A tale of 10 year old laddies.

Taste Review #87 – Bruichladdich 10 old Vs new

Mmmm, I really struggled with a title for this review. Nothing really seemed to be quite right, and in the end I settled something that to the more delicate of minds isn’t just ‘not quite right’ but more to the fact it’s ‘very wrong’. Initially I had thought of the Rolf Harris song ‘Two Little Boys’, but then given his history was probably an inappropriate choice. With the term ‘Laddie’ being an affectionate and non-predatory nickname for Bruichladdich whiskies, you can see I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whatever I put resulted in sounding like I had a lifetime membership of the Gary Glitter and Jimmy Saville fan clubs, but I can assure you here that the 10 year olds we are speaking about are definitely whisky.


Two little boys…. I meant ‘laddies!

Bruichladdich isn’t a new distillery. Situated by the shores of Loch Indaal on the west coast of Islay, Bruichladdich has always been a bit of an oddball amongst the Islay distilleries, mainly because of the unpeated nature of its spirit. Peat is used in the distillery for the medium peat Port Charlotte and heavily peated Octomore bottlings, but not for the core Bruichladdich releases. The distillery was built in 1881 by it’s owners the Harvey Brothers. Their ownership came to an end in 1937, and by 1954 it came in to the hands of Distillers Company Ltd, a forerunner of Diageo. However, their ownership was short, and it was offloaded to AB Grant, who also owned the Bladnoch Distillery.

Bruichladdich changed hands again in 1968 when it was bought by Invergordon Distillers, who in turn in 1993 became under Whyte and Mackay. By 1995 Bruichladdich was deemed surplus to requirements and was closed in 1996. In late 2000 it was bought by a private consortium who included Mark Reynier. Coming from a wine background, Mark had also founded the independent whisky bottler Murray McDavid along with 2 others, so perhaps buying a defunct distillery on Islay was the next logical step.

When it was set up, Bruichladdich was a modern distillery, having been purpose built rather than developed from farm steadings. Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) the distillery had seen very little in modernisation throughout the years. It had been used as a blend fodder factory for much of its prior ownership. Much of the original equipment is still in place, including an open top mash tun, one of a few still in existence. When the distillery was bought, between Jan and May 2001, the distillery equipment was dismantled and given an overhaul then reassembled. It still seems to this day that Bruichladdich is like a working museum, but who can argue with the quality of the liquid?

With a background in wine, you can be sure that Mark was familiar with the concept of ‘terroir’, which is how the local environment, microclimate and soil can all influence the crop of grapes that make wine. Mark had decided to apply this to whisky at Bruichladdich, and has since gone on to apply this to the new distillery he is now involved in at Waterford, Ireland. We will be discussing this at a later date, as that is a minefield of opinions on its own!

The other thing that needed doing at Bruichladdich was an improvement of its wood policy. Much of the existing spirit was re-racked, and a bottling plant was also constructed. However it was in the days of when the distillery had little money that they bought equipment from the Inverleven distillery which was being demolished. Of course, it was also around the time of the Iraqi Supergun, weapons of mass destruction so sailing a barge of distillery equipment past the Holy Loch, where the UK nuclear deterrent was based was always going to result in attention being paid. This came in the form of the US Threat Reduction agency notifying the distillery that one of their webcams was out, so Big Brother was definitely watching! It gave rise to a 19 year old bottling called Whisky Of Mass Distinction (get it?) This was joined by WMD II with the discovery of a Royal Navy ROV, but you can read that story here in my previous review of this whisky.

Mark sold the distillery to Remy Cointreau in 2012, so what direction it will take now will remain to be seen, bearing in mind what gets distilled usually isn’t released for 8-10 years. It doesn’t seem to be much has changed.


Plenty of breathing time as I type my tale of Bruichladdich!

