Bruichladdich Islay Barley Series

Thanks to bradbobaggins for swapping me these.

The Bruichladdich Islay Barley Series asks the question: Is there terroir when it comes to whisky?

The answer, we all know, is no.

Good night everybody!

Okay, okay, enough joking. We can’t just say that the location of the farm and the specifics of the barley grown doesn’t do anything. We need to test it. We need to do double blind testing and make everything the same way, keeping all standards as consistent as possible.

Oh, wait. That’s very difficult in whisky tasting as separate barrels can affect the whisky. We know the location in the warehouse can do so too (Jack Daniel’s lineup is based on that very concept). However we can still try to keep things as consistent as possible, and any major changes can be attributed to the difference in the farms used.

Recently bradbobaggins did just a tasting of 4 of the offerings from Bruichladdich. And then passed along the samples to me in a swap. Then I tasted them all, blind, with my wife choosing them randomly and keeping track of the numbers.

Is this truly scientific? Well no. We should have a control group, multiple testers, I shouldn’t know it’s happening, and somehow there should be lab coats involved.

None the less, we’re looking for overt flavour differences here. We know that the different casks, years, people working the on the whisky, temperature conditions within the warehouse, locations of the casks, and finally what the distiller had for breakfast each day all have impacts on the whiskies.

We’ll assuming these factors have been controlled as much as possible, so our hypothesis (which I can’t say out loud to save Atlantis) is that major changes are caused by the terroir. Oh, and then I put them back in order from oldest to newest.

So let’s see how these taste, shall we?


Bruichladdich “Islay Barley” 2004 Kentraw Farm

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004 Kentraw Farm 2.jpg

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004 Kentraw Farm 3.jpg

Price: Not currently available at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Harvested: September 2004

Distilled: December 2004

Barley grown on: Kentraw Field Foreland, One Mile from our Distillery, on South-East Fading pebbly/sandy slopes above Lochindaal. Looking out to the Atlantic and Ireland

Abv: 50%

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2004 Kentraw Farm 1.jpg

Colour: 10Y 9/8

Nose: Grassy, lime zest, beignets, coconut

Very grassy. Given some time it’s closer to a virgin oak whisky, without the heavy vanillas.

Lots of sweets, lighter notes, some coconut sticks out with time.

Taste: Key lime, butter, potato, pepper

Again, sweet, some earth. Kinda disjoint with butter and lime and potato all going on. Parts of it are good mashed potatoes and parts of it are questionable mashed potatoes.

Finish: Lime, floral, cumin, puff pastry

Nice amount of lime and floral. Has more of a floral/earth to finish it off, continuing the confusion of a mixture of earth and sweetness. Much like eating crickets (not a joke).

Conclusion: More grassy than the others. Not enough to be vastly different. There’s a lot of butter forward parts to it. It’s drier, sweet, and has some odd combinations that don’t 100% work all the time.

That said, like most of the cocktail world, I enjoy lime quite a bit. And like most people who have issues with their belt size, I love butter filled desserts as well. So getting past the earth aspects is part of this. If those weren’t there, more points would be awarded.

77/100


Bruichladdich “Islay Barley” 2007 Rockside Farm

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 Rockside Farm 2.jpg

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 Rockside Farm 3.jpg

Price: Not currently available at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Farm Name: Rockside Farm

Abv: 50%

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2007 Rockside Farm 1.jpg

Colour: 10Y 9/8

Nose: Mango, iodine, burnt sugar, lemon zest, eucalyptus

More fruity to start this time. The salt comes through. Sweeter notes, the grass seems more integrated and the sweet aspects take centre stage.

Taste: Salted caramel, butter, grassy, lime pulp/lemongrass

Tons of salted caramel. Biggest note of the bunch. Has some strong citrus with it too.

Finish: Grassy, caramel, nectarine, cumin

Not a great finish. The grass takes over for a bit, then the caramel. Really could be any simple malt based on the finish. Also has the issue the 2004 had with the mixture of sweet and earth notes.

