Nov 252020

Funny how chance sometimes leads you to pour part of a mini some friends made sure you’d get to taste, and as you nose it you take note of the fact that the 56th distillation anniversary is just a couple of days away (and is today!)….

This is one of those drams that will actually put you in the camp of those who believe that older was better, which echos Neil Ridley’s article in the 2021 Malt Whisky Yearbook which I reviewed the other week (see that review here). That, however, would be a mistake. The reason for that is that Gordon and MacPhail are an exception in the independent bottling world as they procure their own casks. Their filling contracts have them bringing the casks to the distillery to have them filled, rather than purchasing the distillery’s casks. That means that wood management was front and center for G&M at a time when the industry’s focus was squarely on filling the American’s market almost unending demand for whisky (until it did end about a decade and a half later, plunging the industry into the whisky loch of the 1980s) and not on the quality of the liquid. This whisky is gorgeous not because it’s a 1964 Bruichladdich, but because it’s a Gordon and MacPhail 1964.

The casks are different than the 1950s sherry casks in that they’re lacking the smoky waxiness so prevalent in the earlier G&M casks, which might be either because the casks were, indeed, different or because not all three casks vatted for this expression were all the same, although being three consecutive casks, that is unlikely. Note that the label gives only the first three digits of the last cask (stating 367 instead of 3672).

Photo Credit:

Gordon and MacPhail Bruichladdich 1964, 29 Years Old, Casks 3670, 3671, 3672, Distilled November 25, 1964, Bottled October 1993 (50.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep bronze, very slow and thin legs peeling off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Gentle oak, with a very Woody Sherry and a hint a vanilla custard. Dried fruit (namely apricot leather and dried apricots), wood spices with dusty cinnamon, clove and nutmeg and a very light whiff of smoke.

Pallet: rich and spicy with a hit of black pepper and cinnamon followed by a wash of sweetness more of a fruity kind than of honey, with the dried fruit playing their part and some red fruit. At the end of the tasting, you get the bitterness of the wood.

Linger: dry with spice and fruit a little more of the red fruit than in the nose with some spice down the gullet. The tannins keep the inside of your cheeks tingling for a long time, with the slightest hint of smoke lingering.


This is a fabulous example of the older style of whisky curated in good wood. Much of the old Bruichladdich whisky was placed in very mediocre wood by the previous owners, some of which was salvaged through finishing, but none of the whisky was as glorious as this one.

This would be a textbook example of “old whisky”, that’s not quite as extreme as the Gordon and MacPhail 1950s sherry casks that had the smoked waxiness to them.

Thanks to three special people whose generosity made tasting this gem possible!

Sep 222018

This Elements of Islay Port Charlotte is your quintessential Islay dram, made not by your most classic Islay distillery.

Bruichladdich is the quirky Islay distillery. From the Victorian equipment to the funky lacticity (that’s usually covered over in the peated expressions), from the numerous wine casks to Ugly Betty’s gin, things are just done differently on the western shores of Lochindaal.

Picture of the village of Bruichladdich, seen across Loch Indaal, a sea loch on Islay

Bruichladdich, seen across Loch Indaal. Photo Credit:

This is a dram for one of those days you just want a hit of peat. It isn’t overly complex, nor is it too simple. Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich’s “heavily peated”, and here’s Adam Hannett on the making of Port Charlotte:



Port Charlotte, Elements of Islay Pl5

Photo Credit: Elixir Distillers

Elements of Islay Pl5 – Port Charlotte 2009, One Refill Bourbon Cask and One First Fill Bourbon Cask, 582 Bottles (63.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, quick legs with a lot of residue.

Nose: Peat and brine (like from a can of pickles), with a thick honey sweetness.  Lightly spiced with black and white pepper, and a touch of allspice. The nose has a lovely dryness to it, with some floral notes in the background. With time in the glass, it gets more floral.

Palate: Thick and sweet, switching to a hit of peat, ash and pepper. There’s some yellow plum on the palate too.

Linger: Big burnt notes, with tar and peat, pepper on the tongue and dryness on the inside of the cheeks. The gullet is ringed with spice, but it’s rather gentle. The dram is quite warming.


Clear, concise and very Islay-esque….

Dramfool Port Charlotte 2001, 15 Years Old (58.3)

 Bruichladdich, Independent Bottling, Scotch Single Malt  Comments Off on Dramfool Port Charlotte 2001, 15 Years Old (58.3)
Jun 112018

With Feis Ile a week behind us, some peat was in order, and as the last of the 2001 casks were released by Bruichladdich for the distillery bottling, I’m having a taste of the Dramfool 2001 Port Charlotte.

Photo Credit:

This is a single bourbon hogshead which yielded 195 bottles.


Photo Credit: Whisky Gospel

Dramfool Port Charlotte 2001, 15 Years Old, Bourbon Hogshead 0847, Yielded 195 Bottles (58.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Light gold, very viscous with thick slow legs and a lot of residue on the glass.

Nose: Darn, one of my favorite things about Port Charlotte is that it’s not lactic. This cask is a bit lactic at first, then goes to the briny and sweet. This is quite maritime and sweet, with a ladle of cullen skink soup. Water brings out a bit more of the sweetness on the nose.

