Founded in 1881 it was a state-of-the-art distillery funded by the Harvey whisky dynasty family with uniquely tall stills. Before the distillery was finished, the brothers fell out and it was run by William Harvey until he died in 1936. After changing hands numerous times, it nearly closed in the early 1990s before being mothballed. In 2000 it was bought by a group of private investors, lead by Mark Reynier of independent bottlers Murray McDavid, and they recruited Bowmore's Jim McEwan to head up production. They renovated the distillery, but fortunately the distillery hadn't been modernised so still uses a lot of the original equiptment. There was one major change however, and that was a move to making unpeated whisky.
The island of Islay is renowned for it's smoky whiskies made with peated barley, but Bruichladdich's decision to be unpeated made it unique on the island. But they still had a lot of whisky left over from the previous distillations in the 1990's, and it was this whisky that I tried today. Sampling older whisky is always a treat, but rarely do you have two whiskies of the same age from the same distillery. Today I tried a pair of 21 year old malts - their 21 year old edition and their 'Black Art' version as well.
Matured in high quality Oloroso sherry barrels, this 21 year old whisky had bright honey aromas and some sherry sweetness coming through followed by spiced red apples and a bit of peach covered in cream. Then you have a soft, very well balanced palate with subtle smoke, spice and a bit of pepper coming through a delicious dry woody element. There is a little mint emerging near the finish with a very nice white pepper flavour and a touch of sweet tobacco. A gorgeous whisky. 90pts £90.00
Bruichladdich Black Art 21 Year Old (49.7%vol)
Being left with a lot of sub-standard single malt whisky when the distillery was bought at the beginning of this century, distiller Jim McEwan had a problem. What do you do with millions of pounds worth of rubbish? He decided to put the whisky into numerous casks to see what happened., and the end result was Black Art (rumoured to have been put into seven different casks). Beautifully coloured - almost Tawny Port - it had big sweet aromas of currant, raisin and a little bit of toffee coming off with just a little bit of struck match coming through - all in all a very nice nose. The palate was less enjoyable, there is a harshness initially, then some harsh alcohol with some very dry earthier elements. A bit of mint flavour on the finish, but with a lot of harsh charred wood and pepper on the finish. I wasn't so keen on this whisky. 80pts £90.00
There were some similar flavour profiles between the two whiskies, which wasn't surprising, but what amazed me was how much I liked one and didn't like the other. Having said that, it is great that a distillery has produced two vastly different malts at the same, advanced, age.