Mar 22, 2016

The world of scotch is crowded with homogenization. Companies throw away their heritage and adopt mechanized techniques, favoring machines over individuals to produce their product. Bruichladdich however is moving in an entirely different direction, keeping the spirit of traditional Scottish distillation alive.

A fan of both the product and the philosophy, Alan Maleh—founder of MAN of the WORLD—was honored to host a private tasting with recently appointed Head Distiller Adam Hannett. “This is a special company, doing something that feels more like a craft than mass production.”

The Bruichladdich distillery is located on Western Islay, a small island off the coast of mainland Scotland, known as home to some of world’s most famous whisky distilleries. Originally founded in 1881, Bruichladdich was conceived in order to provide flavor profiles for blended scotch and whisky, an influence that still holds true to this day.

The crisp Atlantic mist which engulfs the region provides the Bruichladdich casks a daily breathe of fresh air, adding a zesty citrus and often detectable briny note across the range. A staunch believer in the concept that ‘Terroir Matters’

Bruichladdich uses 100% organic Scottish or Islay grown barley… the only major whisky distiller to do so. Through this endless exploration of provenance, Bruichladdich pays respect to both ingredient and environment, constantly switching cask and mixture to create something special and something different, that’s rooted in the soil, the water and the people of Islay.

Rather than strive for consistency, Bruichladdich prides itself on irregularity. Bottles are unmarked, with no obvious age. Vintages are mixed, highlighting the best attributes of each varietal. Distillation relies on the senses, rather then a formula, creating product that can never be reproduced.

Bruichladdich’s consistent preference of maintaining a hands on approach and eschewing modern technology for tried-and-true production methods (to this day there are no computers at the distillery), has historically drawn the attention of a number of heavy-hitters in the whisky world, including distilling legend Jim McEwan, who was the appointed head distiller in 2001.

Jim helped develop 3 product styles unpeated (Bruichladdich) heavily peated (Port charlotte) and uber peat (Octomore). The namesake Bruichladdich is an entirely unpeated single malt, while Port Charlotte and Octomore are progressively more peated.

During his tenure, McEwan took notice of a certain employee, Mr. Adam Hannett. Born and raised on Islay, Hannett returned to his birthplace after university, to join the Bruichladdich team. While initially he had few responsibilities—he welcomed visitors to the factory—he quickly became enamored with the process of creating whisky. From barley to mash, to the warehouse itself, over the next 10-years Hannett immersed himself in all facets of distillation. Jim McEwan realized Mr. Hannett had a natural talent for assessing liquid, as well as an exceptional nose and palette, and began to mentor him in the black art of a blender. After McEwan’s retirement in 2015, the protégé took over as Head Distiller. Hannett’s first expression under his name is the newly released Octomore 7.4, a truly experimental and limited-edition run that is turning the world of traditional whisky on its head. He is extremely proud to have over-seen the entire development process of this exceptional single-malt whisky.

Out of the three lines Bruichladdich produces, Octomore is by far the most peated, reaching peat levels as high as 258 PPM—the highest in the world. Originally created in 2002, the whisky quickly developed a cult following due to its distinctly smoky allure. Encompassing Scottish and Islay Barley, the Octomore range has gone back and forth, highlighting the distinctive flavors and aromas of each species. While the first three renditions used exclusively American oak barrels, the most recent Octomores, have been more experimental, with the 7.3 aging in Spanish Oak and 7.4 utilizing French Virgin Oak, adding a new dimension to the later releases.  

Utilizing Virgin Oak barrels, a practice that is highly unusual for aging whisky, Octomore 7.4 is a mash-up between the smoke rich Octomore spirit and the honey and vanilla accents provided by the oak. Contrary to what one might expect, the virgin oak and powerful peating level of Octomore 7.4 imparts an unexpected smoothness. The resulting spirit, at 61.2% ABV, produces a rich and sumptuous mouth-feel. As the whisky opens, notes of coconut, caramel, clove, and orange blossom take over, finishing with honeysuckle and rose. It’s a definite Man of the World recommendation for any whisky drinker.

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