Bruichladdich Organic 2009 – “Barley Exploration Part III”

I scrapped my original intro to this review, I should have called this series “against the grain” or “down with big Ag!” all kidding aside, I don’t mean to come off as preachy, I am just trying to gather my thoughts coherently about these questions that are often on my mind when this type of subject comes up.

Suffice to say that it is easy to become too focused on the big picture and lose sight of all the little steps that contribute to the whole, you can remove some of these and cut corner and “innovate” and still arrive at a result that is similar but upon close inspection isn’t. The taste of whisky is more than just anonymous grain spirit + barrel finishes. Caring about the little steps requires more than good marketing and fancy tales.

2008 harvest distilled in 2009 Organic unpeated barley, 9 years old, matured in ex-bourbon casks.

Nose: Creamy digestive biscuits, cooked barley, lemon curd, whipped cream, cantaloupe, Satsumas. Lime oil, some vanilla and sweetness there is definitely some active first-fill casks at work.

With time a a few drops water a feeling of caraway, yeasty fermenting beer and a bit of ginseng, IPA??

Palate: Oily AF, lemon zest, salty, creamy vanilla and a good dose of oak and something a little charred. Whole whet bread and honey, with a spicy, peppery & “grippy” oak.

you have to take your time with this one, it needs air to reveal the interplay between the spicy, floral, sweet and oily.

Finish: Medium length, still that feeling of heavy cream a bit of juniper/pepper and lime pith & honey, even a slightly earthy side.

The Blab: This is a pretty round and characterful whisky, it has a hint of sharpness (but not harsh) and this young beer like, yeasty, floral hoppy aspect. It’s crazy to think this thing is only 8yrs old, real character not just weirdness, good to drink now but would love to see what it tastes like when it hits 12-14 yrs.

Bruichladdich The Organic 2009

50% ABV

86/100

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2010 – “Barley Exploration Part II”

It would not have been that long ago that most distilleries would have sourced their barley from within their locality or at the very least their own country to meet their needs. As production of most distilleries grew and consolidation took hold of the industry, efficiency and cost have become the leading factor in the production of spirits for most distilleries.

They will bandy about the origins, history and lore of their locality but very little of that applies anymore. If your barley is grown in France, is malted in Scotland and then trucked to the Isle of Skye to be distilled. The then resulting new make is put in a tanker and shipped to Fife to be aged, can it still truly be called a maritime malt?

There are many in the Scotch whisky industry that will tell you that the barley variety and provenance add little to nothing to the flavour of the whisky. Yet in most other spirit and beverage categories they have doubled down on the importance of terroir (yes an overused word), variety and climate, it is intrinsic to the creation of the DNA of their product.

The truth for these conglomerates is that it just doesn’t fit their mode of operation, it is contrary to the way their businesses are run. Dealing with the minutiae of sourcing, the variability of crop outcome and of production that come with this model is contrary to their structure. They could charge more for the result, certainly that is appealing but it would invariably cost more to produce and require more hands on deck and that they can’t live with. Besides in their mind the average client cares little and if you use the right smoke and mirrors that are lore, legend and scarcity you keep them from looking too closely.

Just food for thought, I’m not saying local is best nor the only way to do things, I am just weary of many talking from both sides of their mouth at once, locality and history is only important when they say it is, much like age.

2009 crop from eight Islay farms from Uxbridge & Optic unpeated barley distilled 2010, 7 years old, majority first-fill Bourbon with some Rivesaltes, Jurançon & Banyuls casks vatted in.

Nose: Waxy lemons, a little struck match, melons, wet hay, loads of barley a little bit of vermouth. There’s a touch of cured ham, an oily almost shoe polish feel but nonetheless that air of freshness.

With time I feel like there’s a kind of slight wine cask type of influence earthy, blackberries, slight touch of olive and aniseed.

Palate: Peppery, oily & spicy. Sweet frosting, loads of musky fruit, salty ham, green coriander seeds a bit of green bell pepper. It really pulls your taste buds in many directions.

Finish: It finishes dry, a bit of cardboard and astringent fruit, cooked barley, caraway and spicy oak.