As much as I hate the term ‘fanboy’, I have to tell you that I own more Bruichladdich than any other distillery. This ranges from the first 10 year old whisky to be released by the distillery, my bottles being signed by the distiller Jim McEwan through to the latest release, Octomore 11. I like their whisky, especially the heavily peated stuff, which tends to be quite young though this still works. I’ve never come across miniatures of Bruichladdich very often, but a recent acquisition of around 50 miniatures, most of which went back to auction saw 4 Bruichladdich minis – 2x 10, 15 and 17 year olds. I sold all but one of the 10’s so I could taste it at some point. The older style Bruichladdich came from a bulk buy of miniatures so I could get the one I wanted; in this case it was a Glenury Royal. But with my project of comparing old with new, I have something that I can taste and review to see if older was better.

Details

Bruichladdich 10 (old)

Region – Islay Age – 10 yr Strength – 40% Colour – Jonquiripe Corn (0.4) Cask Type – not known Colouring – possibly but on account of colour not likely Chill Filtered – Yes Nose -Solvent. Honey, vanilla, malt, green orchard fruit like a peeled Granny Smith apple, grassy. Palate– quite pleasant and unassuming. Honey flavour continues from the nose and is quite dominating, but wood spices start to take over with a sparkling dryness. No brine note that I would have expected from a coastal distillery. A slight cardboard note though. Apple tart without the cinnamon Finish – Relatively short and uninspired. The palate continues with a mild toffee note which quickly fades. You have to hunt for a brine note but it’s there.


The older of the two

Bruichladdich 10 (modern)

Region – Islay Age – 10 yr Strength – 46% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – not known Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – bit more solventy, can detect a brine note mixing with the honey. There is definitely a malty, almost readybrek background. Creamy fruit dessert. Palate – definitely more sweet on the arrival, with more presence of wood spices. Ginger, Apple, citrus (lime?) can taste a green Rowntree’s fruit pastille. Slightly floral as well. A strong brine character. Finish – the finish is much more expressive. There is a creamy exotic fruit to it – Pineapple tart.


The more recent (though still discontinued) Bruichladdich 10

Conclusions

The more modern bottling was a different kettle of fish. It had some similar characteristics in the nose, but was more forward – possibly the result of the higher ABV. The older sample did make me think that the wood policy at Bruichladdich wasn’t the best. There was just no excitement there at all. It turned out I was right in my assessment as I am writing the conclusions the day after the tasting. I purposely don’t do any or much research prior to tasting, as I don’t want my notes to be influenced by what I have read.

I have to say without a doubt that in this case, older was definitely not better, and the newer sample was much more drinkable, much more fresh and much more aromatic, even though it looked as though the newer bottling looked as though it was the one that had suffered from a small bit of evaporation.

Without a doubt, had the older sample been my first taste of Bruichladdich, I’d have probably not given the distillery much of a thought. While not a bad whisky, it lacked any punch. Of course I only have an idea of the age of the bottle, but the spirit definitely comes from the 90’s. The clue is in the label – the Bruichladdich Distillery Company was founded in July 2000, which would possibly mean this is spirit made from the previous owners. The fact it’s a little bit boring, yet with no major flaws indicates it is not from the new regime.

While writing these notes, I did think about what I could do with the leftovers. With one at 40% and the other at 46%, I decided to make my own Bruichladdich single malt at 43% by mixing the two together. It was still drinkable, but the older spirit definitely held the newer one back. You can now see that the policy of re-racking wasn’t desirable, it was probably necessary.

The older style dram in a full size bottle can still be picked up at auction relatively cheaply. The newer version is similar, with a hammer price of around £50. It was also discontinued a few years back, so perhaps in due course a newer 10 year old expression may re-emerge, though nowadays the Classic Laddie bottling is probably the closest you will get nowadays.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Run Silent, Run Deep

Taste Review #49 – Bruichladdich 1991 WMD II

If, like me you appreciate a good classic black and white war movie and a decent whisky, then what we are reviewing this week should become instantly apparent with this week’s title. I think I have to raise the bar after I wrote another taste review last week with a highly risqué title. As I write and taste long before publishing you will just have to wait and see what it is but it is loaded with schoolboy humour. The title for this week’s article is taken from the 1958 film of the same name which starred Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, and is set on a submarine that is operational in the Pacific during World War II. Therefore by now hopefully you have guessed that this week’s review is ‘The Yellow Submarine’.