Conclusion: More caramel on this one. It’s the main aspect. That said, we see again a mixture of fruit, salt, burnt sugar, and grass. As time goes on you have issues with a mixture of earth and sweet.

So while this one has a better nose, it writes cheques the rest of the dram can’t cash, even at one of those predatory companies that take cheques. The finish is too simple.

77/100


Bruichladdich “Islay Barley” 2009 Claggan, Cruach, Island, Mulindry Farms

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Claggan, Cruach, Island, Mulindry Farms 2.jpg

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Claggan, Cruach, Island, Mulindry Farms 3.jpg

Price: Not currently available at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Farms Name: Claggan, Cruach, Island, and Mulindry Farms

Abv: 50%

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Claggan, Cruach, Island, Mulindry Farms 1.jpg

Nose: Grass, caramel, cocoa, oats

Light nose. Very light. After I was done, I checked if they happened to use a lighter amount of alcohol on this one. The answer that will shock you? No. No they did not.

The earth seems to be better integrated. No fruit on the nose this time.

Taste: Grass, lemon juice, kola nut, blackberry

Good mouthfeel. The flavours aren’t too strong, again. However the mouthfeel is the nicest. I don’t think the barley affects that (though I’d welcome any thoughts on that in the comments).

Fruit is more tart here. The caramel is that cola flavour more so.

Finish: Butter, mango, cereal, cocoa, peanut

Finish finally has the tropical fruits. Again, this one seems to have fixed the earth and sweet mixture that the last ones had the problem with.

That said, this is the type of whisky that should have been left in the barrel. Yes I know we’re going for consistent uses, however this goes to show how making something the same way twice (or even more) can cause differences. I’d be less likely to say the barley, which was nicely grown, and more say that the cask wasn’t up to snuff (or needed more time).

Conclusion: I think I said the conclusion a little ahead of time. The cask on this one let it down, needed more time.

75/100


Bruichladdich “Islay Barley” 2010 Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit, Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, Sunderland Farms

Bruichladdich "Islay Barley" 2010 Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit, Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, Sunderland Farms 2.jpg

Bruichladdich "Islay Barley" 2010 Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit, Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, Sunderland Farms 3.jpg

Price: Not currently available at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Farms name: Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, & Sunderland

Abv: 50%

Bruichladdich "Islay Barley" 2010 Coull, Cruach, Dunlossit, Island, Mulindry, Rockside, Starchmill, Sunderland Farms 1.jpg

Colour: 10Y 9/8

Nose: Lemon parfait, caramel, wood, straw, peach tart

Big citrus and creaminess to start. Grass is drier with more wood going on. Any fruit has butter or cream tied to it, which is how I have my vitamin C.

Yes, I am overweight, how’d you guess?

Taste: Cloves, caramel, mint, lemon, cereal

Spicier compared to the others. Less grass, more pop, and some cereal. Nice balance here.

Finish: Grass, burnt sugar, cloves, peach

Somewhat burnt, short, simple finish. Not as rough as previous ones, though doesn’t hold a straw to the nose. At least the cloves and peach go together nicely.

Conclusion: This one had more spice to it, which I preferred. I feel that was missing from the previous ones. Also didn’t have the cumin mixed with sweets issue, so we’re seeing improvements.

That said, the finish and taste needed more time to develop. I feel like the nose is giving us some idea of where this could have gone.

77/100

Overall Conclusion: Did we see enough difference each time to really discern if barley was making that big of a difference? I don’t think so. Each of these had grass and caramel elements. Most of them had earth portions as well. And the 2009, which was probably the least favourite of the bunch, wasn’t too far off.

The differences in these can be summed up to barrel differences (in wood or quality), learning more, or balances. We also see that more and more farms are added as time goes on. What I’m saying is any difference caused by the barley gets harder and hard to notice.

I think more needs to be looked into before we rule out terroir of the farm altogether, however these drams certainly help see that it’s not a major effect.

Scotch review #781-784, Islay review #185-188, Whisky Network review #1284-1287

One thought on “Bruichladdich Islay Barley Series

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