One other fall is upon us, and which means Islay’s Bruichladdich is pushing out its greatest releases of the yr. Usually we’d see these trickle out in ins and outs, however for 2023, the distillery dropped a bomb on us all of sudden, with Bere Barley, Black Artwork, a brand new Port Charlotte, and the three Octomore releases all arriving directly. As is usually the case, grasp distiller Adam Hannett walked us via the lineup through a dwell Zoom tasting from Scotland. It took me one other week to totally work my approach via the samples and get this writeup put collectively.
With that: Slainte! Ideas comply with.
Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2013 – As all the time, this whisky (comprised of 100% Orkney-grown barley and aged 10 years in 80% bourbon casks, 20% second-fill Pauillac wine casks) showcases Bruichladdich at its freshest and most approachable. Very energetic and light-weight, the nostril is mild on citrus and heavy on the grain its very title suggests. Lemon cookies dance on the tongue, with a chunk of pecan sandie thrown in as a chaser. Dig deeper and extra persistent vanilla and milk chocolate notes reveal themselves, with hints of peach including a contact of fruit. Only a trace leathery on the again finish, evoking its time in wooden. This can be a whisky that not often appears to do something unsuitable — although these searching for extra highly effective, expressive whiskies from Bruichladdich might discover it a contact too tame. 100 proof. A- / $140
Bruichladdich Black Artwork 11.1 – Black Artwork is designed to be stuffed with thriller, and Hannett will say solely that this yr’s launch options some very previous inventory, the youngest within the mix relationship again to distillation in 1998, making this a 24 yr previous product formally. The affect of assorted wine casks is instant right here, stuffed with well-dried fruits, roasted nuts, and — most curiously — an unique be aware of saffron-laden curry powder. Boldly flowery because it develops on the nostril, the whisky turns into decidedly perfumed with time in glass. The palate reveals instantly that this whisky has frolicked in Madeira casks and doubtless Marsala too. Thick flavors of oxidized wine drive a pungent, brooding physique that’s each sweetly raisiny and dried-up leathery on the identical time. Notes of Christmas spices mix unusually with funky earthiness and people notes of the spice market, punchy with coriander and notes of inexperienced tea. The end is without end, like rolling round on the ground of that spice market. Difficult as all get-out, however as is usually my expertise with Black Artwork, it’s not one thing I really love. 88.4 proof. B+ / $550
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PMC:01 2023 – A 9 yr previous peated providing from Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte model, aged for 4 years in first-fill bourbon casks, then 5 years in Pomerol wine casks, the primary time the corporate has used Pomerol for a Port Charlotte bottling. A hearty whisky, simply as anticipated, this bruiser provides an appropriately peaty punch from begin to end, nosing with a frivolously ashy high quality and influenced by toasted grains, some walnut shell, and a hearty chunk of roast beef. Earthier than anticipated on the palate, the wine affect quickly makes itself recognized with that ruddy, gamy high quality that you simply typically get from purple wine barrel-finished whiskies. 5 years of smoldering within the stuff has given it ample time to make an influence, and whereas the plush peat smoke dominates up entrance, it will definitely results in a doughier, chewier finale than I’d like. The fruit on the end queues up a curious dichotomy: In the event you’d like some apple pie along with your seashore bonfire, nicely, right here ya go. 109 proof. B+ / $150
Bruichladdich Octomore 14.1 – The peat-lover’s standby as all the time, a 5 yr previous ultra-peated malt (distilled in 2017) comprised of Scottish Concerto barley, malted to 128.9 ppm of peat, and aged absolutely in ex-bourbon barrels. As daring as ever, the nostril is intense with components of baked apples and ample creosote, then a nutty high quality that implies smoked almonds. It’s fairly harsh on the again of the throat at full proof so I added some water to mood it for many of my tasting. That is fairly useful, permitting notes of dried apricots, recent toffee, and a few coconut to come back into clearer focus, the end right here much less briny than I’ve encountered in previous expressions, which I type of miss. The coconut be aware lingers the longest, making me dream of a cream pie to pair with this. 119.2 proof. B / $220
Bruichladdich Octomore 14.2 – The identical 128.9 ppm malting and in addition 5 years previous, however right here the ageing is all European, accomplished in 40% oloroso sherry hogsheads, 16% first-fill Amarone casks, and 44% second-fill Amarone casks. That explains the pleasant pink shade on this whisky, one of many prettiest I’ve encountered shortly. A lot lighter and fruit-driven on the nostril than 14.1, this whisky melds purple fruits and berries with black pepper and combined spice notes, leaning towards tobacco over time. The palate isn’t almost as burly because the 14.1 is, although a drop or two of water continues to be a good suggestion to mood the hefty proof only a bit. Contemporary biscuits and almond cookies kick issues off on the tongue, extra purple fruit — right here nearer to strawberry — coming alongside in brief order. Whereas coming throughout as far much less peaty than 14.1, the palate nonetheless has loads of bonfire smoke and salty sea spray on supply, tempered once more by strawberry cream, then a nougat be aware. Such a energetic journey to go on. My favourite whisky on this lineup. 115.4 proof. A / $260
Bruichladdich Octomore 14.3 – The Islay-only version of Octomore 14 is a 5 yr previous comprised of 100% Islay-grown barley, peated to 214.2 ppm, and matured in a mixture of first-fill bourbon and second-fill “European wine” casks, which I take to imply sherry (50/50). Much like 13.3’s routine. A pure expression of the ability of peat, this whisky showcases bruising ranges of smoke on the nostril, plus notes of turned earth, purple pepper, and a suggestion of rhubarb. Official tasting notes are laden with fruit components which I don’t decide up with or with out water; as a substitute I get a variety of char — like burnt pizza crust, in a great way. On the palate, once more I’d counsel water, which doesn’t evoke fruit however does convey out some sweetness. Smoky almonds, brown sugar, nougat, and a layer of salted seaweed all percolate on the end, which sees some vanilla notes lingering. Extra elegant than 14.1, however much less fascinating on the entire than 14.2. 122.8 proof. A- / $300