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Bruichladdich Media Launch – Octomore Series 8

Octomore 8 Masterclass

 

Bruichladdich held a media tasting for the upcoming Octomore 8 Series launch at The Writing Club on 1 February 2018. Chloe Wood, the Asia-Pacific Brand Ambassador, was the presenter for the session. Bruichladdich invited me to represent WhiskyGeeks, and I cannot express my gleefulness to have the chance to drink the Octomore Series 8 again!

I arrived early, and our Bruichladdich host treated me to a generous pour of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley! The Bruichladdich team is top-notched in their hospitality, as always! As we waited for the rest of the media to arrive, I chatted with the team, took pictures and enjoyed my dram!

The Tasting Session in Action

A beautiful line-up of the Octomore 8 Masterclass Series

 

Chloe started the ball rolling shortly after 2.30pm when everyone had arrived. She warned me that the presentation was largely similar to what she did for the previous Bruichladdich tasting event, but I still found the presentation enjoyable. I also managed to pick up information about Bruichladdich which I missed out the last time.

Chloe waxing lyrical about Bruichladdich

One of the juicy bits of information which I had left untouched in my previous article was the barley malting process. A malting house at Inverness malts all of Bruichladdich’s barley. They have a dedicated area cornered off just for Bruichladdich and malted the barley with a commitment that is distinctly Bruichladdich! The facility even added the peat to Port Charlotte and Octomore malting manually to control the ppm of the barley.

Another interesting fact is the quality casks that Bruichladdich uses for all their maturing whiskies. Chloe mentioned that they are not cheap to come by and that is part of the reason why the distillery needs a lot of funds to maintain production. Of course, I missed out entirely on Octomore Farm where it grows the Octomore barley for some of the expressions as well as the water source. Bruichladdich draws water from a spring on Islay itself. The distillery used this water source for distilling and watering down of the whisky (when needed).

Octomore 8 Masterclass

 

The Octomore 8 Masterclass is Bruichladdich’s Head distiller, Adam Hannett’s first set of Octomore. Crafted entirely by him, the Eights is the first series to be launched together. The Eights are all eight years old whiskies except for one, which you will understand why once we reveal the reason.

Before we dive straight into the Octomore 8 one by one, please allow us to show you a video of the Octomore Brand.

Octomore 8.1

Picture from Bruichladdich

The Octomore 8.1 is the forerunner in the Eight series. Distilled in 2008 using the 2007 barley harvest, the distillery peated it at 167ppm. 100% matured in first fill ex-bourbon American oak casks for its full term, this eight years old stayed on Islay all its life before getting bottled at 59.3%. The distillery released 42,000 bottles globally.

On the nose, I found sweet, floral, gentle peat. There are hints of pineapples and pears. The palate is oily with warm spice (black pepper), vanilla cream and fruity sweetness! The finish is long with vanilla lingering to the end. With water, the peat appears stronger on the nose and pushes the sweetness to the background. Nonetheless, the palate remains, with vanilla cream and sweet fruits leading the way. The water shortens the finish slightly, but the vanilla stays.

Octomore 8.2

Picture from Bruichladdich

Octomore 8.2 is an interesting one. Intended for the Global Travel Retail, this bottle is the hardest to come by unless you travel during the release period. Distilled in 2008 from the 2007 barley harvest, the distillery peated it at 167ppm as well. Adam vatted six years old liquids from second-fill ex-Sauternes casks, French Mourvedres and Austrian sweet wine casks before putting the vatted liquid into first-filled Italian ex-Amarone casks for two more years. This eight years old expression also stayed on Islay on its life before getting bottled it at 58.4% abv. The distillery released 36,000 bottles globally.

On the nose, I get sweet candy, red wine, dates and cinnamon spice. The rich, robust whisky is oily on the palate that is reminiscent of sweet dessert wine and cinnamon. The mixture is pleasantly exotic and balanced. The finish is long and spicy. The Octomore 8.2 eludes all the sweetness from the wine casks and is fantastic to drink.

