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Bruichladdich was founded in 1881 by the Harvey Brothers and has seen many challenges over the long years of its lifetime. There seems to be something special about this small distillery on the shores of Loch Indaal however, which has perhaps helped it to endure where others may have fallen.
After being rescued from closure by a group of investors led by Mark Reynier and Simon Coughlin, the distillery was sold to Remy Cointreau, leaving it on the firmest of footings for the first time in many years. Today the Bruichladdich name is known far and wide, with a dedication to terroir, provenance and experimentation at the heart of all they do. 100% of their barley requirement comes from Scotland, with 25% from Islay itself. The barley is separated by region throughout distillation and is then matured in a wide variety of casks from ex-bourbon and sherry to wine, rum and port.
This sense of experimentation has earned Bruichladdich a reputation as something of a rebel within the scotch whisky scene. A perception done no harm by a surprising run-in with a US-based Anti-Terrorism unit…
Back in 2003, then owner Mark Reynier must have been astonished to receive an email from the Defence Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) which politely informed him that one of his distillery webcams was out of order. It seems that somewhere in the USA, the country’s defences were monitoring the little island of Islay, perhaps fearing that some dastardly scheme was afoot and Bruichladdich distillery was being used to produce some diabolical chemical weapon. Then again, perhaps someone at the DTRA just enjoyed a wee dram. Naturally, the team at Bruichladdich decided to celebrate the event with the release of a limited edition bottling called the ‘Whisky of Mass Distinction’.
As for the Classic Laddie, it was originally created by previous Master Distiller Jim McEwan, in order to showcase the house style of the Bruichladdich distillery. It has since gone on to become the range’s signature malt.
Bottled at 50% abv, the Classic Laddie is available in the UK for around £40 a bottle.
Smell: Creamy Vanilla and Fresh Fruit with Berry and Buttery Pastry, Sea Salt and Black Pepper, Toffee Fudge and a distinctive note of the Coast with all the aromas of a stony beach.
Taste: Malty Biscuit, Vanilla, Sea Salt and Pepper, touch of Oak, Apple & Pear. Although unpeated, the coastal influence and mineral quality leave something of an impression of faint smoke.
Thoughts: This must surely be the only ‘entry level’ single malt that’s bottled at 50% abv. £40 is exceptionally good value for money.
It’s a magnificent and undoubtedly popular dram, but due to the vast array of exciting Bruichladdich projects underway at any one time it’s still a bit underrated in my opinion. The Classic Laddie can perhaps seem a little tame in comparison to the Octomore’s and Bere Barley’s of the world but the truth is that it is perhaps the best example of the quality that is consistently produced at this excellent little distillery.
If the whisky featured in this review has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission should you make a purchase after following a link from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.