV: 58.2%
Bottles: 3000
Cask: Bourbon & Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

The bottling of the first ten-year-old whisky is a big milestone in the life of any distillery.

A tiny, farm-run endeavour, Kilchoman have been punching well above their weight since they entered the whisky market with consistently excellent whisky from a very young age. I’m a big fan of their 100% Islay bottlings (which are only about 5 years old when bottled).

Nose: Jamaican Ginger cake but without the heavy molasses – more like golden syrup and brown sugar. A chalky, sooty, old stove quality around the edges of the sweetness. There’s a fragrant starchiness, too, like pilau rice. With water it gets waxy and slightly soapy.

Palate: Very thick and buttery, with sweet vanilla, lemon sherbet, and then a freight-train of peat and barrel spice: chilli peppers, tingly clove, black pepper. Water calms the spices and reveals cardamom, heather honey, boiled sweets, and some light floral camomile notes.

Finish: Cashew nuts, more cloves, and a lip-smacking ashy quality akin to the dying embers of a cigar.

This is definitely more rounded and well-integrated than its younger siblings.

The character of the spirit shines through and dominates both the nose and the palate, forcing the influence from the cask to take a back seat. Those floral, peaty flavours works incredibly well together and I hope this means we’ll see a 10-year-old at 46% become part of the core line-up.

Big thumbs up from me!

There’s samples of the Kilchoman 10th Anniversary available on Master of Malt, but not full bottles, alas.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 (2nd Edition)

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-16-29-11Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016, Distilled: 2006
Age: 10 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 57.3%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, Grenache Blanc
More Info: WhiskyBase

Towards the end of 2016, Bruichladdich released a “Troika of Tens” – three exciting ten year old releases in limited quantities. One for the unpeated Bruichladdich, one for the heavily peated Port Charlotte, and one for the super heavily peated Octomore.

The last round had Jim McEwan’s signature on them; this one is adorned with the autograph of Mr Adam Hannett. I love Jim’s Laddies but Adam’s have consistently exceeded all expectations.

At £150, it’s definitely not an every day dram but I’d just paid off my student loan so that seemed a good enough cause for celebration…

Nose: This takes me straight to the Atlantic! Very mineral-rich and coastal: salt-crusted seashells, damp driftwood, and dark green seaweed. It smells like rain (the proper word for this is “petrichor”, according to Jake) and there’s a great chalky/waxy quality in there, too. I love Octomore, it always paints a picture – this is a walk on a beach on a typical Summer’s day in Scotland. With time, some fruit appears in the form of orange and lemon peel.

Body: Viscous and mouth-coating but not cloying. That slow-drip distillation combined with the cask strength really works wonders.

Palate: Ok, a lot happens here. Briefly sweet and tart like a crisp green apple. The thick mouthfeel cocoons the impending peat smoke briefly and then *whoosh* the smoke is released! It goes straight to your sinuses like a good blob of wasabi. The savoury/spicy food continues with salt and pepper beef in chilli oil – very drying and tingly. As the tingling subsides, lime chocolate creams, peppermint, liquorice, and a hint of soft fruit (think honeydew melons/kiwis)

Finish: Quite savoury with that trademark chewy, tooth-coating Octomore peat. Malty and peppery and very, very long.

Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they? I love Octomore at five years old, all kicking and feisty. This hasn’t lost any of its kick with the additional five years but it’s gained a wonderful structure and nuance that gets better with every sip.

There’s a lot to discover here. Well done, Adam –  an absolute belter!

You can pick up the Octomore 10 2nd Edition in the Bruichladdich Shop for £150.

Bruichladdich Laddie Five-O

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-13-18Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 47.7%
Bottled For: Feis Ile 2013
More Info: WhiskyBase

If you’ve ever been on Islay in May, you’ll know all about the reputation and buzz surrounding the Feis Ile bottlings from each of the eight distilleries on the island.

This bottling here represents something special – this is Jim McEwan’s liquid celebration of his fifty years in the whisky industry. Jim handed over the Bruichladdich baton to Adam Hannett in 2015 (and he’s doing a cracking job!) so bottlings like these won’t come by any more.

And given that it’s Christmas, I decided it was time to appreciate Jim’s legendary whisky talents. This is somewhat frustratingly released without an age statement but I’m confident it’s got some interesting older casks from the depths of the Laddie warehouses rolling around inside it.

Nose: A good mix of things here. Gingerbread, Scottish tablet, dusty wooden furniture, hard cheese rind, cherry skin, raspberries.

Body: Syrupy! Nice and viscous.

Palate: Tangy and sweet. Clementines, stem ginger, dark honey, cloves and cinnamon.

Finish: A soft (and slightly soapy) coastal tang with oak and marzipan.

Unusually, for a Bruichladdich special bottling, there’s nothing outrageous going on here at all.

However, what is going on is a really good solid, honest and well rounded whisky. It has all the hallmarks and core character of the distillery and it’s an easy sipping and classy flavour with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

You can pick this one up at auction or buy it on Amazon for £275.

Bruichladdich Infinity 03.1

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 21.57.01Distillery: Bruichladdich
Age: NAS
ABV: 50%
Cask: Temperanillo and Sherry Casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another Laddie distillery bottling – this one was part of a plethora of small experimental releases in the noughties as the distillery found its feet again after revival by Mark Reynier and Co.

This one’s a lightly peated (20PPPM) “multi vintage” expression matured in refill sherry barrels and temperanillo wine casks.

Nose: Reminiscent of cognac, yet coastal and sandy. Dusty plum skin, pine resin, bramble jam, lime zest, and tinned fruit. A good whiff of rubber soles and josticks.

Palate: Syrupy sour plums. Malty shortbread and fruit syrup wraps up a rising and spicy peat tang. Slightly unripe red grapes and sour apples with soy and aromatic chow mein.

Finish: Chalky with Brazil nut skins, salty smoke, and more lime zest. Slightly soapy at the end.

This took a while to grow on me but I’m finding the complexity more appealing. Loads of funky sherry notes, the kind that you’ll love or hate. Pleasingly coastal and warming with great mouthfeel at that higher strength ABV.

The trouble for me with this dram is the lack of integration. The Bruichladdich distillery character is recognisable (malty, coastal, limey) but the wine/sherry influence feels very separate – like the two flavour profiles don’t get on with each other.

Overall: A flawed-yet-entertaining expression. Worth trying as a curiosity.

You can find this on auction sites for well under £100. Pretty tin and a good edition to a Laddie collection.