Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Queen of the Moorlands Rare Cask Bruichladdich Ed XXXVII

I'm sitting in the bay window of lovely old house on Islay. The view over Loch Indaal towards the Big Strand and Port Ellen beyond is breathtaking. For the last couple of days I've been busy applying labels and duty stamps to our latest edition to the Queen of the Moorlands Rare Cask range and it's been one of our most exciting finds to date, not least because of how we found it and what an extraordinarily beautiful dram it has turned out to be.

A couple of years ago, we were approached by a somebody who had been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to own one of the very first casks that were filled when Bruichladdich was taken over by it's current owners after having been silent, mothballed for many years. He wondered whether we'd like to buy the cask and offer it to our customers under the Rare Cask label. The whiskies that we bottle under our label always have to be the best possible example of each particular distilleries house style so, in order for us to approve it, excellent wood policy would have to be apparent. Back in September 2001, these first few casks at Bruichladdich were primarily first fill ex sherry hogsheads, very well made, clean, tight casks, the staves of which had all been seasoned with a fill of rich, dark olorosso sherry.

The original owner of the cask and I have kept a close eye on how the whisky has developed with the wood over the last couple of years. The first time I nosed and tasted it I new it had the potential to be one of the very best drams I have ever tasted under an independent label, and a Bruichladdich that hasn't been matured in wine casks which seems to be the distillery's cask of choice these days.

Bruichladdich whisky under the new ownership became 10 years old at the beginning of September, and so it seemed fitting that, provided the whisky had reached maturity, that we would bottle the cask shortly after. I'm convinced that this whisky is the first single cask single malt to be released from Bruichladdich since it's 10th anniversary of the new ownership....a proper wee laddie at 10.

So last Friday, my daughter and I made our way over to the Isle of Islay. All being well, the cask would be bottled that day too. There would be a long wait over the weekend until I could pick up the bottles on Monday morning so that I could get them all labelled up on onto the van and ferry to ship back down south.

On the Saturday night I thought we'd head down to the Loch Indaal Hotel to see if we could persuade the landlord to let us watch the football, my favourite Stoke City at home to Manchester United in the premier league, a game I was sad to be missing given the probability of an unbelievable atmosphere at the Britannia Stadium. All the local lads in the pub were watching the rugby but they kindly switched over and joined me watching the heroic potters hold boring Man Utd to a 1-1 draw. I was having a pint with a lad called Craig and I noticed he was wearing a Bruichladdich sweatshirt. He asked me whether I was holidaying on Islay and I explained that I'd just had a cask bottled at Bruichladdich. He turned out to be the very man who had bottled the whisky for us the previous day. Islay is a very small island.

Sherry hogsheads like these are very difficult for distillers to come by these days especially given the fact that they will often need batches of 80 to 100 at a time. Bourbon barrels have often been preferred by scotch whisky distillers because they mature spirit very consistently and because of their shape and size. Bourbon barrels are smaller, and easier to handle. They are also uniform in size so make warehousing more efficient. Hogsheads however, do differ in shape and size so can be difficult for small distilleries to use their storage efficiently. Most hogsheads are made up from staves from ex bourbon barrels and it is rare to find a hoggy that has been made up from the staves of ex olorosso casks.

Our cask was a first fill, and given that peaty whisky can mature exceptionally well in a second fill, it is destined to be filled again for another lucky private individual. We'll look forward to sampling that over the years to come ;-)

The whisky has been bottled at the natural cask strength of a whopping 62.5%. Bruichladdich don't tend to water the spirit down to 63.5% as other distillers do, and the casks tend to be filled at around 70% which is why our whisky's strength is so high. We have not chill filtered the whisky, nor have we added any colouring.

So, the whisky is bottled, the labels designed, cut and applied, we are just waiting for our printed tubes to arrive and then we'll be starting to ship it out to our customers. There will be 100 bottles available at The Wine Shop in Leek and 100 at http://www.whisky-online.com/ for those customers further afield. Whisky Online specialise in shipping overseas. Both the Wine Shop and Whisky Online have started waiting lists so that customers may pre-order their bottles. To avoid disappointment, please contact us ASAP to add your name to the list and secure your bottles.

Number of bottles: 200
Filled to cask September 2001
Bottled September 2011
Strength: 62.5%
Cask: First fill ex sherry hogshead

Price: £80 per bottle

Tasting notes:

"This is Bruichladdich as nature intended, honest and uncluttered by overt wood technology. The colour is a rich mahogany in the glass. Then come the aromas, intense raisins and woodland fruits at first, then sticky toffee pudding, simmering spices and a deepening complexity. The palate follows the lead of the nose but develops further with flavours of liquorice and salt. A keen oily mouthfeel keeps the whole in balance and paves the way for a toothbrush defying finish. An uncompromising, memorable and beautiful whisky."

We're proud to have been given the opportunity to bottle and sell The Queen of the Moorlands Rare Cask Bruichladdich Edition XXXVII....thanks Peter!

Cha'n 'eil e soirbh!


Conditions Dovedale 11th October

Had a quick look at Dovedale today. The river is carrying a fair bit of colour but clearing at the edges. According to the car park attendant, who apparently has a measuring stone (?!) the river is about 10 inches above it's usual levels.