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Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by William, John and Robert Harvey. The brothers owned two distilleries in Glasgow but sought to increase their portfolio and agreed to use their inheritance to build a new plant on the Isle of Islay.
Much of the stone that went into the building was taken from the beach at nearby Loch Indaal. It was a state-of-the-art design for its time, with the distillery buildings arranged around a courtyard. Bruichladdich was equipped with a set of tall, long-necked stills that would produce a spirit that was different from anything else on the island at that time.
Today, 137 years later, the founding brothers are but a memory and Bruichladdich is under the ownership of Remy Cointreau. The distillery has developed a reputation for experimentation, with a belief in barley as the key ingredient the basis of everything they do. The Bruichladdich distillers have tested barley grown in different locations across Islay and the mainland and they’ve carried those results through into their Scottish and Islay Barley bottlings of both their Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte brands.
As part of this devotion to whisky’s most essential ingredient, malts have also been produced from different barley strains. Perhaps the most interesting of this series is bere, considered one of the oldest grain crops in Britain. It is believed the cereal was brought to Scotland by the Vikings sometime in the 8th century AD, no doubt treasured by them for its fast-growing nature which allowed it to thrive in the north’s relatively short summer. Today, bere has all but disappeared from the agricultural landscape, replaced by modern, higher yielding alternatives, though a few outposts remain in Orkney, Shetland and Caithness.
This edition of the Bruichladdich Bere Barley was produced from the 2008 Orkney harvest, distilled in 2009 and then bottled at 50% abv.
Smell: Barley, Stale Bread, Grass and Soil, Biscuit, Straw, Lemon and Fudge.
Taste: Spice and Biscuit notes, with Caramel and Vanilla, Oak and Creamy Fudge.
Thoughts: It’ll cost around you around £70 a bottle, which certainly isn’t cheap but this is an unusual dram, made from rare and costly ingredients. It is a fine example of Bruichladdich’s commitment to barley and its impact on the eventual character of a malt whisky. Indeed it is the complex barley notes that really shine through here. It has been sympathetically matured to allow that character to be noticed. Bruichladdich have created yet another fascinating whisky. Of course they have, it’s what they do.