Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley, 50% ABV, NCF, NC, 250 Shekels in Israel
This is the new standard expression from Bruichladdich, now 100% under the reigns of Master Distiller, the young Adam Hannett. We are all expecting great things from him, having been trained by the master of master distillers himself, Jim McEwan.
So, this expression is what they call a “Multi Vintage” which is just a fancy way of saying that the single malt is made up of a number of casks from different sources, containing spirit having been matured for varying amounts of years. What all the casks have in common though is that the spirit has all been triple distilled. Triple Distillation is quite common in Ireland but in Scotland, only Auchentoshan, just north of Glasgow, and Springbank in the Campbeltown region, triple distil on a regular basis. Benromach have recently come out with a triple distilled expression but again, this is a one off. So it is interesting that Adam Hannett should dafka choose for his brand’s standard expression, a triple distilled single malt whisky.
Triple distilling creates a more refined, cleaner and purer spirit. In theory, this produces a lighter and more delicate spirit whisky similar to having very tall stills or an inclined lyne arm which will produce more reflux (when the spirit runs back into the still to be re-boiled and vaporised again).
I think most distilleries choose not to triple distil because the sprit created is too refined and pure! Some say it is similar to chill-filtering in the sense that it removes a lot of the natural barley oils and reduces the malted barley flavour influences as well as body and weight to the whisky. To me, that doesn’t sound like a good thing!
Technically, being a “multi vintage” expression and neglecting to state the age of the youngest cask used in the vatting on the bottle, this is officially a No Age Statement of NAS whisky. However, if you go to the Bruichladdich site and type in your 5-digit Product code, printed on the side of the bottle, you will come to a page where they will list every single cask, cask type, how long the spirit had matured in that cask, what had previously matured in the cask and how many times each cask had been used to mature spirit before! So why not state this on the bottle or include a brochure inside the can with all these details? Because Bruichladdich don’t want to get into the same trouble Compass Box did when they stated this detail. The big whisky companies took them to court!
See my previous articles on this topic:
So, on my bottle the product code looks like this:
By the way, if you hadn’t realised, “17/208” means Year 2017, Day 208.
Googling “208th day in 2017” you get the result: 27/28th July 2017
The Date below actually says bottled “2017 07 28”.
If you watch the official Bruichladdich distillery YouTube video it is titled “The Classic Laddie -Scottish Barley”, yet they show bottles of whisky labelled “The Scottish Barley”
After watching other reviews of this whisky, I have noticed an awful lot of confusion amongst whisky reviewers both in blogs and on YouTube as to exactly what the name of the expression actually is, which they are reviewing.
So, for clarity sake, I will try and clear up the confusion.
There is a Travel Retail expression called “The Organic Scottish Barley” which comes in an almost identical packaging to this one. I reviewed this whisky here:
There was also a limited Edition which they released called “The Laddie Classic 01”, (notice that the “Classic” and “Laddie” have been swapped round). This was bottled at 46% abv back in 2009 and intended to showcase the classic 'Laddie style’. This also comes in an almost identical bottle and can.
When the expression which we are reviewing here, first came out (with Jim McEwan listed as the Master Distiller), it was titled “The Scottish Barley” in large characters and underneath in tiny letters – “Classic Laddie”.
This latest packaging is printed with “The Classic Laddie” in large characters and underneath in tiny letters – “Scottish Barley”. However, if I am not mistaken, both bottles are actually the same expression, but now rebranded with Adam Hannett listed as the Master Distiller.
The Ocean Blue colour of this medicine style bottle certainly stands out on the shelf. You can recognise a Bruichladdich from 20 metres away or more. Overall, packaging is very stylish and I appreciate that plastic disc they put inside at the bottom of the tin to stop the bottle rattling about. Nice touch! However, I have the same criticism as the Octomore packaging. These totally opaque bottles mean you cannot see how much whisky is in the bottle, even if you hold the bottle up to the light! It’s like buying a million Pound sports car only to find out it has no Fuel gauge in the dash board. When politely enquiring, they condescendingly inform you that “when it runs out, it runs out!”
Opening the Bottle and finding manufacturing faults
Upon opening the bottle, I immediately noticed that there was a problem with the cork. It does happen occasionally. There was black muck around the inside rim of the bottle neck and the cork had holes in it. Upon closer inspection of the cork, bits of cork were crumbling off it. Squeezing the cork, it felt very spongy and dripping with whisky. It was a good thing I save the whisky corks of empty bottles because I happened to have an exact match from an old bottle of the organic Scottish Barley. I wrote to Bruichladdich just to inform them for Quality Control purposes but don’t expect a reply until after their holiday season.
When writing such emails, it is a good idea to be as precise as possible as to what the problem is, state the Expression name, the production code (found usually near the bottom of the bottle), and even better, include photos of the bottle, product code and the actual fault.
