Another week, another review. And somehow it inevitably comes back to Bruichladdich. If anything, this is a distillery that knows exactly how to make great whisky (and long may it continue!)
The readers of this blog will know all too well just how much I love Bruichladdich. It is a distillery that goes about its business in an unassuming and altruistic way which I find very appealing in this day and age.
Their commitment to ensuring that the local terroir of Islay is present in each and every expression released by the distillery is commendable and their steadfast refusal to adulterate their whiskies with chill filtration or the addition of colouring should be celebrated far and wide.
But the most interesting aspect of Bruichladdich is that it has produced for the most part, unpeated whisky. Now, considering this is an ISLAY distillery (the land of smoky, peaty whiskies), this was most unusual for many people and even became a source of ridicule which was levelled against the distillery over time.
The great Jim McEwan himself mentioned that the opportunity to take up the master distiller/production manager position back in 2001 was too good to turn down simply because it would allow him to right what was perceived to be a great injustice.
It was through his innovation and sheer genius that we now have the likes of the heavily peated Port Charlotte and super heavily peated Octomore ranges. But Jim was smart enough to know that the DNA of Bruichladdich transcended the use of peat and that the core range had to retain that unpeated identity.
And this is what brings us to today’s review: Bruichladdich’s The Organic Scottish Barley. It is an unpeated expression which is a travel retail exclusive from the distillery and is bottled at a very impressive 50% abv.
I’ve previously tried a variant of this called Bruichladdich Scottish Barley, which is part of the core range of expressions from the distillery and this one seems to be rather similar to that in some aspects.
I immensely enjoyed that expression and the one lingering detail that I took away from the Scottish Barley was basically how fresh and clean it was and how strong the barley scent was.
My expectation for this expression would be that I’d encounter more of the same and in all honesty, I wasn’t disappointed.
So, without further delay, let’s jump right in!
Bruichladdich The Organic Scottish Barley (50% abv)
Nose: Fresh, aromatic barley is the most prominent scent in this nose.
Definitely living up to the name! Fast moving legs hint at a relatively young whisky but the viscosity also hints at the higher abv, which tickles the nose but is otherwise pleasant.
Creme brulee, salted caramel and some white pepper combine quite well to make this intriguing. After giving it a few minutes to open up, there is a winey note in there which does remind me somewhat of Chardonnay. Quite a complex nose. (22/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents some barley sugar and a fresh blast of roasted barley. The higher abv is also immediately apparent as it initially sears the palate before slightly subsiding.
The Chardonnay notes from the nose also make an appearance, with some fruity citrus elements manifesting themselves mid-palate. Some salted caramel from the nose also emerges before white pepper then inundates the palate, adding another level of warmth as things come to an end. (23/25)
Finish: Medium to long finish, with the barley sugar and the overall sweetness of the dram being the star of the show. The Chardonnay note adds a level of dryness to the overall experience, but not enough to overcome the oiliness of the dram. (21/25)
Balance: I reckon that the balance of this dram is quite good, considering the higher than average abv of 50%. The sweet/spicy combination works very well in this case and that infusion of a salted caramel note does make it somewhat savoury. Definitely meant to be enjoyed on cold nights in front of the fire! (20/25)
Quite a nice departure from the peated fare that Islay usually serves up and I’m rather impressed with how the unpeated Bruichladdich range is holding its own against the Port Charlotte and Octomore ranges.
If anything, the distillery’s commitment to ensuring that there is something for everyone to try and enjoy is something worth celebrating and I am definitely looking forward to my next bottle of whisky from the distillery!