Blab: A nice whisky, the palate starts off the same as the nose but then it feels as if the wine casks take over. A bit of funk. Astringency and that earthy fruit thing, more a summery kind of whisky. I have preferred others in the series especially the 2007 Rockside farm release.

As with many of these Islay Barley whiskys it is hard to know if what you are tasting is due in part to the locality of the crop or not, it would be great to have comparison whisky of the same age and vatting but from a mainland crop to see the difference. That’s the whisky nerd in me talking.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2010

50%/ABV

84/100

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008-2017 – “Barley Exploration Part I”

In the summer/fall of 2018, Bruichladdich issued new editions of it’s “provenance” driven whiskys, the 2010 edition of it’s Islay Barley variant, the 2009 Organic barley and the 2008 Bere Barley. Right around the holidays they smartly assembled a new “Wee Laddies” kit of 3 x 20cl bottles, one of each expression. I was able to pick up a set at a very fair price during that time, I figured it was a good way to taste multiple expressions. I would also be able to use those handy 20cl bottles when empty to decant bottles in the danger zone, win-win.

Bere Barley is a varietal that was prized for it’s performance in low ph soils and it’s short growing season, making it ideal for a place like Scotland and specifically Orkney, where the crop for this whisky came from. It also has a high protein and nitrogen content making it difficult to deal with and reducing it’s yield, yet it was prized for it’s flavor and continues to be used by many in the brewing industry for that very reason. Only a few distilleries have experimented with a purely Bere barley whisky, of the ones I know there was Arran, Bruichladdich and Glan Ar Mor.

Distilled in 2008 from the 2007 harvest, unpeated Bere barley, 9 yrs old and vatted from first-fill an re-fill ex-bourbon casks.

Nose: Sharp, citrus peel, pumpernickel, caraway. it’s very fresh on the nose. Then some latex, powdered sugar & marzipan. It reminds me of pot-still Irish whisky in some ways, there is a slight banana note as well.

Palate: Tropical fruits, lots of grain, lemon, astringency and a firm sharpness. It develops into a tangy creamy feeling a bit like those campino candies with a bit of spice on the tail end.

Finish: There is a bit of rye bread and water crackers at first and then a lemony, salty feeling, paraffin and a touch of arugula.

Blab: There’s something irresistible about this whisky. The palate is weird, very different than a lot of what I’ve had. It’s hard to describe. It’s coastal, oily and has almost a lowland vibe to it but then there’s that fresh side also that lifts it up. An interesting whisky it eventually became my favourite of the set.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2008

50% ABV

86/100

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1 “Arcane Rambler”

Black Arts has become the oldest regular expression of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It is basically composed of 20± year old pre-closure stock that had been matured or finished in various types of casks with a heavy emphasis on wine/sherry/fortified wines. It is then vatted into a secret recipe know only to the head distiller.

This is the second edition that has been crafted by Adam Hannet since he’s taken over the role of master distiller.

Nose: Old books, slight sulfur and dried berries, as it opens up you get grape syrup, fresh oak a bit of pickled ginger & waxed orange rind. There’s an interesting note like a cross between sour cherry and marzipan also present is this background freshness and something akin to peated rosewater?

This edition seems to start off not quite as tight and funky than past ones I’ve tried, there is some sulfur but it’s balanced with a touch of sea spray, it almost feels like that’s the element bringing the freshness.

Palate : Oily, bitter herbs, sweet cured ham & cold coffee. musky fruits like melon, grape skins, fresh pastry, a slight sherry vinegar sharpness and then that aged sherry barrel funk. A Musty Concrete Basement collides with broken jars of mustard fruits and grape jam.

Finish: Sweet, Water biscuits, marinated stone fruits and blackberries with saltwater and a trace of smoke. Cooked jam, a tinge of paraffin and cologne. Loads of yeast and tobacco in finish a good amount of oak and a trace of incense.

Blab: This is big whisky and yet it feels fun, unlike the 4.1 which I reviewed recently which was kind of heavy sulfury and messy. 6.1 has those heavy low end notes but all that is pulled up by this freshness on the nose that other versions don’t exhibit. There is an interplay between the sharp acidic wine elements and the fruit, It’s rather pleasant and prevents the whole affair from becoming too stodgy.

