NO PEAT REPEAT
This classic Islay whisky is not your typical dram, explains BILL WATT
Firstly, before we get started with the important stuff, let's deal with the pronunciation of Bruichladdich. It's quite simple really (for Scottish Gaelic), and is pronounced "Brook - laddie" and means "hillside by the shore".
The Bruichladdich range of whiskies is distilled on the most famous whisky island of them all - Islay (pronounced aye-la). But, unlike the other major Islay drops, it is not peated, so does not have that smokey heaviness of its rivals.
But this does not make the Bruichladdich whiskies (including the bottle I was given by a mate for a milestone birthday - The Classic Laddie) the black sheep of Islay, rather they are a stand-out alternative to the great peated drams of the Whisky Isle. When I first opened my bottle of The Classic Laddie single malt whisky I hadn't read the details on the bottle - "UNPEATED ISLAY SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY" - so it came as quite a surprise when I firstly smelt the light golden liquid, then rapidly moved on to tasting it.
Immediately, I grabbed the bottle and was relieved to see the word "unpeated" on the side. I had thought for a moment I had been struck by a weird version of Covid that limited my whisky tasting senses.
Once the shock was over, I started to enjoy what is quite a complex and thoroughly enjoyable drop of Islay magic.
Still, my interpretation of the whisky might not satisfy the experts. On the nose I smelt a little cinnamon, a crispness of mint with a hint of cloves. What the Bruichladdich website tells me is this: "The bouquet is brilliant. Opening with barley sugar and a hint of mint before leading into the most wonderful notes of freshly cut wild flowers; buttercup, daisy, meadowsweet, myrtle, primrose and cherry blossom. As the seconds tick by, more aromas rise from the glass, little zephyrs of spindrift and sea pinks reminding you that this spirit is matured exclusively by the sea. After some four or five minutes and with the addition of a little water, caramelised fruits drift onto the scene; lemon drops and honey, tangerine and tablet." Firstly, can I say, I seldom sniff a whisky for four or five minutes - it's mostly been consumed by then. Secondly, what the hell does "little zephyrs of spindrift and sea pinks" mean, anyway?
Now, to the taste. My interpretation was that, most importantly, it is quite delicious. It has a fruity sweetness and a tang of citrus but with a bite. The tingles go all the way from the front of the mouth, to the throat, then the nasal passages (I know, a little bit anatomical ... sorry). There are definite hints of mint and maybe a fleeting taste of sea spray.
But maybe you should listen to the makers: "The palate entry is so refined and refreshing, the sweet oak and the barley arriving together sending the taste buds into raptures. The fruits from distillation drift in on an Atlantic breeze and pop on the tongue like champagne bubbles. A combination of ripe green fruit, brown sugar and sweet malt bring closure." I reckon the person that wrote that could even sell whisky to my wife, "champagne bubbles" closing the deal!
One of the big selling points for Bruichladdich is that all their whiskies use exclusively Scottish-grown barley. They emphasise the quality of their ingredients, and there is even an "organic" 10-year-old expression, which I intend to test drive at some stage.
Classic Laddie doesn't only defy the Islay stereotype regarding peat, it also defies a general Scottish single malt whisky stereotype by not stating the age on the bottle. So, it could be aged from three years or up, for all I know. Three is apparently the number of years a whisky has to be matured in the cask for it to qualify as Scotch whisky.
But, the point is worth making ... who cares about stereotypes when the whisky you are sampling is obviously of very high quality? And, stereotypes aside, Classic Laddie is certainly more accessible for the whisky novice than some of the more adventurous Islay peated drops (although it pains me to say it).