Pronounced “brook-laddie,” Bruichladdich sits close to Port Charlotte on Islay. Apart from a break in the 1920’s and 1930’s whisky has been produced steadily until 1983 when production ceased briefly. In 1985, the future looked bleak when the distillery’s owners, Invergordon, were taken over by Whyte and Mackay who chose to focus efforts on their flagship single malts, Dalmore and Isle of Jura at the expense of Bruichladdich. Thankfully the distillery’s future is brighter since its purchase by the whisky independent Murray McDavid in December 2000. Jim McEwan and his team have breathed life back into the place, with Islay’s first bottling hall also now installed. The whisky produced by Bruichladdich was traditionally one of the least peaty of the Islay malts, although ironically it is rated as the islanders’ favourite. Since 2002, three single malts are produced at the distillery: Bruichladdich of course, but also a peaty malt, called Port Charlotte and the earth shattering Octomore – the world’s heaviest peaty whisky. From May 2003 Bruichladdich is bottled at the distillery – the only Islay whisky that is distilled, matured and bottled on the Island. All Bruichladdich is bottled un chill filtered, caramel free and at 46%. Each bottling is a cuvée created by Master Distiller Jim McEwan. From 2004 Bruichladdich will experiment a 100% organic malt, produced from organic grown barley. All the whisky production is now retained for the distillery’s own use as Bruichladdich single malt.
The smoke is calmed by the marine, ozone character, time has brought a balance, a harmony in the combination of oak, smoke and spirit. While the smoke is always discernible on the bouquet – it is dry, earthy, peatash in its style and so allows the oak to come forward with waves of golden caramel, fudge, vanilla custard, hints of ginger, nutmeg and clove. There is citrus fruit, coaxed from the glass with a drop of water, gentle lemon meringue and clementine. Breathe deeply and the floral aromas of wild thyme, heather and sea pink bring you to this Atlantic coast. On the palate there is a noticeable delicacy and softness in texture and style. Again, the balance of flavour is superb as the smoke wraps loosely around the sweetness drawn from deep within the oak. Coconut, vanilla custard, lemon honey combines with smoked oysters and sun baked salty sand. The finish is sublime, smoky sure, but also the soft sweetness of fudge and malted barley, orange, mango and Banoffee pie hinting of the depth and quality of the oak. The many layers interchange on each sip. As the smoke comes and goes so too the notes of the spirit, ripe apple and apricot, beautifully intertwined with malt and oak sweetness and that typical Port Charlotte style dry smoke.