The Bruichladdich distillery (pronounced brook-laddie) is located on the Scottish island of Islay in the west Hebrides. The traditional Bruichladdich distillery style is in contrast to the smoky style of whisky for which Islay is famous - it is lighter, fresher and generally with little or no peatiness. The distillery was originally founded in 1881 by Barnett Harvey and sits on the shores of Loch Indaal - it was built using stones from the local beach and was one of the first buildings in the UK to be constructed using concrete! The current owners are the Bruichladdich Distillery Company. They are an independent consortium of four businessmen and they took over in 2000. It is a small distillery with an annual production capacity of just 700,000 litres and Bruichladdich translates from Gaelic as 'the brae (hillside) by the shore'.
Examples of truly organic whiskies are hard to find - Benromach Organic single malt and the blended Highland Harvest are the two most readily available to the UK market. Here, Bruichladdich - the self proclaimed 'Progressive Hebridean Distillers' - have given a full scale release to their organic single malt whisky. This follows on from a limited edition organic release in 2009, which proved popular and won much acclaim. This new version will retail at £35-40 in specialist retailers and has an alcohol strength of 46% ABV. The whisky contains organic barley from three different Scottish farms and is certified as 'organic' by the Biodynamic Agricultural Association. It has been matured in a combination of fresh oak and ex-bourbon casks and has been created from a selection of different ages by Bruichladdich's Master Distiller Jim McEwan.
Our tasting notes
The colour of Bruichladdich Organic is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is youthful, fresh and vibrant. There is a lovely, appetising combination of aromas - firstly there are malty cereals, then juicy fresh green fruits (think of pears and apples) and vanilla, then something reminiscent of dried grass (or straw) and finally a hint of honey and some distinct almond notes. On the palate, this is light, delicate and again fresh. It has an immediate zesty (think of lemons) and mouthwatering quality that makes you want to have more. Through this comes prominent notes of vanilla, robust cereals and dried grass. These are followed by more subtle characteristics - some sweet honey, the fresh green fruits (especially pear - this is verging on peardrops now) and just the merest hint of some wood spice (imagine cinnamon). The finish is short, which is slightly disappointing. However, it is lively and crams plenty in to a short period of time - there is sweetness (vanilla, honey and a hint of icing sugar) to begin with, before turning drier with the malty cereals and dried grassy notes dominating. Finally, the flavours disappear to leave the burn of youthful alcohol in the mouth.
What's the verdict?
This is a refreshing and delicate whisky, where the quality of the barley used in production and the casking used in maturation shine through. It would make an excellent aperitif dram. The whisky is on the lighter side and may not be to everyone's taste, but should definitely be tried if you have the chance. Any distillery looking to produce and release an organic whisky should look at this Bruichladdich for quality and use it as a benchmark. In our opinion, it is one of the better new releases of 2010.