Octomore 8.3

Picture from Bruichladdich

Octomore 8.3 is the monster baby of the lot. It is a tribute to Islay and uses only barley from the Octomore Farm’s 2010 harvest. It was a bad harvest that year, and Octomore Farm’s owner, James Brown, faced heavy losses from it. However, the barley produced terrific results during the malting process! A staggering 309.1 ppm reading came back from the malting facility, making the new-make the heaviest-peated whisky in the world! Distilled in 2011, the expression boasts of one farm, one field and one vintage and showcases the barley influence. 56% of the liquid spent five years in ex-bourbon American casks, while the remaining 44% spent five years in ex-Pauillac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy European oak casks. The expression stayed five years on Islay before getting bottled at a whopping 61.2% abv! Due to the small barley harvest, the distillery released only 18,000 bottles globally.

The nose is full of aromatic peat, lemon citrus zest, sweet wine, pears and apples. The palate is oily with full lemony citrus and sweet fruits before the smoke comes in beautifully. The finish is long with light smoke and sea salt towards the end. What an epic dram for sure!

Octomore 8.4

Picture from Bruichladdich

The last bottle of the Eight series is nothing short of amazing. It is the Gamechanger. Distilled in 2009 from the 2008 harvest, the distillery peated it at 170ppm. 20% of the liquid comes from liquid matured in first fill virgin oak casks with medium toast for eight years. The remaining 80% aged in first fill American casks for eight years before getting a finish in second fill virgin oak casks from Tonnellerie Radoux cooperage in France. If you are wondering what is the second fill virgin oak cask, it just means that the distillery used the virgin oak casks for the second time. Virgin oak casks are not easy to come by, and the price is hefty as well! The expression matured fully on Islay before getting bottled at 58.7% abv. The distillery released only 12,000 bottles globally.

On the nose, I get the oak influence immediately. There is an oakiness to the liquid, coupled with a citrus, fruity sweetness and a hint of smoke. The palate is oaky and dry, with sweet pear, apples and some pleasant spice. Hints of smoke linger in the background without overshadowing the sweetness. The finish is long, sweet and peaty!

Sweet Ending to the Tasting Session

Cheese from The Cheese Ark

 

Handmade Chocolates from DemoChoc

Chloe ended her presentation after introducing Octomore 8.4 but it was not the end of the session. No, the Bruichladdich team bought cheese from The Cheese Ark and chocolate from Demochoc to share! We get to eat tasty cheese and pair it with our Octomore, as well as satisfy our sweet tooth with hand-made chocolates!

Further Details of the Launch

Fans of Octomore are waiting anxiously for the series to launch in Singapore, but unfortunately, we still do not have the launch date yet. It is rumoured to be launched sometime in April but it is not firmed up, and the launch can happen earlier! Rest assured that we will keep everyone updated once we know the launch date!

In the meanwhile, prepare yourself for the mad rush when the series launches! It is going to be massive fun! Stay tuned for more folks!

 

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Bruichladdich Black Art Series Tasting Event

Picture Credits: Bruichladdich

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

Attentive participants listening to Chloe

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.

Bruichladdich Distillery in 1881 (Picture Credits: Bruichladdich)

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!

Bruichladdich Distillery (Picture Credits: Bruichladdich)

 

Maturing casks at Bruichladdich Distillery (Picture Credits: Bruichladdich)

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

From left: Bruichladdich 1990, Black Art 4.1, Black Art 5.1

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

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.

First Path:
– 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

Second Path:
– 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

Bruichladdich 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

Bruichladdich 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.

After-hours Chat

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…

If you want to know more about Bruichladdich and their ranges of whiskies, click here and here to find out more!

Stay tuned as there will be more coming in February!

 

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Chloe Wood – Bruichladdich’s Brand Ambassador

Chloe with her bottle of Laddie Valinch 28

Chloe Wood – the new brand ambassador from Bruichladdich, made waves in Singapore even before she arrived when news of her joining the Singapore team was released officially sometime last year. The community is excited to meet a young lady who has so much knowledge about the brand and who grows up in Islay. Everyone knew that Chloe has much to share with us about Bruichladdich and what they do.

