Bruichladdich have released their ‘Barley Exploration Series’ for 2019 recently (in August). As we all know, they really appreciate barley Terroir, and have been experimenting with all sorts of barley types, be it local barley from Islay, Scottish barley from other farmers on the mainland, as well as Bere Barley grown on Orkney.
You can love the laddie distillate, or hate it, but you have to give it to them- they have been doing some fine whisky geekery distillations in recent years, and some of the whiskies they have produced are superb.
I am going to take a look at all three barley exploration profiles released in this triple review post.
Bruichladdich Bere Barley 8 yo 2010 , 50% , £70
The first of which is the Bere Barley 2010 – this edition was distilled from Bere Barley, which used to be more popular in the day, but not currently as it’s a low-yield barley strain as opposed to more modern barley strains. Bere barley is one of the most interesting grains still cultivated in the modern day. The antecedents of Bere reach back to the dawn of Scottish agriculture, around 4,500 years ago. The Bere Barley used for this whisky was grown in four farms on Orkney ( Weyland & Watersfield, Richmond Villa, Quoyberstane and Northfield), and was aged entirely in ex-bourbon American oak casks.
Nose: Quite a lot of cereals on the first whiff, with a nice oaty note, and some fresh dough. The fruit comes immediately after with pear drops, apple peel and more orchard fruit (mainly peaches, and apricots), there’s also a light waxy note which I quite like. It’s also vegetal and creamy at times with vanilla, and is undoubtedly bruichladdich with this funk I can’t quite describe.
Palate: Sweet and creamy with vanilla and youthful notes of apples / pear , then some more of the orchard fruit (peach), lemon and also a nice woody note, with bitter sweet chocolate / cocoa combination , and some wood spice / tannins. Powerful palate indeed.
Finish : Apple , pear vanilla and wood spices, and quite a lot of freshly ground pepper, a nice interplay of sweet and bitter coffee grounds.
Score : 84/100
Bruichladdich The Organic 2010 ,50 % , £75
The organic barley for this single estate, single malt was grown on Mid Coul Farms in Inverness, Scotland. It takes its place in a seven-year rotation among organic cattle, sheep, oats, beans, grass, carrots and market gardening. Rejecting the use of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers, farmer William Rose instead embraces high-technology to bring his organic business into commercial viability in the 21st century. Matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for a minimum of eight aged years .
Nose: Big lemony notes, think lemon meringues, and key-lime pies, all this amidst a vanilla and barley sugars, and sweet pastries. There’s also a fruity side to it in the form of orchard fruit and quite some fruit (peach & apricots) and fresh bread dough, and hints of flower blossom.
Palate: Sweet and creamy with vanilla, chocolate bonbons, and a bitter-ish note of butter spread toasted bread, oak and a hint of salt.
Finish : lemon, salted and buttered pop-corn , coconut and wood.
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 7 yo 2011 , 50% , £55
The last (and not least) is of course the Islay Barley edition – Bruichladdich has encouraged 18 different farming partners to take on the challenge of growing malting barley on Islay. What started as an exploration of an Islay terroir has evolved into supporting a community whose industry has shifted from fishing and farming to distilling. the barley used for this whisky are grown a the Coull, Rockside, Island, Mulindry, Starchmill and Cruach farms on Islay. The whisky is then Matured in 75% ex-bourbon American oak casks and 25% ex-wine European oak casks.
Nose: This is really more robust and packs more of my favorite ‘laddie’ punch. for me it is much closer to the 10 year old (which is now not available), with a big footprint. Of course there’s the apple / pear / apricot combo with a hint of grapefruit and unripe melon, floral and grassy at times, and spicy as well with licorice / anise touches to it, a nit dirty (farmy if you wish to call it that) , very rustic, this is how Islay barley should feel.
Palate: Citrus fruit come at you from the first sip, mostly grapefruit (and some lemon zest), more of the licorice / Anise combo, and a dirty touch as well. Salted caramel, cereal, and oak with a hint of tobacco leaves, pepper and brine.
Finish : more tobacco, salt, oak tannin, grapefruit pith.
Conclusion : All three expressions are very well made, with the Islay Barley both being my favorite, and the cheapest of them all. At a mere 55 quid, this is really great VFM no matter how you look at it, and the whisky itself is quite excellent. Good stuff. Highly recommended. Reminds me again, why I like this distillery so much.