Expensive but I feel like this one is actually worth paying for, great blending a fairly unique profile as well that sticks with you.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1

46.9% ABV
88/100

Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 / 1990 / 23yrs “Crimson Tide Part III”

The final dram in my “whine” cask exploration series, Bruichladdich’s Black Arts series is the one that has the most marketing malarkey, no one but the Master Blender knows it’s composition (except perhaps the guys dumping the damn barrels), incantations, magic, solstice,druids…wait I started going all Highland Park there for a moment.

Simple premise, Old regime Bruicladdich spirit (20+yrs) + put through the lens of potentially all kind of wine/fortified wine they have a their disposal , so expect some funny business, if you don’t like wine casks in whisky stay far away.

Nose: Sweet, slightly acetic, red wine vinegar, apricots, cocoa powder, red currant jelly, dried prunes. Lots of sherry influence, a bit of leather, Turkish delight and marzipan. Loads of oak, melons, candle wax and fresh cut green branches.

The interplay of both sherry and wine casks is present, good French oak in use but this kind of waxy, green and sharp acidic side is permanently in effect.

Palate: Thin mouth-feel at first , then raspberry jam, thyme, fennel seeds, fresh coriander, a touch of salt and a good drizzle of molasses. In time it steers towards rye bread, roasted almond marzipan, red wine sauce, prunes in Armagnac, some dried mushrooms as well.

Finish: It lingers on the dark sherry elements, molasses, sulfur, prunes, wet oak, cloves and camphor. A bit of Campari in the finish. That quinine and bitter herb feeling. A touch of peat perhaps? There is defintely an earthy side.

Blab: You have to like this style, I personally don’t think the ones I have tasted thus far live up to the hype, I find the nosing it to be the most rewarding along with the tail end of the finish, where it reminds me a bit of Macallan cask strength (the little I have had of that) at that moment.

Side note, I think this is the style of packaging they should have given to Octomore, it’s something out of Black Metal album and totally unsuited to the style of whisky that it contains.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 4.1

49.2% ABV

83/100

Bruichladdich 1990 Micro Provenance Cask Exploration, Château Latour – “Crimson Tide Part II”

Alright the next whisky in my exploration of Wine afflicted Bruichladdich whiskys, this samples was graciously sent by a lovely chap from Calgary.

The vital statistics, this was part of Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance series, I think this was the name they gave to their single cask program, they were even once available for sale on the Bruichladdich site which had an amazing odd’s and end’s section where they would liquidate stuff they dug up from their inventory, you could catch gems there…how times have changed.

This is from a series of casks that we’re exclusive to Alberta, all followed the same scheme, ex-bourbon maturation (20+yrs) with finish of a couple of years in wine casks, I think there was, Gaja Barolo, Gaja Bolgheri, Rivesaltes, Brunello, Chateau Lafite & Chateau Latour. They are still plenty available on shelves last I was there.

Nose: Sweet, bramble fruits, red apples skins, spicy oak a touch of cloves and that smell of boiled syrup candies. After much air there is, melon, rose geranium, a touch of cough syrup and a bit of play-doh.

The wine cask has taken over much of the nose, it’s a touch sharp too.

Palate: Oily, sweet & salty fighting for balance, plums, apricots and a feeling of coconut oil. Further sipping brings menthol, a bit of coriander & juniper seeds and something akin stone fruits in cooked lamb fat?

Finish: Sharp, astringent oak, first strawberries & dried ginger, it then morphs into lemon pith and apricot. The finish doesn’t have much staying power.

The Blab: Interesting, the wine is clearly in charge of most of this, The nose while sweet at first it doesn’t like long air exposure, those funky plasticine and off notes show up if you take too long. The palate was great a kind of wild ride between the fruits, the oak and those weird oily/meaty elements, don’t nose too long and spend more time drinking it I guess.

Bruichladdich 1990 Micro-Provenance, Cask Evolution: Chateau Latour

52.4% ABV

83/100

*Photo credit Chris Dawson

Classic Laddie Batch 16/004 “Crimson Tide Part I”

I’m back constant reader, all 3 of you. Many whisky adventures since I last posted but we’ll begin with the following exploration. A couple of months back I won a contest that was put on by fellow whiskygrammer holdmyscotch.

