Food & Drink

The taste of Islay, bottled

Bruichladdich releases two expressions distilled from Islay-only grain

BY Daniel Goh | Mar 6, 2017 | Reviews

When Bruichladdich arrived on Malaysian shores with bottles of their single malt scotch around two years ago, they brought with them quite a different approach to making the brown spirit. Where most brands talk about the distilling and ageing process as their unique selling point, Bruichladdich instead talked about the terroir and the people of Islay as their source of inspiration. This is why they choose to use only barley farmed in Scotland for their whiskies and why they hire a majority of the people working in their distilleries from the island of Islay.

Bruichladdich isn't lacking in knowhow either. Their distillers see the process as a traditional art form and have kept the most of the original machinery built during its founding in 1881 -- and the wealth of knowledge that has been built since then. In fact, when the distillery re-opened in 2001, they had to re-employ most of the people working in Bruichladdich before it closed in 1993 as only they knew how to properly work the Victorian-era equipment.

James Brown, owner of the Octomore farm

Their tenacity in protecting the history of the brand along with their unique philosophy in matters of terroir seems to put Bruichladdich in a niche, attracting collectors and connoisseurs alike. In 2012, they were snapped up by the Remy Cointreau group and with the influx of funds came the ability to scale up production. But what’s cool about Bruichladdich is that even with higher yields, all of their barley still comes from local Scottish farms. In Malaysia, they offer two expressions of the spirit made with barley only from Islay. The relationship Bruichladdich has with the locals is the basis of its whiskies: the farms and the farmers are mentioned by name.

Octomore 7.3

It may be trite, but as they say, there's no smoke without cliche: this is Islay in a bottle. Not only does the grain come from the Octomore farm owned by a friend of the brand, James Brown, the whisky is also peated to a massive 169ppm, really highlighting the signature characteristic of Islay whiskies. Bottled at 63% ABV, some spring water would definitely make it easier on the palate. The nose has predictably strong hits of peat smoke and the saltiness of the ocean followed by apricot, vanilla and caramel. On the palate it’s packed with the flavours of rich dark fruits, raisins, peaches, apricots. Also, the mouthfeel is brilliant; oily and almost velvet-like, it cossets the tongue, giving each sip a long lasting finish.

Islay Barley 2009

Another expression distilled from Islay-only grain. The raw ingredients sourced for this were grown in 2008 by Gilbie McCormick at Claggan, Hunter Jackson at Crauch, Ian McKerrell of Island and Alastair Torrance from Mulindry. As with the Classic Laddie, the Islay Barley 2009 is another non-peated whisky to come out of Bruichladdich. Fresh mangoes and pineapple are some of the familiar Asian flavours are evident on the nose, while the palate is clean and malty sweet, with hints of cereal, honey and citrus. It expresses nicely the terroir's lack of maritime influence on the grain, being grown at the central part of the island.