The Bruichladdich Distillery has been around since the 1880s, and it has been producing whisky pretty much since then. Originally founded by the Harvey brothers, it changed owners several times since. It’s currently owned by Rémy Cointreau.
The distillery has three different lines, so to speak. There’s Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore series. Bruichladdich features unpeated whiskies, including their standard Classic Laddie expression. Port Charlotte, named after the Islay town, is a series of heavily peated whiskies. The Octomore series are limited edition super-peated releases. Bruichladdich utilizes tall long-necked stills for distillation, resulting in a light and floral spirit.
Bruichladdich carries the theme of authenticity throughout all their releases. For starters, that means their whiskies are non-chill filtered and color free. Both of the standard whiskies below are bottled at 50% abv.
Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie
This unpeated offering is the distillery’s flagship bottling. The whisky is made from 100% Scottish barley and aged entirely on Islay. See, a lot of distilleries age a large percentage of their stock on the Scottish mainland. The only other “standard” unpeated Islay whisky I know of is Bunnahabhain. Their’s does retain a slight salty note reminiscent of maturation near the Atlantic.
How is it? On the nose, there’s a rich honeyed malt. A little alcohol vapor aside, The Classic Laddie offers a touch of citrus (think crisp lemon rind) and some vanilla. Tasting this neat, the higher proof comes into play. It’s not “smooth” and reminds me I’m drinking whisky. There are big honey, light toffee and malt notes right off the bat, along with lemongrass and a floral note. That honeyed malt note carries over into the long finish.
While not overly complex, The Classic Laddie offers a full-flavored whisky that retains a crispness and lightness. I didn’t get any saltiness or maritime notes. Instead, this expression lets the malt shine, and that’s not a bad thing.
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Onto the peated stuff. Port Charlotte (PC) is distilled at the Bruichladdich distillery and matured a couple of miles away at old aging warehouses in Port Charlotte. According to the bottle, PC carries peat levels of 40PPM, or 40 phenol parts per million. A lot of other peated whiskies are usually at or below 25PPM. This expression is another member of the company’s core lineup.
As soon as I uncorked the bottle, I knew I was in for a phenolic treat. The nose is full of antiseptic spray, vanilla, honey and a slight earthy note. It’s not as heavy a hit of peat as Laphroaig 10 year. Here, the peat is a bit lighter but still full of character. I hope I’m making sense here. Taste-wise, there’s a nice combination of sweet and peat. Toffee, bandages, citrus and floral notes dominate. There’s a touch of smoke, but I wouldn’t refer to the whisky as “smoky.” I get the peatiness first and foremost. The smoke is just a minor role in a large cast of characters. In the background, some tropical fruit can be found as well. Some maltiness pops up heading into the long finish. Soon after that peaty “bandaid” taste pops up.
It’s nice to encounter a peated whisky that retains a lightness. Don’t get me wrong, I love whiskies like Laphroaig and Ardbeg, but they are heavy and smoky. Port Charlotte is different. It manages to keep the light and floral qualities of it’s non-peated Bruichladdich Classic Laddie. Very well done.