Thanks to /u/forbiddenwaffle for pouring me a sample of this.
I attempt to go into every review without any knowledge of the whisky. Typically just what the name tells me.
However in the case of Bruichladdich Laddie Crew Valinch 13 – Jim McEwan… let’s just say that’s not happening.
To start, Bruichladdich releases single casks for each of the crew that works there. These are available at the distillery, and only various auctions after. They fetch some high prices and are quite sought after. The actual crew member is the one who picks the cask to have their name on it.
Add to that the now legendary status that is Jim McEwan. A man who is still working in the distillery game, who wanted Bruichladdich to come back alive and worked his ass off to help make it what it is. A constant salesman that if I were Bowmore I would have backed up a truckload of money before letting go. And yes, I say Bowmore there because he worked there before Bruichladdich.
He’s literally one of a handful of people who can say they’ve worked every job in the industry.
So what we have is a whisky chosen by Jim McEwan to be released with his name on it. Breathe. It’s 23 years old aged in a Fino Sherry Cask. Breathe. It was only available at the distillery shop, while supplies lasted, and given how some people seem to think Bruichladdich releases are something you should be a completionist about, it’s now spoken for or at auction. Breathe.
Let’s try and give this the best, unbiased review I can, shall we?
Price: Auction time!
Stated Age: 23-years-old
Cask Type: Fino Sherry Cask
Cask Number: 001 R09/325
Number of Bottles: 630
Colour: 7.5YR 4/6
Nose: Green banana, leather, dusty, fruitcake
Initially a bit light. I give it more time. It starts to give a light unripe banana note, followed by that leather note you only get from proper sherry casks. It can get lost with seasoned ones. Sadly it takes a few decades to create.
Once I stop getting lost in the leather, I note that this isn’t giving away too many secrets. I give it more time. Eventually, a complex fruitcake note picks up from the dusty smoke. But don’t expect a bomb on the nose here.
Taste: Lime sorbet, caramelized strawberries, nori, chocolate banana
More to the taste now. A concentrated lime flavour, burnt strawberries, and brine. Again, nothing overly complex, but certainly unique and certainly blending together very, very well. The chocolate flows into the banana (make your own jokes) from the salt (again your own) from a burnt fruit flavour.
Finish: Oak, mineral, orange/wood, blondies, lime zest, cereal
At first wood and mineral dominate the beginning of the finish. You get more of the fruitcake flavour from the start, but then this goes from that blending to the finish.
Conclusion: I expected legendary, I received a good, light rich sherry. I want more, but I’m spoiled. Really, I am. This entire review gave me nightmares from start to finish. I was reviewing something in a form I try to avoid. It’s a whisky people sell parts of their homes for. It’s a name that’s synonymous with whisky mythos. I better love this, dammit.
Not to mention, even without all of that, it’s a 23-year-old Fino Sherry Matured Scotch. There’s so few Fino matured scotches out there, I better enjoy this.
Instead what I ended up with is a unique, interesting, ultimately good light scotch. The nose has that leather note that I literally dream about.
Is this legendary though? Frankly, I think it’s missing things for me to think that. The finish is mostly wood/cereal notes at various levels of complexity. The taste is super unique and tasty. The nose is really, really too shy.
I wouldn’t have chosen this cask, personally. But maybe it’s the hype on this one. Maybe I set myself up to fail. Even now I wonder about my score versus other reviewers. Perhaps Jim merely found one aspect great that I didn’t.
End of the day, I think this is worth the buy if you’re into collecting because you’re probably going to enjoy the whisky in addition.
Scotch review #1036, Islay review #278, Whisky Network review #1622