I was well pleased when I received two interesting samples from one of my favorite distilleries, both whiskys had the heavy touch of wine casks about them and it turns out I had the right partner for just such an occasion.

My girlfriend has an oft neglected bottle of The Classic Laddie in the back of her cupboard, it’s not so much that it was a bad bottle but it’s just kind of particular depending on what you’ve been having before. The interesting thing about this particular bottle is that it contains a pretty good percentage of wine casks 42% exactly…we know this because of the oft forgotten but amazing vatting tool that Bruichladdich puts at our disposal.

Bottled in 2016, it is a vatting of 82 casks between ranging in vintages between 2005-2008 42% of them being 1st, 2nd or 3rd fill wine casks.  I had spotted this difference when trying it up against other batches in the past but didn’t know how to frame it as part of a review. The distillery is rather (in) famous for its heavy use of wine and fortified wine casks, I figured this is a good exercise to see if there is any common DNA among 3 wine casked variants.


Nose: Apricots, a bit of struck match, melon, wet oak, red currants, a touch of lanolin. Pickled ginger & menthol. There’s definitely some tension between the fruits and then the cask play. A bit of lamp oil, salty caramel definitely a fusel type note. 

Palate: Oily, sharp, butterscotch candy, sulfur, canned apricots, a grassy and vegetal side. Sunflower oil, dried mango, Celery salt. The sulphur is a back and its like veg cooking water but it’s just hanging in the back.

Finish: Sharp, astringent, sweet and sour, there’s definitely the signs of youth as it’s prickly on the middle of the tongue. The finish lingers. It’s quite long and persistent with lemon pith. 

Notes: It’s got some Bruichladdich hallmarks, melons, super oily and rich. The oak contributes some richness but also this kind of menthol note

This isn’t the most cohesive although I feel the bottle has suffered with time. The nose remains the most pleasant aspect of it.

Classic Laddie batch 16/004

50%abv

81/100

Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 Islay barley

Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley

64% AB

88/100

Yet another Octomore review and I have been searching for the best way to introduce this review. This was the first .3 iteration of the series, the culmination of much of the terroir driven work at Bruichladdich, 100% Islay barley grown on the farm that gave this whisky it’s namesake, by a guy named James Brown no less and peated to the eye watering level of 258ppm, a process that apparently requires several days of careful monitoring.


I believe the work that the Laddie team has been doing is really unique and admirable. One could view it as just being their marketing “shtick” but somehow it resonates with me this idea of making a spirit that reflects the surroundings and climate. Their trials using less popular barley strains and growing grains in proximity to the distillery is in some ways a return to tradition.

capture-rockside-1

Let’s see if any of this is reflected in the final product.

Nose: Farmy and greasy at first, then a bit of melon, lime oil (like the aftershave), a feeling of dirty juicy fruit gum, dried cereal, hot cornbread. Then comes the Laddie split-milk notes, lamp oil, cold campfire. With time a growing minty/herbal side, salted licorice, a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. The smoke is always present wrapping everything together.

Palate: Sharp, sooty, sweet, almost fizzy, diesel fumes and cantaloupe. A handful of black earth and lemon lozenge and citrus peels. It turns more mineral and bitter in the center before returning to a fun mix of  sweet, creamy and herbal, vanilla, corn pudding and gentian.

Finish: acrid smoke, earth and grains and a bit of sweetness, the lactic note is present but not overpowering. I found it much less sweet than other versions, the body is huge, just really oily and viscous.


It is fairly close to the standard versions of Octomore but somehow more earth and grain shine through, the herbal\mineral integrated with the sweetness, very well balanced

Lastly, you know you’ve made a good friend when after an evening out eating and indulging in a couple of drams, they end slip you two quite generous samples of Octomore for no other reason than the pure pleasure of getting your impressions of the stuff. I want to thank fellow Connosr member Robert99 for providing me the opportunity to dig myself deeper into Octo-obsession.