This is quite a well known whisky amongst collectors, and comes from some of the first whisky that was made at Bruichladdich when it first re-opened in 1991 under the charge of Mark Reynier. I have written a little bit about it in the past and the story behind the Yellow Submarine HERE . To summarise, WMD II is the second in line of special event bottlings that got a fair bit of publicity for the distillery. The first bottling was in connection with the distillery being spied on by the US Threat Reduction Agency, and this bottling was to do with the finding of a mine disposal ROV (remotely operated vehicle) off the coast of Islay. I’ll not go into the story here, as if you click the above link, you’ll get the whole story there.


A great find at auction one of the mis-labelled bottles

This is a bottling that I have had for quite some time and this review has been made using the very last dram in the 3rd bottle of this that I have drunk. It’s a whisky that I have had from the neck pour, to mid bottle, and finally in the last drops, so I would say this will be a very thorough review compared to what I can get from a miniature. I’m going to reserve most of my writing to after the review, so lets crack on with the tasting


Bottle and dram

Region

Islay

Age

14 years old

Strength

46% ABV

Colour

Deep Honeyed Gold

The final dram

Nose

Sweet, apricots, spicy wood, honey, a whiff of smoke, buttery.

Palate

Sweet on the arrival – a burst of spirit gives a sparkly and spicy wood based arrival. Quite fruity but I also got a hint of malt, apricots, and a mild herbal note appears at the end

Finish

Medium finish, spiced wood continues with fruit, but becomes slightly astringent with a note of smoke now starting to show its head though this is a very light note. Peppery and oily. Right at the end of the finish I did get a brine note.


Being a good Aberdonian and getting the last drops

Conclusions

This has to be one of my favourite whiskies. That makes me sad. The truth is that Yellow Submarine while it was released in relatively high numbers for a special release, still had only about 12,000 made. And these numbers are getting fewer. The only number going up is the price, and this is borne out by looking at online auctions. The bottles that I am drinking now were bought around the £140 mark, which is not that bad for a bottle that is limited, has a relevant story to me, and is highly enjoyable. Now it is almost impossible to find a bottle under £200, and auction prices are usually around the £250-£350 mark, with £400 being the highest I’ve seen but add another 12% on for fees. Retail, the cheapest I’ve seen is £500 including VAT, but does go as high as £750 on other sites.


Yellow Submarine at Bruichladdich Distillery (H.Leslie)

Is this whisky worth the price? Yes and no. If you can get it at auction under £250, then it is probably worth it, but any higher then it’s a collectors piece, unless you have a very deep pocket and don’t mind paying a bit for tasting a decent whisky. My first bottle was opened as a special occasion, that being my first-born’s christening, and I was hooked then but that was the time bottles could be bought even at retail for less than £300. My only bottle I bought at retail was £210, but that was in Jan 2016.

Taking the price and rarity out of it, is this a decent whisky? Yes it definitely is. I am sure the friends that I have let taste this whisky will agree. Sorry for you guys, I am probably not going to be sharing the rest. I’ll be honest and say I have drunk better whisky, but not often and this is one unicorn I can recommend trying to capture if you see one running about at a decent price.


Yellow Submarine at Bruichladdich Distillery (H.Leslie)

Getting back to a tasting perspective, I feel that the nose offers a much more pleasant proposition than the taste does, but it seems that the Rioja cask has done a good job in developing a light, fruity flavour, quite different and more subtle than the sherried whiskies that I have been enjoying of late. I wonder what this would taste at 25 year old, and fortunately enough this was released in 2018 as a 25 year old as a result of some forgotten stock being discovered. I have two bottles of this, but it is not likely to be opened any time soon.