Fast forward to WhiskyLive Singapore 2017 in November last year – Chloe was there to lead the Masterclass for Octomore. We were there as well and got to know Chloe very quickly. Her friendly manners got all of us high and jolly (well, the Octomores played a part too) and we had a wonderful time with her.  We also learnt so much about Octomores from Chloe!

We invited Chloe for an interview with WhiskyGeeks and finally got a chance to sit down with her sometime in mid-December at her office for a chat.

Introducing Chloe Wood

Chloe at Islay (Picture Credits)

For a start, allow us to introduce Chloe Wood. She is Islay-born, and have grown up in Islay for much of her life. Chloe is into sports, and is a qualified coach in hockey, rugby, football, badminton and swimming! She was also a certified lifeguard before working with Bruichladdich. As a child, Chloe was not introduced to the whisky scene and never had much connection with whisky. However, she knows that whisky is part of life in Islay and as she grew up, her interests grew as well. As Chloe wasn’t keen to attend university, she escaped with a diploma and headed straight for work. When the job came up at Bruichladdich “Laddie Shop”, she jumped at the chance to join the big family.

The Laddie Shop opened the world of whisky to Chloe. Her daily interaction with customers, her co-workers and the occasional chat with whisky legend, Jim McEwan, all gave her knowledge and grew her passion for whisky. Chloe did not look back since, and she is now four years with the company with much to give back.

The Wood Family

As an only child, Chloe is close with her cousins, who also works with Bruichladdich. Her family is deeply involved with Islay and Bruichladdich to be sure. Her grandfather owns Octofad Farm, which is part of the Bruichladdich family too. Her dad, Andrew Wood, who is in the construction business, built grain sheds on the farm in 2008/2009 to hold and dry the barley that the farmers are producing for Bruichladdich, and now, the operation has grown. Octofad Farm dried all the Islay barley used in the distillation at Bruichladdich. “30 tonnes of barley takes 12 hours to dry”, Chloe said.

Chloe’s mum, on the other hand, runs a B&B on Islay. There are always Bruichladdich fans staying at the B&B, so the Wood family is consistently in touch with whisky and Bruichladdich.

Working with Bruichladdich as a host in the Academy

Chloe worked for The Laddie Shop for about a year and a half before she transferred to a role in the Academy. As a host in the Academy, she led educational tours for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Her vast knowledge in the brands came largely from her role as an educator. In the Academy, the host led highly-detailed tours for three tracks – Bruichladdich, Botanist and Remy Cointreau’s brands. As the educator for the Bruichladdich track, Chloe shared that the tours included visits to the barley fields and water source, an experience to cut peat and of course the distillery tour with a chance to taste whisky from the warehouses. It ended with a tasting session of the Bruichladdich’s core range of whiskies. The whole event takes place over two days.

Unfortunately, it is only for staff, distributors and wholesalers. Visitors to the distillery can politely request to see the water source, but it is up to the distillery’s discretion to bring the visitors. If the weather is foul, it is likely not possible to hike to the water source.

Bruichladdich Cask Sales

Up until 2011, Bruichladdich sells casks to its fans and help them to store the whisky in their warehouse for a fee. There were over 4000 cask owners by the time the cask sales stopped. In 2001, each cask cost about £400 and the price increased to £1000 by 2011. The cost to store the whisky was growing, and Bruichladdich was finding it more difficult to upkeep the sales portion as there are just too many cask owners. Therefore, they stopped the programme in 2011.

Funny Stories from Chloe’s days as an International Tour Guide

Chloe worked as an international tour guide for Bruichladdich as well and hosted overseas visitors for distillery tours. One of the funniest stories that she remembered was the one time where she brought a group of huge, Swedish men around the warehouse, and she made the mistake of saying, “Well, if you can lift any of the casks in the warehouse, it is yours to bring home!” She was confident in her knowledge that the hogsheads and barrels in the warehouse were too heavy for a single man to lift. Unfortunately, one of the Swedish men found a small cask hiding in between the big guys. The small barrel is only 35 litres, and he lifted it easily! “I am bringing this home, Chloe!” Hollered the man jokingly.

