In this issue of Tales From The Isle we travel to Bruichladdich over on the Rinns of Islay. This was good news for us as we're actually staying on the Rinns, although we still managed to arrive late for the Octomore Discovery tasting with Jim McEwan. Oops. Bruichladdich day is also one of Fèis Ìle's most fun distillery days - watch your step though, for it takes place on the site of some dark happenings and black arts.
Indeed, this is place where things are taken right to the edge and are often shrouded in a Scotch mist of secrecy...
Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires.
- William Shakespeare, Macbeth (taken straight from the Bruichladdich Black Arts webpage)
Shakespeare was a horror writer, Shakespeare dealt in the realms of the fantastique. As does Garth (Marenghi). They’re both imaginers, they’re both ferrym'n…
- Thornton Reed, Horrificata Illuminata
Nobody knows the secrets of Jim McEwan's Dark Arts, but we have managed to discover a little information on the creation of this year's festival bottling for you. As with everything at Bruichladdich, it wouldn't have been possible without the help of the legendary Duncan McGillivray who retires this June - he's the Renwick to McEwan's Marenghi, if you will.
Duncan was a colleague of Jim's when he first started at Bruichladdich. They made a pact to push their whisky to the limit. And beyond. Naturally, they both became fascinated with the occult. One night Jim suggested they open the gates of hell right here in the distillery. Neil MacTaggart pleaded with them, he said "no, don't", but they insisted. That night they performed the rite and brought forth usquebaugh-baul, a whisky so full of peril that it hasn't been created or tasted by mortals since 1695...
Octomore Quadruple Distilled 1695 Discovery 7 Year Old Fèis Ìle 2014 – 69.5% abv and yes, all of our Fèis Ìle bottling pics will be by our hot tub. Sorry (not sorry).
It's quadruple distilled and only 1695 bottles have been released. Obviously.
Tasting Note for Octomore Quadruple Distilled 1695 Discovery 7 Year Old Fèis Ìle 2014
Nose: Totally approachable, you'd never guess it was 69.4%. Lemon cake, sugar cane, candied orange zest, new leather and school paint blocks. Only hints of peat until you add some water and it absolutely pounces on you along with some flamed lemon peel.
Palate: Again this is all about zesty lemon drizzle cake and a bit of peat until water reveals the peat beast below. Even when the peat comes through it’s still light though, having come off the still at 89%!
Finish: Long lasting and pleasant light peat madness.
Overall: Complex high notes, unique (and I mean that it an entirely good way) and pretty awesome.
The Islay festival Octomore was whisky number 5.
Here are the other whiskies from an incredibly well-attended tasting - they were all taken from the cask and there was even a special edition of Black Art made especially for the class...
Tasting Note for Bruichladdich 1984
Nose: Evaporated milk, root ginger. Honey on toast and candied lemon peel. Hard to do this justice but I can assure you it's bloody glorious.
Palate: This is more like crème brûlée than crème brûlée is. Fresh lemon zest too. Sensational.
Finish: More evaporated milk, caramel and honey.
Overall: Nectar. Just incredible stuff, it’s 49.2% natural strength and very, very yummy.
Tasting Note for Bruichladdich Black Art 'Sorcery' (made especially for the tasting)
Nose: Dark oak combined with a punch of vanilla. Double cream, proper liquorice, blackberry, redcurrant, slightly vegetal, banana skin, fruity plasticine and jam.
Palate: Brown sugar, red berries, cinnamon, light creamy porridge or Ready Brek.
Finish: Creamy, salivating and long.
Overall: Dark, mysterious, interesting.
The tasting notes above were 1 and 2, so onto 3 and 4 now... (Quite a breakfast!)
Tasting Note for Bruichladdich 1986 Pedro Ximénez Sherry Cask
Nose: Dates, leather, crushed almonds then into prunes. Clean and not at all tired. Dark chilli chocolate develops with marzipan and some sweet, fresh broccoli stalk.
Palate: Massive drying Sherry on the palate with perfect christmas cake character.
Finish: Chewy never ending nutty fruit cake.
Overall: Simply spot on Sherried whisky. What a cask!
Tasting Note for Port Charlotte 2001 Château d'Yquem Cask
Nose: I often get those dip selection packs with wine cask matured whiskies. Soured cream and chive? There are some clean coastal notes too - brine, seaweed, oysters - along with suntan lotion (not coconut), some acidic red grape, mixed dried herbs.
Palate: Drying with buttery, oaty biscuits, dark berries and herbaceous cigars!
Finish: All of the cigars.
Overall: The cigar notes save this, quite delicious in the end.
He didn't tell us what the sixth one was, but he did make us all neck it. #drinkaware
I wonder where they keep that Sherry cask, we'd very much like to 'borrow' it.
Suitably lubricated and having enjoyed the musical stylings of Norma Munro and Robin Laing (another chap who enjoys a few Tales From The Isle) we made our way over to join in with the other festivities. We even found that Magnum P.I. 'stache that Tommy and Peter need to go with their Hawaiian shirts!
We're nothing if not trend-setters.
Bruichladdich day. Always ace.
It would be remiss of me to mention whisky and Garth Marenghi in the same sentence without pointing you in the direction of Caskstrength's 3D Whisky video. Go watch it now. It's just excellent.
This also seems like the perfect time to point you in the direction of a new That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottling of ours. Yep, it's that Boutique-y Bruichladdich we've been promising you all! With labels arriving on Wednesday, this is one of 7 new releases that Ben will tell you all about at some point this week.
Right, car's packed. Off we go!
Arr! Look what be near Bruichladdich today. More of this sort of thing on the 'morrow...
This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
- King Lear, p46