Bruichladdich- the tasting!

The first-part of the distillery tour can be found here.
From the heady smells of the still-house we head back across the central courthouse to one of the many Bruichladdich warehouses. They have further warehouses in the surrounding hills and also use the old Port Charlotte dunnage warehouses for their peatier drams. Plans to reopen Port Charlotte continue apace, with stills being rescued from the defunct Innerleuven distillery to avoid the massive expense of making new ones from scratch.

This warehouse we're shown turns out to be where the magic happens, with not only the private-owned* casks stored here, but also Jim McEwan's experimental batches, with finishes in all manner of exotic casks, including rum and wine.

Into the vatting and bottling hall then, a decidedly newer area and a first for the island. The first batches were originally bottled by hand and this kit is still used for small runs, but the star of the show is the brand spanking new bottling plant. Its able to fill extraordinary numbers of bottles a day, essential for fulfilling that new Tesco contract...

 And finally, that part you've all been waiting for - how does the whisky taste? In a word...excellent. Bloody excellent in two! Well worth the wait.

We're all offered the Laddie 10, the first core expression now the whisky is old enough to be sold as a single malt. Its light, full of subtle wood character, a wisp of smoke and almost a "session" whisky in that its very easy to forget the strength and want to drink half a bottle in one sitting! We're then get offered the run of the range, with myself and other toursters doing their best to suggest a whisky they didn't have open behind the counter and willing to hand out: we don't succeed. I try the Laddie 10, Port Charlotte and Octomore in succession. They're peated at 4,40 and 152ppm respectively and boy is there a difference! The Port Charlotte is a bonfire in your mouth, all ashes and wood smoke with none of the subtleties exhibited in the Laddie. Octomore (peatiest whisky in the world!) is a different beast entirely.  Despite its OTT peat rate** it tastes nowhere near as smoky as the Port Charlotte. This whisky alone confirms that I am no longer peat-averse and more truthfully how a peat-head.

Perhaps the star of the show for me was the Valinch. "What's that?" I hear you cry! Well cry no more as I'm about to explain. A solitary cask sits mid-wall in the shop. On request you're handed an empty bottle which you then proceed to fill yourself. The cask is a one-off, only available at the brewery and never available again. The ultimate in whisky geekery. This time around its a bourbon aged Port Charlotte and at a beastly 63.5% ABV.*** Gimmicky perhaps, but still a great experience and more importantly a good tasting whisky that I'm looking forward to receiving the bottle of for my birthday (Thanks Dad!) It seems I got one of the last as they're now onto a new cask...

If you've only time to visit one whisky distillery on Islay (very poor planning on your part!) then make it this one! The enthusiasm of Helen and helpfulness of all the staff, not to mention the generous tasters all contribute to an afternoon well spent.

*Yes, it is possible to buy a cask of whisky!
** Try getting hold of one of those Brewdog!
***More details:
2002 Cask No 130, Cask Type: Bourbon/La Tour
63.5%, Release Qty: 450 Bottles, Released: December 2011


  1. Good stuff Steve. Never been massively impressed with Bruichladdich in the past but it looks like their commercial savvy pays off in spates 'at source' so to speak - it looks like a great distillery to visit!

    1. have you tried octomore and port charlotte too?