Falling in Love with Islay: Bruichladdich Whisky
Bruichladdich Whisky‘s Master Distiller Jim McEwan has announced his retirement in July. He’s been in the Scotch whisky business for 52 years and has been at Bruichladdich the last 15 years.
When Jim and Bruichladdich introduced Octomore 6.1, it instantly became a sought after whisky. I had my first taste of what is being called the most heavily peated whisky almost a year ago. And now Octomore 6.3 has hit our shores this month. Octomore 6.2 is duty-free and more on that later! I had a chance to taste 6.3 along with several other expressions from Bruichladdich with Jim when he visited Los Angeles recently. I also tasted the gin they make called The Botanist.
First we started with The Botanist gin. When Jim wanted to create a gin, he consulted with gin distillers and bought a still, the Lomond still. It is one of four ever made. Jim and Bruichladdich nicknamed the still, Ugly Betty. Then Jim talked to a pair of botanists from Islay who gathered local botanicals for him.
Jim narrowed down the local plants to 22 and combined them with the 10 traditional ingredients found in gin including juniper to make The Botanist which incidentally is named after the Islay bontanists.
Next we went on to more good stuff, the whisky! Jim explained Bruichladdich does not chill filter which means the flavors and oils are still present. When you add water to your whisky, you can see this band of gold float to the top. That’s the flavor!
I hadn’t tasted Black Art 1990 before. The 23-year-old whisky had been aged in oak casks and is unpeated. Though it did have a slightly peaty, mysterious flavor. Jim also mentioned the whisky spent time in other casks including wine casks. That could explain some of it or perhaps it really is magical.
Back to Octomore 6.2 (duty-free). I loved hearing Jim’s stories and he mentioned that whisky was like a shy, Islay boy going to Paris for the first time. The sights and sounds were overwhelming. Imagine coming from a place that is rooted in farms and suddenly you’re in a big city. It’s like brushing up against a beautiful French woman and being so scared you’ve offended in some way. Until she takes your arm and smiles and reassures you it’s all right. That is Octomore 6.2. It like Black Art has some aging in French wine casks. Jim loves French wine casks which he turned to when sherry casks became scarce.
In Los Angeles, Brittini Rae Peterson spreads the Bruichladdich love as part of Remy Cointreau’s Collectif 1806. The portfolio also includes Mount Gay rum and Cointreau including their new liqueurs.
I’ve tried a few of Brittini’s drinks with Bruichladdich and here are some of my favorites. I had Mist & Tich and thought it’s amazing as a spring or summer drink. So many people tend to think of Scotch whisky as something to be drunk neat or in the winter but it can work just as well in warm weather. Especially when mixed with sherry, apple and pear.
Mist & Tich – Bruichladdich Islay Barley, Manzanilla sherry, Islay apple mint cordial, pear puree, lemon
The Bruichladdich classic is made with Scottish barley. When I asked Jim if there were plans to ever make Classic with Islay barley, he said no. Why mess with a good thing? Indeed. Besides, they do have Bruichladdich Islay Barley (yellow label). The classic comes in their iconic blue label which Jim says is the color of the ocean surrounding the distillery. I love their design including the font and colors. It’s very modern.
But now you can most definitely imagine a drink with hits of butterscotch, ginger, lemon and honey. Where Mist and Tich was a summery drink, this is great for current April gloom LA is experiencing.
Where’s the Butter – butterscotch-infused Bruichladdich classic, ginger, lemon, honey, PC mist
Oddly even though Octomore is the most heavily peated whisky, I find Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte to be more smokey. I don’t mind it neat but that charming peat works great in a cocktail. Try it in an Old Fashioned style like Brittini whipped up with chamomile liqueur.
Herbs, Not Rye – Bruichladdich Port Charlotte, Cointreau Liqueur de Camomille, bitters, rosemary
For a wonderful video showing the Bruichladich distillery, check this one out from Munchies. I’m planning my Scotland trip already and definitely want to go to Islay!
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