Chloe was so stunned that she did not know what to do for a moment. Thankfully, the men did not get rowdy and put the cask down quite willingly after she promised to give them an extra dram during the tasting session. What an adventure!

A typical day as a Brand Ambassador

For those of us who think that brand ambassadors have a fantastic job, think again. We ask Chloe what her day usually is like and the schedule is quite a hectic one!

In the day, she has meetings with the marketing manager, training with bartenders or staff, designing her presentation and arranging the tasting sessions for her training. On top of that, she has to do supply planning for her travels as well as writing tasting notes and stories for the people she meets during her travels.

In the evening, she attends meetings with bartenders and bar managers as well as with other brand ambassadors who might be visiting. Sometimes, she needs to host or speak at events too. Besides all these, Chloe travels a lot. Spending six to seven months of the year on the road can be tiring.

Do you still want to be a Brand Ambassador?

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

The Laddie Valinch 28 Chloe Wood

We asked Chloe about the Laddie Valinch 28 which was a special bottle for her. It got her name on it! The Valinch is a series of bottling by Bruichladdich to honour all the employees of the company. It can be a Laddie, or a Port Charlotte and each bottle is a single cask from the distillery. Currently, the Valinch series is at no. 31.

The Laddie Valinch 28 is a Sauternes cask (#780) with an outturn of 444 bottles. It is a 12 years old with an abv of 48.8%. We got the honour of tasting it straight from a new bottle that day. Man, it was fantastic! The nose is full of fresh honey, pears and green apple, a little grassy and light spice in the background. The palate is sweet like a white wine with an oily mouthfeel. Lemon mixed with the pears and green apples to form a tropical feel. Pleasant spice tickled the tongue for a warm feeling. The finish is long with lemony notes and a tingle of spice. It gets a little dry towards the end, just like an excellent white wine. The influence of the Sauternes cask was evident but nothing that overwhelms the character of the spirit. What an impressive dram!

Chloe’s Favourite Whisky

We asked if the Laddie Valinch 28 is Chloe’s favourite whisky, to which she said, “Oh! No, not really. I remembered that my first taste of whisky when I started work at Bruichladdich was an Octomore 12 years old. I fell in love with it immediately! It was 9 am in the morning, and Jim told me that he wanted me to try something special. That was my favourite!”

Besides that unattainable whisky, Chloe loves the Octomore 8.3 and the Bruichladdich Islay Barley bottlings! Those are her favourite for now. Are those your favourite too?

The Future for Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich has a bright future and one which we would like to be a part of. Besides her busy schedule, Chloe wants to expand the brand in the Asia and South East Asia region. She hopes to bring both Bruichladdich and Islay to the people here so that more people can experience the progressive innovation that is so prevalent in Bruichladdich. Chloe even wants to learn Mandarin so that she can communicate easily with Bruichladdich fans from China and Taiwan!

Besides that, education is also a priority in Chloe’s list of “must-do”. She wants to show people what whisky is all about, tell stories about the different brands and to bring Islay to everyone whom she meets! It is a pleasure to talk about her home and to invite people to visit Islay and Scotland.

What to look out for in Islay?

Besides all our talk about whisky, we also took the chance to ask Chloe what we should look out for when international visitors go to Islay. Her reply? “Check out the beautiful beaches, farmland, wildlife and sanctuaries. Eat fresh seafood, drink all the whisky and don’t drive if you are visiting distilleries. Oh, and don’t book tours too close to each other. The journey from one distillery to another can take you longer than expected! Lastly, watch out for wifi problem! It is an island after all!”

Advice for youths

Before we left, we asked Chloe if she has any advice for youths. Her biggest answer was TRAVEL! Travelling was indeed what she did as a youth and she shared that there is much to learn when you travel. You get to learn about yourself and others; see the world and know what you like. These experiences helped when you start working. We have to agree with that!

We wish Chloe all the best in her exciting journey for 2018, and we hope to see her again soon!