Recently I was invited to take part in a marketing campaign for Bruichladdich’s Octomore 11 series, which went well enough that Bruichladdich asked me to work on the sequel: A discussion of Bruichladdich’s Transparency Campaign “No Hidden Measures”. While that piece of work was sponsored, the following blog post was not, and although I received the review bottle for free (perks!) my review below is my own and was not influenced by (or published in) the campaign. The credibility of any reviewer is besmirched when they take industry money, but we can’t all be pure as the driven snow like Ralfy, so I leave it up to my readers to decide if my words are trustworthy or not. (Please don’t leave me…)
When I tried the first release of The Laddie Ten back in (oh God) 2013, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. I don’t know if the distillery was still getting their feet under them after the massive rejuvenation effort (it was, after all, whisky distilled a scant year and a half after unbarring the gates and rebuilding the equipment), or if my palate just didn’t agree with the Bruichladdich house character. It must have been the former, because every Bruichladdich I’ve tasted since – granted, that number is 5 – has been light, fruity, and floral just like it says on the tin. I like subtlety in scotch, and Bruichladdich has become very good at it.
The Classic Laddie is a vatting of barrels of unpeated Bruichladdich distilled from 100% Scottish barley and aged in, well, all sorts of things. Head Distiller Adam Hannett has a generic house character in mind when he tastes casks for the vatting, but does not worship at the feet of the gods of Consistency like most distilleries. You can, and should, expect some variation between batches even if the overall theme is the same. The Classic is vatted from casks as young as 5 or 6, and as old as 12 or 13, and while they are mostly ex-bourbon, Adam often uses wine-finished casks to achieve the balance of flavors he’s looking for. Check out my discussion of the “No Hidden Measures” campaign (the sponsored one), so you can see exactly what went into my bottle, which is from batch 20/109. It’s got some virgin oak, some sherry, some Cab, Merlot and Mourvedre casks, and some of the barley was grown on Islay. The youngest casks (the majority) were 7 years old. Cool.
The vatting, once complete, is bottled at 50% ABV without added coloring or chill filtration. The higher ABV helps those subtle notes pop, and as we know from Octomore, Bruichladdich spirit likes to be braced by a high alcohol percentage.
Nose: Lightly fruity, with orchard fruits (white peach, crisp plum, yellow apples), golden raisins, and raw honey. Assorted florals – honeysuckle and rose primarily – with an undercurrent of light, nutty, grain-forward malt. A tinge of youth brings both vibrancy and a swath of chemical aromas (not quite acetone). Nose tickle is mild despite the fairly high ABV, and there is a nice balance between sweetness and airiness. A rest in the glass reveals even more fruit.
Palate: Viscous but not quite syrupy body. A moderate tongue burn – consistent with 50% ABV – is followed by unctuous dripping honey, peach jelly, buttered scones, and more golden raisins. On subsequent tastes, the red wine elements are a little clearer – redder fruits and jammy port wine. Very tasty.
Finish: Medium long. Delicately sweet, with only a balancing spot of charcoal bitterness. Evolves through light fruits – dried – nondescript florals, and then fades with a note that I can only describe as peach gummy rings.
With Water: A few drops of water add a creamy marshmallow and vanilla note, which fade quickly after a rest in the glass. The water doesn’t seem to have much effect otherwise. Proofing it down a few more % releases a banana and kiwi note, but makes the palate bland. Water optional with this one.
Overall: I love the combination of peach, golden raisin, clear crisp malt, and honey. There’s exactly the right amount of sweetness, just enough bitterness to give it contrast, and a few lovely high notes stuck here and there, including that amazing peach gummy flavor. My only complaint is that the vibrancy of young malt is attended by that acetone/paint thinner note, although it’s only present on the aroma. A few of those ex-bourbon casks (likely the refill ones) in the vatting could really have used another couple of years of maturing to polish that off. I look forward to trying a different batch to see what changes.
The price feels right, even for an NAS entry-level bottle. Its higher-than-baseline price feels different to me, now that I know what goes into the vatting, and because Bruichladdich does a lot of things the expensive, not-efficient way like the better craft distilleries. That comes at a premium. Still, try to seek out one of the retailers listing this for $50 or less. $60 is a bit of a stretch.