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Bruichladdich bonanza

Ian Buxton gets his taste buds tickled with the latest releases
By Ian Buxton
Cult Islay distillers Bruichladdich has announced the release of a staggering eight new expressions.Top of the heap is the Bruichladdich 125th Anniversary, commemorating the distillery’s 1881 founding. This is based on a 1970 Bruichladdich finished in Alsace Pinot Grigot casks, said to be among the finest in the world. With a limited global release of just 2,500 bottles, the 125th Anniversary is expected to retail at £300 ($570) and up.But the main excitement surrounds the first distillery release of Port Charlotte (from £55 in UK specialists, limited distribution). This 5 year old heavily peated malt is the first spirit to be distilled by the new team at Bruichladdich since the distillery began working again in May 2001.Known as PC5, and bottled at a remarkable cask strength of 63.5%, only 6,000 numbered bottles will be available worldwide. In typically extravagant terms, master distiller Jim McEwan describes it as “like a thunderstorm…exploding with peat, bracken, heather roots, turf, oak, charcoal, marine pitch and gusting sea squalls…” Port Charlotte is distilled in a style that aims to recall a long-lost distillery just two miles from Bruichladdich that closed in 1929. While the distillery itself has been converted to other uses the warehouses remain, along with a lingering memory of a peat-soaked monster.Ruraidh McLeod, the 85 year old former mashman, is said to be the last man living to have tasted the original. He said: “It was very, very peaty; but it was as smooth as velvet,” which you may or may not find particularly illuminating as a tasting note.And the new product compares very well.Based on a limited tasting I can certainly confirm the presence of peat smoke – it filled the room as soon as samples were poured and dominated initial impressions of the whisky.After that came oranges and kumquats. In the mouth, it’s frisky, nutty and spicy. There’s a treacle and molasses note and loads of body.However, with such limited availability it will be interesting to look back in a couple of years time and try to determine how much of this whisky has been drunk and how much ends up in collections. It’s certainly a whisky you would remember drinking, and I expect the chat rooms and blogs of the whisky world to debate this one for some time to come.Also from Bruichladdich comes news that the signature 10 yo is to move up to 12 yo, presumably in response to ageing stocks; the release of a 7 yo version named Waves; Blacker Still, a 20 year old release of a 1986 distillation direct from sherry casks and new editions of Infinity and 3D.Bruichladdich enthusiasts will presumably be keen to get their hands on this latter, as the vatting contains a quantity of Octomore, a massively peated spirit yet to be released as a single expression.Also on its way is a Celtic Nations release of a “Celtic” blended malt, mixing Bruichladdich with Cooley Single Malt from Ireland. Quite what the rest of the industry will make of this remains unclear. This kind of thing was common enough in the 1920s.Aeneas MacDonald refers to some 128 blends using Scotch and Irish spirit but dismisses them trenchantly as the “crowning horror” of blending. We wait with bated breath to see what this new creation reveals.Whatever else, Bruichladdich seems to be in good heart. Eight releases may seem extravagant, but something tells me that these iconoclastic Ileachs are not done with us yet.