Bruichladdich, the progressive, Hebridean distillers…
Bruichladdich is a passionate distillery committed to producing the finest, truly artisanal, most thought-provoking single malt whisky, of flawless provenance and utmost integrity.
At Bruichladdich they believe the whisky industry has been stifled by industrialisation and self-interest – huge organisations have developed that require a stable status quo to ensure that their industrial processes can run to maximum efficiency, producing the maximum “product” with the minimum input and variation, all to the lowest unit price.
Bruichladdich does not stand behind that. They believe that whisky should have character; an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and the philosophies of those who distil it – a sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, of the raw ingredients from which it was made.
They believe in innovation and progress, with constantly striving to produce a more characterful spirit. A spirit to put a smile on your face wherever you are, and to help you close your eyes and quietly dream of Islay. What more can you want?
Bruichladdich is pronounced ‘Broo-kladdie‘, that is Gaelic for the raised beach bank at the rocky, lee-shore. It was sold last year to Remy Cointreau, making it not an independed distillery sadly. But they have sworn that there would not be any chances made to Bruichladdich, because they just love it how it is, and what they produce. They want to lift it even higher and let the world known what a beautiful product it is.
Last year when we were on Islay for a couple off days we had a short tour around the distillery. This time, when being over here for the Feis Ile, we had the luck to participate in a couple of other events at the distillery. First the open day, the masterclass with Jim McEwan, and now a tour, a warehouse tasting and a night filled with music and story’s by Jim and Robin Laing. We are having a great time, you could imagine that I think!
The beautiful thing about Bruichladdich and what we just love about it, is that there is an expression for everyone. From unpeated, to heavily peated. Soft, gentle and sweet to one with deep, rich, warm tones. It is impossible to collect all of their expressions, that is true, but the more you taste of it, the more you fall in love with it. Due to the ‘smaller’ releases they do, you get a chance to taste more of the different possibilities what can be done with the lovely spirit. It is a shame we have to admit that when you find something you love, it is good possible that it is sold out, or not easy to get a hold off. But that also forces you a bit to have a look at other stuff, and not connect only to one favorite, just explore a bit, and find out what other lovely whisky is out there, it will surprise you what Bruichladdich can make with the same ingredients! Also trying to improve and looking forward… I like!
Walking around the beautiful distillery and warehouses you see that they use as much as they can, and for as long as they can, the equipment dating back to the victorian times. This results in a very rustic feeling and touch to every thing. It is really something beautiful to see, how the spirit is produced through a team effort and with passion.
Some numbers, and details about this lovely place…
At the moment they use 7 tons of barley per mash, and parts of that comes of Islay, and the rest of the mainland. They do 10 mashes per week, running from monday till friday, whole day through. The barley is processed also on the mainland, I believe in Inverness, but not sure. They are one of two distillery’s on Islay to not to use the Port Ellen maltings.
The production of spirit has risen up this year to 1,5 mil. liters. They also have the biggest cast iron open mash tun in Scotland. Next to this one, there are only open mah tuns at Springbank, Deanston and Edradour. The stills, mash tun and 4 of the wash backs date back to 1881. The other two wash backs were replaced in 2008 and a couple of months ago.
The Boby mill has a birthday this year, and is going to be 100 years old. Even with the increase in production, it is doing it’s job very well at the moment. What is special also about Bruichladdich that they do as much as possible on the island. All the warehousing is on Islay, on different sites, in dunnage, racked or palletized ones. We believe they have now 11 or 12 warehouses. They still do their own bottling on Islay…
And next to this they also produce a gin from 22 botanicals from Islay. This is done by the ‘Ugly Betty’ still, who does in one run a production of 250.000 bottles, after 17 hours of destilation. This still is a Lomont still, and there are just a few in use (not all will full use of the plates), one at Bruichladdich, and one at Scapa and at Loch Lomond. Due to the big output of the still, they do not have to run this one all the time, so they are looking we heard in also using this one for other things. So experimenting and testing they are, love to hear that, and looking forward at what the come up with…
After the tour it was time to have a very, very, nice warehouse tasting with Kate. She was great at telling us all about the different casks we were tasting, and the stories of Bruichladdich and the casks before us. We were fortunate to taste in the warehouse straight from the following casks…
2002 Octomore – cask #1115
2005 Port Charlotte – cask #1586
1989 Bruichladdich – cask #51
The one was more beautiful then the other, we can tell you that! Sitting there, enjoying these beauty’s and looking at the casks around you with the labels on them, and wondering about all the beautiful things to come the next years. There were some beautiful things there!
What can we tell you about these we have tasted? Lets see…
Lets start with the 1989 Bruichladdich. A nice warm and gentle dram can we say. The nose was filled with raisins, vanilla, caramel, fruit, apricot, orange, honey and mint. On the palate some honey, flowers, fruity, heather, caramel, vanilla, marzipan and liquorish. It lasted good with sweet tones of caramel, vanilla and liquorish. Oh my…. like a piece of candy this one.
Next was the 2005 Port Charlotte. This one has a nose filled with red fruits, cranberry’s, cherry’s and plums. Sweet and buttery, caramel popcorn, toffee, chocolate. Warm and bit ‘warm’ spices like cinnamon and fennel. This nose just keeps coming and coming, wow! Sadly we do not have all day to sit down with this one, but OMG, were loving this! Well, time for a sip. Just letting it roll around the mouth filling all the tastebuds. They just start dancing, we can tell you that! Creamy, smoky, but also soft and elegant. Caramel, brown sugar, sweet, honey, red fruits again and some delicious chocolate. The finish on this one just keeps coming and coming, it is sweet, elegant, beautiful soft, spicy, chocolate and red fruits… No end to it…
Now we are thinking, well this is it, just please roll me this barrel in our car please! We dont know how to get this through customs, but we will find a way… This is just gorgeous! But Kate had a last cask for us to taste, and when we thought it just can not get any better, she poured us an other beauty, the 2002 Octomore.
Out of a French wine cask came something with a beautiful color to it, and a stunning nose filled with sweet, fruit, smoke, honey, raisins, plums, apricots, cinnamon, and it just keeps going again… Preparing our tastebuds for this one, came a gentle smoke flavor, caramelized fruits, a hint of citrus, fudge, red fruits, honey, sweet, some spices, very nice warm, creamy and gentle dram. The finish was warm and honey sweet, nice!! A beautiful mix of smoke, sweet, fruits and spices.OMG, I think we need a bigger car…. The flavours of this one just keep on coming and coming, what can we say further about it then just wow!
We could not be happier right now, making a lovely journey together through this beautiful country, surrounded by lovely people, and drinking these whisky’s. Our cheeks were blushing, eyes were twinkling, and we just could only smile. Thank you Kate for this great tasting!
We had one festivity planned for the day, also at Bruichladdich, that was a night filled with music and story’s by Robin Laing and Jim McEwan. We made sort of a whole day out of it, and had very much fun! Grabbing a quick bite to eat in Port Charlotte, and then it was back to the shop, for the music to start. Jim and Robin made it quite the night with fun and laughter, very nice, and made the day complete!
Next to the music and story’s we had a great auction for a good cause, and some very nice drams of course.
After that it was time sadly to go home, and drive home, away from Bruichladdich, but taking good memory’s with us, and a smile on our faces, while we watched the sun set…