Bruichladdich is starting 2018 fast and furious, with many events lined up with various bars. The first event of the year for Singapore started with a Black Art tasting at The Single Cask. Chloe Wood, Bruichladdich’s Asia Pacific Brand Ambassador, led the session. It was a sell-out session, and the crowd at TSC was excited to see Chloe in person. The brand manager of Bruichladdich, Rachel Tan, was also in attendance, and she even brought along home-made butter cakes drizzled with Port Charlotte icing! There was food as well, so it was indeed a little party that we were happy to be a part of.
Starting the session with some history
A tasting session could not proceed without a bit of history to set the tone right, and Chloe did not disappoint as she waxed lyrical about Bruichladdich’s history. It was a somewhat stormy history, with struggles and closures that were all too real. Started in 1881, the Harvey brothers built Bruichladdich and resolved to run the distillery using state-of-the-art technology at that time. Spirits ran pure and floral from their stills, and Bruichladdich whisky proved that Islay could make unpeated whiskies.
Troubles soon befell the distillery. A fire broke out in 1934, and William Harvey passed away in 1936. With William gone, the distillery fell into the hands of various entities before getting mothballed in 1994 by Jim Beam.
The distillery saw new hope when Englishmen Mark Reyneir and Simon Coughlin sought to buy the distillery in 2000. Chloe shared an intriguing story in which Mark and Simon were told to “scramp off” by the men who were taking care of the distillery when they tried to gain access to Bruichladdich to take a look. Mark and Simon persisted and finally managed to buy the distillery with 8,000 maturing casks for £6m. 50 investors were involved in the purchase.
A New Hope
With Mark and Simon on the helm, Bruichladdich took a turn for the better. In 2001, the duo decided that they will use purely Scottish barley for their distillation. The most significant achievement, however, was the decision to mature all their whiskies within the distillery’s compound!
Things ran smoothly until 2011 when the distillery fell into a financial crunch. The traditional methods of distillation and storage of the casks within the distillery had drained the finances. Mark and Simon struggled to pay the passionate workers and resolved to bring in more funds for the distillery.
Saviour in the form of Remy Cointreau
Remy Cointreau came in with the funds of £58.5m in 2012 and saved the distillery from getting mothballed. With the money, Bruichladdich could once again function with maximum capacity and even increased their production output from 750,000 litres to 1,200,000 – 1,500,000 litres from 2013 to 2017.
Remy left the running of the distillery to the knowledgeable men and women on Islay and provided the support whenever needed. With a team of dedicated whisky makers and a management that is willing to support them, the distillery is scaling for greater heights in the coming years. In fact, Bruichladdich is looking into a possibility of starting their own malting facility in future!
The Whisky of the Night
With the intriguing history behind us, Chloe took us through the flights of the three whiskies in front of us. First up was the Bruichladdich 1990/25 years old, followed by the Black Art 4.1 and finally the Black Art 5.1.
Bruichladdich 1990/25 years old
The Bruichladdich 1990/25 years old has a unique history that spans three generations of master distillers. Adam Hannett created the expression using casks brought in 2001. There were two paths to this liquid.
– Refill American Bourbon cask, 17 years
– Fine French Claret, Bordeaux Grand Cru Cask, five years
– Spanish Sherry, Pedro Ximenez from Fernando de Castilla, four years
– Refill Spanish Sherry butt, 18 years
– Spanish Sherry, Oloroso from Fernando de Castilla, seven years
Adam then married the casks together to create the Bruichladdich 1990/25 years old.
Tasting notes of Bruichladdich 1990/25 years old
The dark amber of this expression promises a sherry bomb and makes us fall in love with this sherried whisky even before we tried it. The nose is fragrant with dark fruits and chocolate. Raisins, sultanas, dates and apricots float together with hints of vanilla. The palate follows with chocolate cream, raisins and dates. Layered underneath is a soft and light fruitiness that comes from the spirit. The smooth and oily mouthfeel makes this whisky elegant and very palatable. The finish is long with sweet sherry and chocolate. The mouthfeel gets drier towards the end.
Black Art 4.1
The Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 is Jim McEwan’s last release of the Black Art before retiring. There is a story behind the Dark Arts..ahem, I mean Black Art. Back in the days when Adam was learning the craft from Jim, he asked Jim what was in some of the casks that were brought in from the outside after smelling an other-worldly perfume in the warehouse. Jim smiled and said, “Ah, well, that’s a secret never to be divulged…that’s where the magic lies.” Adam paused and then replied, “Jim, this isn’t distilling that you do, it’s alchemy – the dark arts…”
And that, my dear readers, was how the Black Art was born. Jim created the first Black Art in 2009. Black Art 2.1 in 2011, 3.1 in 2012, and Black Art 4.1 in 2013.
Nobody except the master distiller knows what went into the Black Arts – and they keep the secret forever. Even Mark and Simon are not let in on the secret. The bottle was blackened, and coated with mystical signs. It is a success because the Black Arts are so different from the other Bruichladdich series.
Tasting Notes of Black Art 4.1
Black Art 4.1 is another 1990 vintage with the liquids spending at least 23 years old in their respective casks. Bottled at the natural strength of 49.2% abv, it is a non-chill filtered and colouring free whisky.
The nose is fragrant and robust. Raisins, sultanas, red wine float gently together. A pleasant, warm spice tingles in the background. The palate is oily and soft, with a slight tingle of spice on the lips. Sweet caramel, raisins and cream coats the palate beautifully. The finish is long, sweet and a little dry.
Black Art 5.1
The Black Art 5.1 is Adam’s very first Black Art creation. It causes him many sleepless nights, constant worry and self-doubt. However, his belief in his teacher and mentor, Jim, and his knowledge gleaned from his long years of learning the craft, spurred him forward to create Black Art 5.1.
When Jim gave Adam his recipe for the Black Art 5.1, Adam dutifully took and ignored it. Adam wanted to repay his mentor and friend by creating a Black Art that is worthy of the knowledge that he learned from the legendary master distiller. His immersed respect for Jim demands for nothing short of that.
His hard work paid off, and the Black Art 5.1 is a hit with many fans in the world. The elegant and soft expression won the hearts of many, and it was indeed, a tribute paid to both Adam and Jim.
Tasting Notes of Black Art 5.1
The amber colour of 5.1 reminds us fondly of the 4.1. The nose is full of sweet fruits – mango, pineapples and apricots – and warm spice tingles the nose with some spike. It is, however, light and elegant with no unpleasant bite. The palate is consistent with the fruitiness and yet coupled with oak influences of vanilla, honey and soft cinnamon spice. The finish is long and fruity.
The tasting session ended soon after the Black Art 5.1, but the party was not over yet. With Port Charlotte cakes and jolly laughter, the party continued with Chloe chatting with various participants. We also stole Chloe’s time for a short chat, and I took the chance to get a picture with her too!
It was an enjoyable session, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Oh, and we got ourselves a fantastic Bruichladdich polo tee each!! It was reasonably priced at $25, so we just grabbed it while it last! The next WhiskyLive is going to have a lot of Bruichladdich “ambassadors” wannabes walking around for sure! Hahaha…
Stay tuned as there will be more coming in February!