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Green Whisky From The Turqoise Distillery?
Despite the distillery doors remaining closed to visitors in the face of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, it’s been a busy year at Bruichladdich. It’s one of the things I find endlessly fascinating about this distillery. There always seems to be something going on.
Back in 2020 they gained B Corp Status which means the company meets the highest standards of social and environmental impact. The pressing issue of the environment has continued to be in focus throughout much of 2021.
It seems like the Scotch whisky industry has really began to take notice of our changing climate and steps are being taken to reduce the footprint of our distilleries. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has set the target of becoming net zero by 2040. Bruichladdich want to do better than that, however. They’re aiming for 2025.
The distillery has made positive steps in the last few years. They were among the first to tackle the issue of excess packaging in the whisky industry. Now, consumers must specifically request a tin when they purchase a bottle on the website. They’ve also been investing in green energy, funding biodiversity projects in Islay and beyond and their commitment to responsible farming is as strong as ever.
Should you be interested in the subject of farming, Bruichladdich hosted an informative discussion on their Facebook page back in October. The talk is still available to watch and featured a selection of farmers, distillers and various other experts in the field (pun intended). Personally I found the importance the participants placed on soil health particularly eye-opening. Degraded, over-farmed soil leeches carbon into the atmosphere. With responsible farming comes healthier soil and that means less carbon in the atmosphere. It also leads to better crops and therefore, better raw ingredients for our whisky.
Following the COP26 talks in Glasgow, Bruichladdich announced that they were to receive £2.65million in Government funding. Working with energy company Protium they will develop an innovative hydrogen combustion technology. Distillation uses a huge amount of energy, you see. The company’s own estimates put the distillery on roughly the same yearly usage as 800 homes.
At present, Bruichladdich heats its stills using a fuel powered boiler. The new project would see a hydrogen boiler installed at the distillery, the first of its kind in the UK. The revolutionary technology is a zero emission, closed loop boiler that generates steam, using only oxygen and hydrogen. There’s no smokestack or exhaust and therefore no emissions. The only by-product is water that can easily be recycled. It’s hoped that the project will prove a success and allow similar setups to be deployed across the industry.
I understand that the topic of the climate crisis can be a bit wearying for some. Sometimes it seems like there’s nothing but doom and gloom when I switch on my TV. I share some of the goings-on at Bruichladdich, however, because I think they represent hope. Hope that people are at least trying to find solutions. In any case, this situation isn’t going to go away any time soon so we might as well take some interest. To look at it another way, the whisky industry has (largely) been running the same way since the industrial revolution. We are in the fortunate position of living through the era of change. The new technologies implemented now, in our lifetime, could lay the groundwork for the next 200 years of Scotch whisky production. Personally, I find that quite exciting.
Of course, while all this has been going on, Bruichladdich has continued doing what it does best: producing single malt whisky of the very highest quality. The Octomore brand has long been a favourite of mine. It’s an expensive bottle but the quality is usually high enough to justify it, in my experience. For those that don’t know, Octomore is the most heavily peated whisky in the world. Releases numbered with a .2 tend to focus on wine cask maturation. The 12.2 was finished in Sauternes wine casks.
Smell: Barbecued ham with grilled pineapple rings. Mango chutney. Loads of barley and grist. Honey. Salted peanuts. Fresh lemon. Orange zest. Wood spice. Tobacco smoke and ash.
Taste: Lemon, pineapple, mango. Orange. Apricot. Slightly nutty with lots of runny honey. Thick clouds of smoke mingle with the fruits from arrival to finish. Leaves behind sooty smoke and ash on the finish with some dry, woody spice.
Thoughts: Sauternes finishes haven’t really done much for me in the past but people I respect have said good things about previous Octomore / sauternes combinations so I was intrigued by the prospect. I decided to take a chance when I was in Islay in October and from the very first sip, I could see what all the fuss was about.
It’s an excellent dram. It manages to convey a sort of delicate balance whilst still coming across as a bit of a smoke monster. I didn’t quite fall for any of the batch 10 or 11 Octomores, not in the way I have previous expressions but this 12.2 marks a return to form. It’s absolutely delicious and sits perfectly poised point between intense initial flavour and developing complexity.
The Sauternes is powerful and really makes its presence felt but the malty, heavily smoked character of the raw spirit can easily stand up for itself and the end result is a joy to behold. For me, good Octomore stands alongside the very best whiskies in the world. This is a good Octomore.
Value for money: The price would have many people running for the hills and to be honest, any other 5 year old whisky retailing at £140 would have me scoffing in derision but I know Octomore. I know the qualilty of it. I know that I’ve tasted whiskies six times the age and treble the cost that couldn’t hold a candle to this one. So whilst the price may be high, there can be no doubt you’re getting exceptional quality for your money.
For more on Bruichladdich visit here.