I once had A “The Glenlivet Nadurra 16” where the cork tour right off in my hand! The strangest thing I ever came across though was once, I bought a Scapa 14 whose box was printed upside down. This was a little dangerous as when I picked it up, the bottle almost fell out and smashed on the ground.
From my experience, they are very appreciative to receive such emails as it helps find quality control problems in the production process. However, don’t expect a credit voucher or a free glass, let alone a free bottle. They have never offered me anything!
In general, if the whisky is bad, take it straight back to the shop where you bought it. It is their responsibility to replace it.
So, was my whisky spoilt?
I don’t think it has impacted negatively on the whisky. On the contrary. Unlike the Organic which was very feisty, sharp with a lot of spirit heat burn, this Classic Laddie wasn’t at all. I wonder if this is its normal character or whether slight air leakage from the cork has actually improved it?
An absolutely gorgeous rich Oaky Chardonnay colour and texture. Being natural colour, it tells you something and that is that they have used high quality casks and almost all of them have been American Ex-Bourbon. (This was confirmed from the online data sheet mentioned above). Swirling the liquid around the glass brings thick streaks of alcohol legs. Frankly, I would not expect anything less from a Bruichladdich!
On the nose:
Sweet honey and Travel Barley sugar drops sweets. Light floral scents of Lilies and juniper berries. Sea salt crystals encrusted rocks. Vanilla creams biscuits. Citrus Acid and juicy Grapefruit juice.
Some reviewers talk about smoky aromas. I am sorry but I could not detect any hint of smoke whatsoever. I have no idea where they get this from. Smoky aromas can come from three possible sources. Either peated malted barley in the spirit, Charred Oak casks or peaty flavours coming from the previous contents of the cask. Each has its own character and with experience it is not difficult to tell them apart. However, in my opinion, this whisky has neither type.
In the mouth
Sweet and waxy (rather than oily) honey mouth fill. Lacking the weight of the Laddie Sixteen or Octomore 7.1 but having a delicate much substantial body.
Adding water and sipping again you get subtle hint of burnt brown sugar. Light coconut oily. There is not much alcohol heat. Unlike the Travel Retail version… It immediately reminds me of a light Gewürztraminer white wine. (Actually, Gewürztraminer is a red or Rose-coloured grape but without skins, it makes a white wine).
As the liquid goes down the throat, things start to get a get weird and confusing. This is young yet well managed whisky with a lot oaky sweetness which you would get from whisky 15 years or older. Where is this coming from? Dominant taste of fresh lychees and glazed coconut, Lychee wine (I’ve never had this but I can imagine what it might taste like). Throughout the whole experience there is a constant sea salt crystals coastal flavour in the background giving it an outdoor clean texture. At the end, musky sweet wood cocktail cabinets and aniseed balls (which some would say is a slight off note).
Finish is delicate bitter dark Chocolate with a liquid Orange liquor centre, salty beigela sticks with sesame, wood spices and juniper berries.
As I said, there is a lot of wood influence present yet it is at the same time, quite frisky and young spirit like, although always very well behaved. You can really see the influence of the old casks vatted with the new ones. All very consistent with the fact that this is a multi-vatting or as they say, a “multi-vintage”.
The question is, is this expression worthy of the name “Classic Laddie”? How does it compare with the most popular and most beloved of all Laddies, “The Laddie Ten”?
Everyone talks of the best “classic” (with a small C) Laddie being the 10. I have always found the Ten a bit under-matured and tasting too much of new make spirit. For me, it has always been the Laddie Sixteen which has summed up the very best of classic Bruichladdich. A perfect harmony of matured vanilla oak and spices, honey and biscuit sweetness, lemon creams, grapefruit and salty spices. The Sixteen was my favourite Bruichladdich, alas, just like its older sister, the 22-Years, is sadly almost gone from even the most specialist whisky shop shelves.
I am enjoying drinking this Classic Laddie/Laddie Classic/Scottish Barley or whatever it’s being called at this precise moment but am not entirely convinced by the marketing blurb about this whisky being a “MultiVintage”! It still tastes a bit schizophrenic to me.
Warning! This is not a beginner’s whisky. Bruichladdich describe this whisky as “clean”. I know what they mean and this clean character very much appeals to me. However, those who are unfamiliar with the classic Bruichladdich style will not be impressed with this. They will politely leave it the glass and look for something a bit more substantial. When I gave it to a friend who likes whisky but hasn’t got much experience, he wasn’t impressed. It was too light and lacking flavour for him with that aniseed balls off note. He wanted something where the taste was up front, fruity, toffee caramel and bold.
Despite my reservations, I did go and buy another bottle and for the following reasons: It’s wonderful to see Bruichladdich finally in Israel and I want to give that decision my support in terms of sales. I also want to have another bottle to hand as I suspect this fist bottle will be drained of its content very soon! I’d call it “The Light Laddie” but not really in my opinion, classic Laddie. It is a Bruichladdich though, through and through.