Franck

*photo credits:Octomore farm l’oeil sur le vin blog, Rockside farm Bruichladdich website. 

Octomore 7.1 “Fernet Branca, benzene & charred Lemons”

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Octomore 7.1

59.5% abv

81/100

What can one say about Octomore that hasn’t been said before? Is this whisky all about muscular posturing (my peat’s bigger than yours)? Is it for peat nerds who must own every single edition (like Pokemon), overrated, one-dimensional, as close to a religious experience as possible, utter shite, delicious, overpriced swill?

As much as I love this whisky it’s retail price, especially in Quebec is hard to stomach, the standard .1 iterations sell for 230$ and the special editions (if we ever get any) go for upwards of 300$. It’s still only a 5 yr old whisky, chalk it up in part to the peat premium we see nowadays (anything with peat commands a higher price, add another premium if it’s Islay), we often get the argument of limited production but I mean really!

By now the standard bourbon barrel aged Octomore is in high demand, enough to have become something they can produce in sufficient numbers. It’s released at 5 years, it’s almost been that long since the Remy Cointreau buyout, they would have had enough time to adjust production volume for this. How much extra does it cost to overpeat the barley? I know it’s a long 3+day process but still, enough to warrant a 4 fold increase over the Classic Laddie edition, it hurts mommy!

Despite all this, it’s a very singular whisky, one I believe any whisky drinker must try at least once. The use of peat from the mainland (Bruichladdich doesn’t get it’s peated barley from Port Ellen malting unlike many of it’s Islay siblings) also helps inform some of the character of this whisky, lending to it perhaps less of that maritime, band-aidy funk…yes that’s an adjective. There’s also the tall Bruichladdich stills that probably come into effect.

I first tasted this whisky back to back with Octomore 6.1 so I will compare to it at times.

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Nose: Smoked buttermilk, acetone, tons of fermentation/baby-sick notes, more than the 6.1, dirty smoke with a slight rubbery edge. Fennel, oregano, peameal bacon, freshly stained pinewood, vanilla, charred lemons and burned corn husks.

Palate: Cola and Fernet Branca, sappy branches, really sweet marzipan and milk chocolate. Then it turns ashy and out comes the umami squad, cooked celery, lovage, black cardamom and aniseed, like danish licorice candies.

Finish is salty and sweet, ashy petrol smoke and tarred wet oak, hot cornbread, it lingers and sticks to your palate long after it is done.

If this is your first Octomore then, it gives you a good idea of the general profile of this series. In contrast to 6.1 or 5.1 I found it to be a bit too acrid and the butyric/lactic thing is too forward.

As discussed by chairman MAO in one of his reviews, it’s hard to see what each new .1 iteration brings to the table, other than a batch number and a slight tweak of ABV and/or PPM, I would love to see a priced controlled stable vatting or recipe released (yes wishful thinking I know). That being said, I think in the last few years we have a seen an effort to increase the offerings in the series. The 6.3 and 7.3 Islay barley variants are superb whiskys with depth and sharp definition.

On the experimental side of things there was Adam Hannet’s virgin oak obsession which played out in the 7.4  which despite the convoluted vatting, also bumped the age up to 7+years. Lastly there was the Laddie MP 6 session that was all Octomore single casks and the OBA web release which broke the laddie site temporarily, which is a black arts type vatting of different aged Octomore casks.

OBA

Franck

 

Port Charlotte Islay Barley Review

Port Charlotte Islay Barley

50% ABV

Score:78/100

UK_BWS_PortCharlotteIslayBarley._V273128457_

You know you have friends who are as hooked as you when you get a frantic text message like this “my girlfriend is at the airport, quick! Name me a few whiskys she could bring back from the duty-free?”

It’s nice to know you’re not the only one with the sickness, especially since this whole thing can seem kind of silly as a hobby.

I sampled the Scottish barley analog to this release a few times and enjoyed it, the taste profile was reminiscent of Octomore (not as wild, reduce the oily, meaty and cola/innertube thang) it has that unmistakable DNA . I was stoked to try the terroir driven Islay version.

Upon reflection this Islay Barley version of PC is more like that younger brother that’s left to his own devices and who disappears all day to go fishing or play in the swamp.