Finally, before I go, I’d like to give a really big thank you to Heather Leslie who works at the Bruichladdich Distillery. She has been really helpful in supplying information about the Yellow Submarine bottlings, and was kind enough to send me some photos of the Yellow Submarine at the Bruichladdich distillery, seeing as I will not be able to get there any time soon. Cheers Heather, I am hoping I can get over there in the next couple of years so I can express my thanks in person. To see what they get up to at Bruichladdich you can visit their website at www.bruichladdich.com

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

Whisky Photos – Author’s own

Submarine Photos – Heather Leslie / Bruichladdich

A Beatle Free Submarine

The story of the other Yellow Submarine

This is a small story on why I have picked my current cover photo on my Scotty’s Drams Facebook page.

Yellow Submarine WMD II (whiskyauctioneer.com)

The series of whisky known as WMD that The Yellow Submarine is part of, started due to the USA spying on Bruichladdich distillery around the time of the Iraq War and the investigation into Weapons of Mass Destruction. This provoked a clever marketing strategy and a bottling of a 19 year old spirit, only this time WMD stood for Whisky of Mass Distinction.

WMD #1 Big Brother is watching

It is quite appropriate to use the WMD tag, as after a good session, I do feel as though my brain had been subjected to chemical warfare.

WMD II came about after another interesting story. It’s better to read it straight from the horses mouth.

Click here for the full story of the yellow submarine

These remotely controlled submersibles (ROV’s) were used by the Royal Navy to plant explosive charges beside mines as a way of neutralising them. One of my work colleagues worked on them in the Navy, and my day job is working on larger and more capable ROV variants in the Oil and Gas industry to build oilfields. Quite a few followers of my FB page are also in the same branch of the oil industry as me.

Why one different?

the devil is in the detail

If you look closely at the tins, you may notice only one has an official tin, the others have no yellow submarine on, and the edition label is from a hand held labeller. This is because they were from the first batch. I never noticed this when I bought them at auction, as they were bought as drinkers. It goes to show to pay attention as these would be the ones worth more in the future.

It is part of the legend that when the submarine was first found, the MD of Bruichladdich, Mark Reynier, took the opportunity to possibly name a future whisky as WMD II – the Yellow Submarine. He had some labels hastily designed and printed, then stored away. So hastily, that the word whisky is missing from the label, which is a legal requirement. Some months later, when the Royal Navy did turn up to collect their equipment, Mr Reynier is supposed to have grabbed a few bottles of an untitled spirit, slapped on the labels, and Dymo printed the tins, and took a load down to HMS Blyth when it called to Islay so it could collect the errant submarine.

It is hard to say how many 1st run were labelled this way. As far as I know there were three batches of 4000 bottles – in total 12000 WMD II were produced with much of the final run reported to going to the Submarine manufacturer. I’d imagine most have been drunk.

In 2018, there was a 25 year old release of the last barrels, which had lain to one side in the warehouses and forgotten about. Only 1991 bottles of this spirit were produced and titled WMD III – The Legend Resurfaces. In the current Bruichladdich style, they are opaque, but bright yellow.

Hangover ahoy! (remy-cointreau.com)

Current prices at auction (2019)

WMD I – 19 year old £400 – £700 (440 bottles)

WMD II – 14 year old £175- £400 (12000 bottles)

WMD III – 25 year old £330 – £600 (1991 bottles)

Submarine being sunk. Going down!

It is a special dram, and having only tried the WMD II, I can tell you that it’s a very smooth, unpeated Bruicladdich, worth every penny. I’ll do a taste review of this dram eventually, but thought for now followers of my FB page may be interested about the tale of the Yellow Submarine.

Unlike the Beatles, this is a whisky that is definitely not over rated.

Slainte Mhath!


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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


photo credits

Credits given in photo title, others authors own

All photos used under fair use policy.