What a difference a year makes! This time last year I was negotiating the purchase some of the last stocks of Bruichladdich (brook – laddie) single malt Scotch from their then-importer to the U.S. There was a huge logistical changeover taking place at the time, as the distillery (having being bought by Remy Cointreau in 2012) was switching to new American importers and new distributors in Indiana. Things were not going smoothly and there was a lot of misinformation flying around. Retailers across the country (including Vine & Table) couldn’t get a straight answer from either old or new representatives as to which whiskies were being discontinued and what we could expect for the future. Things were looking bleak, so I purchased a considerable amount of Bruichladdich’s gin (the Botanist) and all the malt whiskies I could get my hands on to hold us over until things returned to normal.
In the 12 months that followed, we sold through most of the stock, my shelves were getting empty, and I was wondering if we would we ever see Bruichladdich again. I reached out to my distributor – then to the brand managers – then to the new importers – only to be told that Indiana was not a priority state and that we could not expect to see Bruichladdich’s products enter the state until well into 2015. I couldn’t believe it! You see, I am and have been a big fan of Bruichladdich, their whiskies, and everything that they stand for since I joined V&T back in 2007. We have been their biggest account in the state for the past 5 years (which means that a lot of you folks are drinking Bruichladdich too!) and now some people who know nothing about the brand were just going to ignore us all!
Determined to see Bruichladdich back on our shelves before Christmas, I went straight to the top and contacted my old friend Simon Coughlan, CEO and founding member of Bruichladdich, to see what he could do. Long story short, he pulled a few strings and Bruichladdich is not only on the east coast and on the west coast but is firmly planted in the middle of the country again. We now have five different expressions in stock; thankfully, I can report that the prices have not climbed as I had feared and was told they would, but instead have remained at very reasonable levels and, in the case of one, dropped dramatically. I have tasted three of the whiskies so far and I can vouch for them- they are all delicious, the other two we will try this Saturday. Welcome home Bruichladdich!
Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley Islay Single Malt – As the name suggests, this is Bruichladdich in its classic un-peated style; that’s right, not all Islay whiskies are pungent and smoky. This is a bright whisky, with a fresh, clean aroma of barley and citrus fruits. Roll the whisky around your tongue and you taste shortbread cookies, a lighter fruitiness, barley sweetness and a lovely clean finish. Bruichladdich has upped its game with this whisky; it’s bottled without color and chill-filtration at 100 proof, which is higher than previous bottlings. In this case I think the extra few percentage points really make a difference to the taste. I am looking forward to seeing the reaction of non-Islay fans to this whisky; I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated Islay Single Malt – This beauty is named in honor of the long gone Port Charlotte Distillery (which produced heavily peated whiskies) in the village of Port Charlotte, which is literally a stone’s throw from Bruichladdich. Port Charlotte is peated to a hearty 40 part per million (PPM). The peat combines with a floral, fruity spirit (aged in mainly bourbon casks, with a little sherry aging thrown in for good measure) to create a whisky that is bright, elegant, and wrapped around a solid core of peated, heathery smoke.
Bruichladdich Octomore Super Heavily Peated 06.1 Scottish Barley Islay Single Malt – This is it: the sixth edition of the most heavily peated whisky in the world and one of the world’s most collectible cult whiskies. I find it hard to describe, because even though massive amounts of peat have been used (167 PPM to be precise) and it is bottled at a whopping 114 proof, this is still a whisky that has a beautifully elegant side to it. It’s a whisky where the fun lies in peeling back the layers (and believe me there are layers), tasting and identifying all of the flavors and nuances. I have tried several Octomores over the years and love every one of them, but I think for pure balance this one trumps all others. Balance is the key that every whisky-maker looks for, but to be able to achieve balance in a whisky of this magnitude takes years of practice. There are few people who could pull it off, but Jim McEwan, Master Distiller at Bruichladdich, has once again shown that he is not just a genius of distillation, wood management, and cask selection but he is also one of the best whisky-makers in the world.
I look forward to seeing you all on Saturday!