Palate: Honey and strong peat, very full bodied and pleasant. This is a nice sipper full of ash with spice and a nice hint of lemon and vanilla.

Linger: Dry, peppery and very ashy, with the pepper encircling the gullet. There’s a residual sweetness that lingers with the peat for a long while.


Not as sweet as most of the Port Charlottes I’ve had, but is definitely a nice sipper for a whack of peat.

Apr 032017

While not an official bottling of Bruichladdich, this is a good opportunity for me to relay some experiences from my visit at Bruichladdich last October. I won’t make this an extensive post, but I will make some observations:

First, Bruichladdich is bringing back floor maltings for all Islay grown barley. When I visited in October, it was already approved by the planning commission, so this is still a couple of years away. I reckon that the earliest we’ll see whisky malted there is in eight years or so, so around 2025, and I assume it will first show up in an Octomore expression.

Malt and Oak

Second, Adam Hannett’s basic take on whisky making is keeping things mixed up. He’s happy about Bruichladdich’s variation and the lack of a real “core range”, and intends to keep up that way of doing things.

Third, anybody who’s been to Bruichladdich will confirm that the distillery has an air of joie de vivre, patently striking from the moment you step into the shop all through the production floors and warehouses. It’s a great place to visit, and Carl taking us around and Adam taking the time to walk us through the warehouses was fabulous! Thanks Adam and Carl 🙂

Cask Raiding with Adam

Speaking of warehouses, some massive ones are being built a few hundred yards from the current warehouses, which will greatly increase storage capacity.

Photo Credit: Google Maps


And now, on to this single Bruichladdich, distilled when Adam was in grade school, not to far from where the distillation took place….


Photo Credit:

The Single Malts of Scotland, Bruichladdich 23 Year Old 1992, Cask 3839, 237 Bottles (55.4% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, thin and very slow legs running off a long lasting necklace.

Nose: The first thing that jumps up at you is no lacticity. That’s a funny way to start a note, I know, but to my nose Bruichladdich whisky (but not the peated versions) is very lactic, and I usually find it somewhat challenging. Honey, alpine evergreens and some old citrus peels. There’s a touch of floral perfume on the nose, with a hint of toffee and vanilla.

Palate: Very full bodied, intensely spicy (mostly black pepper, but a note of cumin too), honey and chalk, with some bitterness. You can just get a hint of the lacticity here, but not in an offensive way.

Linger: Hot spices and bitter citrus rind. This dram is very warming down the gullet, with latent spice all around it. The spices hit you with black pepper, white pepper and a touch of fresh cardamom, and a hint of sweetness in the end.


An older style Bruichladdich, this is really a solid dram. The style is quite different than the newer expressions out now, and the cask was meticulously selected.

Oct 302016

It’s that time of year again when the nights are getting longer and we drop back into standard time (or ‘winter clock’ as they call it in Israel) and at long last, temperatures begin to enter a comfortable zone. Sadly it’s nowhere near “fireplace range” here, but we can always imagine it. That of course means only one thing, it’s time to taste the new Big Peat Christmas Edition of 2016.

Photo Credit: Douglas Laing

Photo Credit: Douglas Laing

I’ve written quite a few reviews on big peat and the Christmas editions, offered at cask strength. I won’t reiterate the whole story behind big peat and the brand that it’s become, rather only mention that while the normal Big Peat is a vatting of whisky from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen, the 2016 edition includes whisky from all eight active Islay distilleries as well as from Port Ellen, closed since 1983. Thus, in this year’s edition you’ll find whiskies from Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman, as well as the Port Ellen Distillery. Pulling this off required some corporation from Kilchoman, as this distillery does not sell casks to independent bottlers on any regular basis.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Can you tell the difference between past Christmas bottlings and this one? The answer is unequivocally yes. This is a gentler Christmas Edition with quite a bit of softness to it and somewhat less brine and a softer peatiness. You won’t mistake it for anything but Big Peat, but it’s different!


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Douglas Laing Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 “All Islay” (54.6% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Pale gold, very thin legs running down the glass.

Nose: Much softer than the editions of Christmas past, somewhat sweeter on the nose with some spice. The very “Big Peaty” brine is there, but it’s a little less pronounced, with a fresh maltiness to it. There’s also some marshmallow and vanilla. With time, you get some floral notes too. A drop of water brings up the brine again, and after that settles, ash, maltiness and a hint of mint surface.

Palate: A lot of hot spice with a big hit of peat, and a tinge of ashiness to it.  Some paint thinner and crushed pepper with a layer of fruity sweetness under the smoke. There’s a very clear layer of vanilla and coconut there (I’d venture to speculate that there are some unpeated fresh bourbon casks in there this time).

Linger: Long and smoky, with a lot of the spice remaining on the tongue. A bitterness, with some wood (perhaps an evergreen, though not pine) and lemon.


You can’t get too attached to these one off special editions, but this is one to stock up on. There are layers to discover as it sits in a glass, and something about it has a pretty soft and endearing aspect. This is one very well made vatted malt. Kudus, Fred!

Official sample provided by Douglas Laing. Slainte!