Jun 28, 2015

A Definitive Ranking of 14 Bruichladdichs Whiskeys

The Whiskey Jug gathered a few friends to try 14 whiskeys from the Bruichladdich Distillery so you don't have to.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich Tasting

The Malt Nuts met once again, bringing with us a selection of 14 different Bruichladdichs. Which, for a brand that once had an obscene number of expressions available once upon a time, doesn’t sound like much – but we’re nothing if not particular. The particular requirements for this particular evening was that it had to be from a single type of cask. Meaning it couldn’t be finished in anything, like the wine cask finishes they were known for doing, so that requirement alone cut out a large number of their previous expressions.

This meant that we had to find expressions of Bruichladdich that had spent their entire lives in either an ex-sherry, ex-bourbon or in one case an ex-wine cask. It could not have been transferred and finished in anything else at any point in time. Per usual we dined on some tasty Kosher food before getting down to business so a big thanks to our host for the spread. Also per usual the bottles were blinded and because it looses its effect in a blog post I’ve listed the break out below followed by the tasting notes to see how it all shook out. Enjoy!

  1. Ex-bourbon NDP bottlings of Bruichladdich
  2. Ex-Bourbon Bruichladdich Official Bottlings
  3. Bruichladdich The Laddie series
  4. Early 90’s Bruichladdich distillation cask strength releases
  5. 20+ year Bruichladdich bottling (NDP vs Offical)
  6. Bruichladdich Port Charlotte

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 1AB

Ex-bourbon NDP bottlings of Bruichladdich

1A – 1991 Bruichladdich Jewels of Scotland (50%)
Age: 13 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Malt, toffee, citrus, vanilla and a touch of saline.
  • Palate: Malty and fruity with some creamy sweet notes of vanilla and a bit of graham cracker.
  • Finish: Fruity and malty with a touch of wood and sweets
  • Overall: B (83-86) Run incredibly hot, but was pleasantly sweet and balanced. Water brought out some fruitier notes and a little bit of dark sweets.

1B – 1989 Bruichladdich Chieftain’s for D&M (51.4%)
Age: 22 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Dry erase marker, astringent, cloying caramel coffee syrup, citrus rind and a light bit of overripe fruit.
  • Palate: Dried fruit, cloying caramel and candy sweetness wrapped in an astringent dry erase wrapper.
  • Finish: Dry and astringent with notes of dried fruit.
  • Overall: C (73-76) This was by far my least favorite bottle of the night. It was hot, astringent off-balanced and harsh. Water brought out a bit more of the fruitiness, but not enough to counteract the harsher notes.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 2AB

Ex-Bourbon Bruichladdich Official Bottlings

2A – Bruichladdich Islay Barley – Rockside Farms (50%)
: 6 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Rich fruit, vanilla, malt and a buttery graham that reminded me of pie crust.
  • Palate: Fruit, hay-like malt, light caramel syrup, spice and dark sweets.
  • Finish: Graham, malt and some syrupy dark sweets.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Man I’m glad I already have a bottle of this one at home, it was fantastic. The palate was simultaneously a bit lighter and harsher than the nose, but all-in-all it came together quite well.

2B – Bruichladdich (2006 Valinch Bottling) – The Drambusters (56.9%)Age: 16 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Fruit, malt, light spice, vanilla taffy, dried cherries and a bit of an astringent bite.
  • Palate: Fruit, spice and vanilla with a touch of citrus peel and vanilla taffy.
  • Finish: Astringent bite on the end that fades to caramel coffee syrup and a raw plasticy grain note.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) Starts our pleasant on the nose, dips a bit on the palate and crashes on the finish. Water didn’t smooth out the landing at all.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 3ABC

Bruichladdich The Laddie series

3A – Bruichladdich The Laddie 10 (46%)
Age: 10 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Vanilla, malt, fruit, sulfur, dark fruit and char.
  • Palate: Rich fruit, vanilla, candied citrus, sweet vermouth and some dark fruit sweetness tempered by some dark earthy sulfur.
  • Finish: Fruit, dark sulfury notes, toasted nuts and char.
  • Overall: B+ (x-x) This was a controversial whisky due to the sulfur notes. Some liked it (like me) and others hated it. I found the sulfur to have been balanced out nicely by the sweet notes, but either way we were all surprised that this was a Laddie 10. None of us had ever had a sulfured bottle of it before.

3B – Bruichladdich The Laddie 16 (46%)
Age: 16 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Fruit, caramel, red licorice, 7UP-like citrus and saline.
  • Palate: Orchard fruit, tropical fruit, spice, dried red fruit, club soda and burnt toffee.
  • Finish: Fruit and caramel with a touch of earthiness.
  • Overall: B (83-86) It was completely pleasant, but came over a bit light. All of the notes felt very topical with no real depth or richness coming through.

