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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Islay festival 2009 - Day three


Day 3: What the hell is a Tonka Bean?

The weather had improved incredibly after Saturday's wash out, so onwards to the Bruichladdich open day. Speaking to Jim McEwan the night before, the last 8 years of festivals have remained sunny for the distillery’s open day, so all fingers were crossed that the 9th would be shining on us too. The courtyard was heaving as we arrived at midday and after some food in the malt barn, (slices of Islay AND Jura pork!) we sampled 3 of the distilleries ‘First Growth’ bottlings- all essentially 16 yo Bruichladdich’s, finished in first growth wine casks:


Bruichladdich – First Growth Series – Margaux Finish 46%


N: Red grape juice, a faint hint of smoke and notes of mandarin orange and peach- quite closed though.

P: Very woody indeed, with lots of dried fruit, but more perfumed than a sherried finish, with lavender and rose water and big flavours of grain / cereal on the death.

F: More drying wood spices and a lengthy, peppery finish.

O: A difficult-to-read dram.

Bruichladdich – First Growth Series – Chateau Lafite Finish 46%

N: Chocolate powder, blackcurrant jelly, damsons, toast, white grape juice and hot buttered corn.

P: Rosehips, honey black pepper, dried ginger, baked apples and rhubarb crumble.

F: Long, with pepper and honey into fading spice.

O: Something really interesting going on here, try to seek out and find out for yourself.

Bruichladdich – First Growth Series - Yquem Finish 46%

N: Lots of sweet white grape juice, fresh orange juice and mandarin with a hint of cocoa powder.

P: Quite an oily mouth feel, which comes across a lot stronger than its 46%. Elements of clear honey and coffee, which make it very pleasant.

F: A touch of red chilli, with a very dry end note.

O: Yet again, worth seeking out for its well developed finish.

Once the shop had died down slightly, we managed to dive in for a sneaky tasting of the festival Valinch, which, had been selling like hot cakes since the open day started:



Bruichladdich – Oirthir Gaidheal, Festival Valinch, Cask 013, Distilled 22/04/93 bottled…. Today!!! 53.6% vol 50cl


N: Honey, fudge, caramel, chocolate, Very similar in fact to a Cadbury’s Curly Wurly, dipped again in white chocolate.

P: 80 ppm, so it packs a punch in the peat dept. Very ‘earthy’ with a nutty middle. Baked dark chocolate dessert, combines with fresh cream.

F: Mint, chopped nuts, atop vanilla ice cream with a hint of grist.

O: A very enjoyable dram. Huge middle with some big nuts.


At 3pm we were ushered up the hill towards ‘The Vatican’ Bruichladdich’s duty-free warehouse for a Robert Burns tasting- which provided a huge insight into the man and the myth as well as giving the audience a huge opportunity to try some wonderfully textured Bruichladdich drams- including a VERY special bottling indeed:



Bruichladdich- 1989 Rum Cask Finish –limited to 106 bottles, exclusive to the Robert Burns tasting event, Feis Ile 2009. Cask Number 1878 - 56.5% vol - 50cl


N: Sherbet, with hugely rich floral notes and sweet fruity notes, which combine with slightly burnt sugar and dark rum aromas.

P: Hard candy sweets, which evoke a day out in your local sweetshop back in the 80’s- Swizzle Sticks, Parma Violets and sherbet lemons, with a hint of sweet soft peat hidden away at the back. Really enjoyable and very surprising.

F: The finish is long and sweet, leading into passion fruit with a slightly salty death.

O: One of the most interesting and unexpected Bruichladdich’s we’ve tried, different to the other rum finishes but certainly a step apart. Fantastic stuff.

As the sunset descends over Bruichladdich, the team head back towards the Machrie hotel for our evening’s festivities- on this occasion, a well-earned feast of local cheese, cold meats and some Port Askaig 17 yo. We try to decipher the tasting notes for another of this year’s festival bottlings, only to fall about like naughty giggling school boys. So far, 2 days down and we’re pretty much convinced that it’s setting out to be an absolute cracker.