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Bruichladdich The Laddie Ten Unpeated 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (700ml)
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- ABV 46%
Vibrant and moreish, this is one of best 10 year olds going around, excellent value for money.
What is going on at Bruichladdich?
Next to Springbank, this Islay underdog has been one of the modern day beacons of independence in Scotch whisky production.
This is not just a trite pitch to differentiate them from those who might be distilling indifferently on an industrial magnitude. In the last ten years Bruichladdich has pulsed with a dogged intensity that only independence and a small batch approach could fire. For innovation, they are on par with the world’s most creative boutique wine producers. They top the likes of Ardbeg in sales figures (the latter corporate owned with a five-digit marketing machine running at full throttle).
Driven by the urgency for cash flow in a newly re-opened distillery, the plethora of ‘Laddie’ expressions over the last decade has done nothing to diminish the kaleidescopic joy ride that Bruichladdich is. This may now be reaching its zenith. A caveat to those who like us, have fallen in love with this dark horse distiller over the last decade: Secure some memories before it’s too late. As of 2012, everything may change.
To understand the predicament, one needs to appreciate how it came to be. The Harvey brothers built it as something different from the start. Bruichladdich was a state-of-the-art design in 1881, unlike Islay's older distilleries, which had developed from old farm buildings. Just one point of difference were the uniquely tall and narrow-necked stills for a super pure spirit, the opposite of the styles produced by the older farm distilleries. Over the next fifty years Bruichladdich changed owners five times as a result of corporate take-overs and rationalisation in the industry, narrowly avoiding closure until 1994, when it was mothballed as being 'surplus to requirements'.
December 2000. Enter a group of private investors led by Mark Reynier (previously in the wine trade) and Jim McEwan, who worked at Bowmore Distillery since the age of 15. Between January and May 2001 Bruichladdich was dismantled and reassembled, including the original stills with the original Victorian décor and Harvey’s equipment retained. The new directors recommenced distilling on the 29th May 2001. The future was seen in retrovision. It quickly became one of the 'newest' traditional distilleries in the world.
Mark Reynier took a cerebral winemaker’s approach to quality control while McEwan oversaw production. Assiduous barley selection, in fact, eight different varieties of barley, some locally grown. Batch separation from barley to bottle. Half the usual amount of yeast , doubling fermentation times but resulting in a more richly flavoured beer. Barrel experimentation the norm. No chill-filtration, artificial colouring or homogenisation. No computers involved either (except in the office), etc, etc. In short, an environment of controlled tension: Pushing innovation within an ultra traditional framework.
Earlier this year, this same staunchly independent group were approached by a corporate giant. There had been plenty of offers since 2001 as company’s monitored Laddie’s ‘overnight’ success, Reynier notes. But this one was “...a serious, high-level enquiry from Remy Cointreau which made it clear that they had been tracking our progress for at least three years and had a clear strategy on how they wanted to take the company forward... “ He adds, “The Board were looking for a high price that valued the business – its complex stocks, brands and future potential – appropriately and Remy’s offer well exceeded that. Our founder shareholders – who have waited 11 years, never taken a dividend and who have met three cash calls (two economically necessary and one strategic) remember – saw a very healthy return on their original investment so it was an offer that was hard to refuse”.
Reynier was the only director who voted against the deal which subsequently transpired for a staggering 58 million pounds. He walks away somewhat wealthier, but still bereaved. “We’ve done something very special, in a very special place, and without the resources of a big company or government grants. We’ve challenged whisky orthodoxy, restored a near-derelict distillery, built a business and brand, created jobs and given Remy an incredible basis on which to expand and grow. So mixed emotions for me to say the least, but proud of it all too – all at the same time.”
Will this change everything?
No one can deny Ardbeg has been largely reinvigorated in the hands of another corporate giant, Moet Hennessey, so there is a precedent for hope.
Reynier recently outlined the final product range of twelve malts that will have been installed by 2012. Not all slots seem to be definitively filled in, but the core will be a traditional age statement range of 10, 15, 18 and 21 years. There will be the Rocks as entry level NAS and the Infinity as premium NAS expression. The Octomore and X4 will continue to be produced as well as the Laddie Classic. The Organic and the Black Art will form a special pair of malts. Bruichladdich has recently acquired a new distributor in Australia and availability is expected to improve.
In the meantime, we commend this distillery to anyone wanting an alternative to the daily grind, or a more ‘progressive’ vision of what Scotch Whisky can become when vivid imagination melds with genuine artisanal skill. To those wanting a more enlightened experience than that which fills their glass today, Bruichladdich’s whiskies will perhaps say the most.
Tasting note: Flawless bright gold appearance. The aroma benefits from some time in the glass eventually yielding a gorgeous butter menthol / barley sugar / shortbread profile that’s also mildly fruity and creamy. A simple beauty. The palate delivers perfect sweet / dry balance with some very ripe, juicy fruit and malt notes tempered against drier vanillan oak and spice. Creamy mouthfeel. Mildly salty, tangy finish. Concludes dry and with moderate length, butter menthol, shortbread and spice re-emerge into the fade. Vibrant and delicious, in fact, one of best 10 year olds going around, it clearly demonstrates why whisky lovers are so keenly anticipating future bottlings from this stand out distillery. 46% Alc./Vol.
Other reviews... The first 10 year old distilled by the current owners back in 2001. Lovely marriage of both bourbon and sherry casks, and quite fresh, with a maturity resembling a 12 year old, rather than 10. Smooth on the palate and very drinkable, with creamy vanilla, honeycomb, banana bread, bright lemon, melon (honeydew, cantaloupe), tangerine, candied ginger, and delicate brine. With all the Bruichladdich razzle-dazzle over the past decade, we can embrace this unpretentiously delicious Laddie with open arms. 90 points (Vol. 20, #4) Reviewed by: John Hansell.size>
“...beautifully clean and zesty...more oomph than previous bottlings, yet still retaining its fragile personality. Truly great stuff for a standard bottling. 90 points Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2012size>
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