3C – Bruichladdich The Laddie 22 (46%)
Age: 22 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Rich and complex fruit, caramel, vanilla, citrus, malt and buttery graham.
  • Palate: Dark fruit, cherry-like sweetness, caramel and butterscotch with a sharp note of citrus cleanser towards the end.
  • Finish: Fruit, graham, malt and a potpourri-like floral character slowly fade out.
  • Overall: B (83-86) The nose on this was fantastic, but that mild cleanser note on the palate and potpourri note on the finish dragged it down to the lower 80s. Based on the nose I was ready to put this one up in the As, but those harsher notes brought it down.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 4ABC

Early 90’s Bruichladdich distillation cask strength releases

4A – 1990 Bruichladdich – Signatory for K&L (54.8%)
Age: 23 years Cask: Refill sherry butt

  • Nose: Butterscotch, toffee, malt, fruit and dried flower petals (dry floral) with a light bit of saline.
  • Palate: Rich tropical and orchard fruits, dried red fruit, cupcakes and a bit of minerality.
  • Finish: Bit chalky with notes of red fruit syrup and dark sweets.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) Even as I’m thinking about this one now I’m wavering a bit, like it’s on the cusp of the B+ / A- range, but either way it was fantastic. Water definitely opens it up and pulls out some richer fruit and sweet notes.

4B – 1990 Bruichladdich Scott’s (58.1%)
Age: 14 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Dark sweets, fruit, vanilla, citrus and saline.
  • Palate: Tropical fruit, graham, vanilla, and citrus.
  • Finish: Fruit, graham and vanilla.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) Smells ok and tastes ok… it’s an ok whisky.

4C – 1992 Bruichladdich Berry’s for Total Wine & More (5X.X%)
Age: 20 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Dried dark fruit, bananas, malt, dark sweets and bread coated in salted butter.
  • Palate: Banana bread, butter, spice, fruit and a light ambiguous sweetness.
  • Finish: Fruit and malt on a shockingly short finish – gone in a flash.
  • Overall: B- (80-82) Like the Scott’s this bottle was just fine, but came across a bit boring and light. It didn’t have any gravity to it.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 5AB

20+ year Bruichladdich bottling (NDP vs Offical)

5A – 1991 Bruichladdich Exclusive Casks for Total Wine & More (50.6%)
Age: 22 years Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Rich dark fruit, malt, saline, tropical fruit, orchard fruit, sherry and a creamy sweetness tinged with vanilla.
  • Palate: Dark fruit, malt, orchard fruit, tropical fruit, sherry and that same creamy sweetness tinged with
  • vanilla from the nose.
  • Finish: Silky fruit, malt, vanilla and graham with a touch of honey. Long and lovely.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) There is no messing about this one is a solid A- bordering on an A and once I saw the bottle I wasn’t surprised at all because I’ve already reviewed it already and I loved it (linked above).

5B – Bruichladdich 21 years (old bottling) (43%)
Age: 21 years Cask: ex-Sherry

  • Nose: Sulfur, cherry fruit chews, overripe fruit and spice.
  • Palate: Dark fruit, cinnamon, malt, butterscotch and a light but persistent bit of sulfur.
  • Finish: Butterscotch, dark fruit and a bit of dark earthy sulfur.
  • Overall: B (83-86) Water breaks up most of the sulfur, but enough remains to make it feel a bit heavier than the fruity sweetness leaving it feeling a bit unbalanced.

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich 6AB

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte

6A – Port Charlotte Islay Barley (50%)
Age: NAS Cask: ex-Bourbon

  • Nose: Peat, salt, buttered bread, iodine and vanilla cream soda.
  • Palate: Peat, salt, vanilla cream soda, citrus, spice and a bit of herbals.
  • Finish: Peat, caramel, vanilla sweetness and a mild herbal nature on a long fade.
  • Overall: B+ (87-89) Yup, I liked this one. Peat and sweet living in harmony.

6B – 2002 Port Charlotte Burns Malt (55.8%)
Age: 12 years Cask: ex-Gran Callejo Wine Cask

  • Nose: Peat, buttered toast, salt, caramel, banana bread, malt and spice.
  • Palate: Peat, SPICE, malt, fruit and buttered bread. This one was a complex spice bomb on the palate – cinnamon, anise, clove, pine, etc.
  • Finish: Peat, complex spice and mint.
  • Overall: A- (90-92) I have never had such a wonderful mix of peat, spice and sweetness. It was completely unexpected and I loved how well it worked to create a complex and enjoyable dram. Water did diffuse a bit of the spice bomb while remaining multi-faceted.

The funniest thing I heard during the night (from multiple people) was “I can’t believe this is Bruichladdich”. Seemed like quite a few people were surprised by what we were tasting and what was being uncovered as we traversed this segment of the ‘Laddie. Which is one of the things I love so much about going to these tastings and being a part of a club like this – the education. Yes drinking whisky with fantastic people is a lot of fun, but I can do that with my friends on any given weekend. It’s the combined whisky knowledge, experience and insight of fellow whiskey geeks that takes the experience to the next level; making it worth the time, effort and money to track down a unique bottle to explore and discuss.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not one of the Malt Nuts, I can’t encourage you enough to start something like this for yourself. Grab a bunch of friends, have everyone chip in, go buy all the expressions of a distillery you can find and then sit down, taste them blind and talk about them. Listen to other perspectives and use it as time to get to know what you do and do not like about a certain distillery or style of whisky. Not only is it fun, but what you can glean from something like this is invaluable in your journey of whisky discovery.

Till next month, cheers!

Malt Nuts Bruichladdich Complete Lineup

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