The color is very pale definitely all bourbon and probably young

Nose: Moldy lemon, creosote, barnyard, sour milk and kippers. The mineral side hits in following waves with oyster shells, sea spray, damp hay and corn husks a bit of vanilla.

Palate: It start off sweet and salty, a slight gumboot/innertube feeling, then anise/licorice.  Oaky and a light varnish, smoky bbq and lemon.

 

The finish is long and lingering, it’s definitely a little hot but the extra ABV helps pull out max mouth coating flavor. It’s got a bitter punch in the ending that keeps that “sucking on a fisherman’s friends in a herring smokehouse” feeling going.

the oak is present although it’s not dominant, I found it quite wild in comparison to the PC Scottish barley version. Those susceptible to the Bruichladdich baby vomit/butyric thing should probably abstain. Water tames it somewhat narrowing the palate and reducing some of the bitterness, making the lemon and vanilla pop but also makes the smoke more ashy.

My first taste reminded me strongly of Laphroaig but that disappeared after it aired out some. While it’s not a bad  whisky and while it holds it’s own favorably against other young Islanders I don’t think this is on of the strongest Port Charlotte release,  it lacks roundness and depth.

 

Franck 


Port Charlotte Islay Barley

50% Alc/Vol

Évaluation:78/100

neuerpcib

Vous savez que vous êtes bien entouré quand un de vos potes vous envoi un texto rempli de panique “ma blonde est à l’aéroport, vite! Nomme moi des whiskys qu’elle pourrait rapporter de la boutique hors-taxe!”

C’est réconfortant de savoir que tu n’es pas le seul qui est affligé par cette maladie qu’on appelle whisky, surtout quand on considère que c’est un hobby qui peut être ridicule et qui se prends souvent trop au sérieux.

J’ai déjà eu le plaisirs de déguster la version analogue « Scottish barley » du Port Charlotte à quelques reprises et  j’ai trouvé sa palette de goût me rappelait un peu celle de sa sœur Octomore (pas aussi intense et moins de note de basse-cours), on y retrouve tout de même cet ADN immanquable de Bruichladdich.  J’étais donc excité par l’opportunité d’essayer la version « terroir » de ce whisky.

Après réflexion je dirais que cette version c’est un peu comme le petit frère sauvage qui disparaît toute la journée à la pêche et revient, sale, puant le feux de camps et la vase.

Sa robe est d’un jaune très pale, je crois qu’il s’agit que de fût de bourbon dans cet assemblage et c’est surement du whisky très jeune.

peat-stacks-machrie-islay wwwislayorguk

Nez: Citron moisi, créosote, basse-cour, lait caillé et hareng fumé. Il y a un coté minéral, tel des coquilles d’huîtres traînant entre les cailloux sur la plage, de la paille humide, les feuilles séché autour d’un épi de maïs et une touche de vanille.

Bouche: Un combat entre le sucré et sale en entrée, ensuite un léger côté botte de caoutchouc ensuite c’est avalanche d’anis et réglisse noir. Une légère touche de chêne fraîchement vernis, fumée de BBQ et citron.

La finale est longue et persistante, on ressent l’intensité des 50% mais ce dernier aide vraiment en offrant une texture qui tapisse le palais permettant vraiment de délivrer le plein effet des saveurs.  Il y une amertume assez présente qui donne la touche de pastille « fisherman’s friend »

Le chêne est présent mais pas trop dominant, je trouve qu’il est plus crasseux que la version “Scottish barley” et on ressent la jeunesse de l’assemblage. Ceux qui sont susceptible aux accents butyrique/vomit de bébé dans le Bruichladdich devrait s’abstenir. L’ajout d’eau réduit un peu l’amertume et fait ressortir le citron et la vanille, par contre intensifie le coté cendrée de la fumée.

Dès ma première dégustation j’ai immédiatement eu un sentiment de goûter du Laphroaig, mais ce côté s’est vite dissipé après quelques jours.Ce n’est pas un mauvais whisky mais il manque de rondeur et de précision, je place peut-être la barre trop haute pour Bruichladdich puisque c’est une de mes distillerie préférée.

Franck