I have had trouble pronouncing Bruichladdich (Bru-k-laddie) for quite a while, in truth I never took the time to learn as I had not tried a great deal of their range until visiting the distillery in 2014 and after a few drams I was in no mood for annunciation, let alone pronunciation but an afternoon sampling Bruichladdich casks changed all that.
I had expected to just have a flying visit to Bruichladdich but ended up staying for hours.
Here we did the Warehouse tasting session, priced at £25 per person, which I initially thought was quite steep when I learned that we would be tasting just three whiskies but then it all made sense.
These were not just any single malts, said in an alluring M&S ad-style voice, these were self-valinched straight from the cask single malts, and what’s more, they have never been commercially released, making this one of the best value visits we experienced.
Once everyone had arrived and been treated to a welcome dram or two, we walked across the courtyard with Mary (who was awarded a high commendation in the annual Icons of Whisky awards) and up to their main warehouse where, once inside, we found a few upended casks with chairs neatly fanned around them and three casks of magic in the form of a 1989 Bruichladdich, a 2005 Bruichladdich and the first ever Octomore cask, filled in 2002.
As is customary wherever I go I got picked on to be the person brought up in front of everyone to ‘perform’. In 2013 I was brought up on stage to dance with a couple of opera singers in Limone and today I was brought up to the front to vallinch the first dram for everyone in the group.
I was not complaining, I loved it, it felt strangely natural, especially as I had been picked on as I was the only one writing notes and was subsequently labelled as ‘the whisky geek’, a title I would love on my business card.
Cask One: 24 year old, distilled in 1989, 57.3% cask strength
Wow was it powerful, a really great dram to start off on.
We were taken through a couple of non-sipping whisky exercises including shaking the dram to see if a ring of pearls forms, this indicates an ABV above 50% and putting a drop on our hands, rubbing in to our hands to get a sense of how the liquid feels once the alcohol has evaporated.
Cask Two: 9 year old, distilled 2005, 40ppm, 61.8% cask strength
High oiliness to this one, evidenced when putting a couple of drops of water in you could see it drop to the bottom of the glass with the oil rising to the top.
Natural colouring, no diluting, I got fizzy cola bottles on the nose with a caramel finish.
Cask Three: Octomore, distilled in 2002, 80.5ppm
This one spent its full maturation in a Chateau d’Yquem wine cask and was extra special as it was the very first Octomore cask ever filled.
As the group was made up only of couples we were all invited to put some Octomore on our lips and have an Octomore kiss, it packed quite a punch!
After the tasting, Mary walked us back to the distillery shop, via a quick look at the bottling line, and, after self-filling a bottle of distillery-only 24 year old single cask single malt she signed the bottle wishing myself and my fiancé a wonderful wedding. Classy touch.
Due to botching up the bus timetable (not for the first time during our trip) we ended up with time on our hands so sampled near enough the entire Bruichladdich and Octomore range as well as wedging in a couple of Botanist and tonics.
All in all well worth the visit and am looking forward to a return already.