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Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by William, John and Robert Harvey. The brothers already owned two distilleries in Glasgow but sought to increase their portfolio and agreed to use their inheritance to build a new distillery on the Isle of Islay.
Construction soon began in the village of Bruichladdich, with much of the stone being recovered from the beach at nearby Loch Indaal. The distillery was shaped around a state of the art design and included a set of tall, long-necked stills that would produce a spirit rather different from anything else on the island at that time.
Today, some 137 years later, the founding brothers are but a memory and Bruichladdich is now owned by Remy Cointreau. The distillery holds something of a reputation for experimentation, with a belief in barley as the key ingredient at the heart of everything they do. Bruichladdich distillers have tested barley grown in different locations across Islay and the Mainland and have carried their results through into the production of 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 which 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.
Value for Money: Comes in around £70 a bottle, which certainly isn’t cheap but it is an unusual dram that will intrigue until its very last drop.
This 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, creating yet another fascinating whisky from this most intriguing of Islay distilleries.