Yesterday there was the 7th incarnation of Bruichladdich’s live digital whisky tastings. You buy a sample pack (3x 20cl for around € 60 + shipping) and open them while watching a live tasting streamed directly from Islay.
#LaddieMP7 featured three single cask whiskies, all made from barley grown on Islay and all matured in first-fill bourbon casks, which makes it interesting to single out variations in barley and age.
Head Distiller Adam Hannett introduced these variations together with Hunter Jackson, one of the 76 farmers on Islay who grows barley for the distillery.
The live video stream was very wonky this time, making us loose chunks of five or more minutes three or four times or so. That’s the downside of living on an Island, I guess, but at least we can watch the stream again:
They started with the oldest whisky, a 2004 vintage, which was the first year Bruichladdich started working with local farmers to produce specific barleys for them.
Bruichladdich 12 yo 2004 (62,2%, OB ‘Micro-provenance’ 2017, first-fill bourbon cask #1694, Optic barley)
Nose: big spirity notes, but once you’re accustomed to it, rather fruity (apricots, sweet oranges, a hint of pineapple cubes) with plenty of candied ginger from the wood. Biscuits. Also marzipan, growing stronger.
Mouth: hot but with a full, rather creamy texture. Plenty of vanilla and honey. Fruity sweetness, lemon zest and grapefruit. Then it goes towards coastal, briney notes and something of bitter wood. Pepper. Some gristy notes.
Finish: fairly long, fairly oaky, on Seville oranges and oak.
Nice nose, especially with a drop of water to take out some heat. Already quite a lot of cask influence on the palate, not sure the Optic barley shines through here.
Bruichladdich 8 yo 2008 (63,4%, OB ‘Micro-provenance’ 2017, first-fill bourbon cask #4019, Oxbridge barley)
Nose: much more interesting I think. There’s a certain diesel / iodine combination that I’m quite fond of. Gristy notes. Eucalyptus oil and a whiff of menthol. Ripe melons and buttery baked apples. Just a whiff of sooty notes. More classically Islay and Bruichladdich to me.
Mouth: oily, muscular malt, lightly peaty or so it seems (although they say it is unpeated). Grapefruit again and other citrus notes, coastal notes and a hint of liquorice. Subtle toffee sweetness.
Finish: medium long, citrusy and minty.
This one came closest to what I’d expect from a Bruichladdich. Plenty of barley notes but also a real sense of Islay. Not sure where the delicate smokiness comes from, but it’s an asset. Winner!
Bruichladdich 6 yo 2011 (61,5%, OB ‘Micro-provenance’ 2017, first-fill bourbon cask #2431, Concerto / Propino / Publican barley)
Nose: rather silent after the others. Young and it shows: pear drops and lemons, hints of limoncello and mint. A little vanilla. Not much happening yet.
Mouth: same hints of new-make coming through. Pear drops, mint, peaches and sweet lemons. Big malty notes. A hint of mocha / milk chocolate in a second wave. Touches of leather and some grassy notes as well. Subtle coastal notes already.
Finish: medium long, spicy (mainly aniseed) and a hint of pickled lemon.
I’m not sure this was in the right position in the line-up. It didn’t shine – perhaps a little too young to stand against the other two.
Are we now convinced the type of barley matters? Yes, but more from the background information than from the examples, if I’m honest. I expected something like “this type of barley makes the whisky…” but I didn’t hear that. If anything I will remember the name Oxbridge, for me an unknown type of barley until now, but with a very nice result.