Just a Laddie…

tigerThe true beginning of a new era. That was how the launch of The Laddie Ten was billed to a select group of invitees at a ceremony at Bruichladdich to celebrate the release of the first spirit distilled by Managing Director Mark Reynier and his team. A truly momentous day; not just for those responsible for resurrecting the distillery, but for the Islay community and the wider whisky industry. For those unaware of the recent history of Bruichladdich, this distillery was subject to numerous takeovers throughout the mid 20th century and eventually closed down in 1994. Just before Christmas in 2000, a group of private investors headed by Mark Reynier of Murray McDavid decided to purchase the distillery. The first few months of 2001 were spent taking the distillery apart, piece by piece, before painstakingly putting it back together. Most of the original machinery, including the oldest working still in Scotland (a 130-year-old 6 metre tall wash still with a diamond shaped base) and Bruichladdich’s iconic pair of 6 metre tall, narrow-necked spirit stills were saved and production quickly restarted.

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Limited bottlings during the past decade have stemmed from simply astonishing stories. Perhaps the most well known tale is one where the distillery was under surveillance by the American Defense Threat Reduction Agency, who mistook Bruichladdich’s age-old distilling equipment for machines used to produce chemical weapons – this gave rise to the WMD bottling. A second WMD bottling, called Yellow Submarine, was hastily commissioned some time later following a run in with the Ministry of Defence and a wayward submarine. Other bottlings seem to have been released simply for the sake of releasing something. Take the 1998 Manzanilla for example. Bleugh.

However, we must come back to the present day. The first distillation had been lying in the warehouse maturing for a decade and was ready to be let loose. A new team. A new era. A new whisky. So, how have they done?

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The Laddie Ten (10yo)
Islay
46% ABV
£32.99 available here

Nose: Sweet and savoury at the same time – like peardrops on buttery toast. Dark honey, a plum sweetness and orangey notes are prominent. As is a salty seaside prickle and hints of game meat. But oh dear… what’s this? An off note? Bugger. I really wanted this whisky to blow me away considering the effort that has gone into bringing this distillery back from the brink. But punching its way through is something horrible: car tyres and stale protein shakes. Disappointment is an understatement. With water it improves dramatically, no trace of Michelins or Maximuscle products. Instead it becomes a real sweetie – quite creamy with pine wood and linseed oil. Jason commented he’d never found this before; a whisky which needs water. And not because it’s particularly alcoholic, it just needs it to improve the bouquet.

Palate: Sweet on entry, a rich fruity explosion which is lovely. Lemony and surprisingly oaky for a ten year old whisky. Then it gets all hot and bothered with big burnt spice and charred chillis in the middle of the palate which, to be fair, calm down nicely with a drop of water. What I’m struck by most though is the complete disconnection between the nose and the palate. Not that I’m complaining – that off note has begun to piss me off considering this juice could be a gem.

Finish: Lots of fruit again, drying oak and a chalk/mineral note. Lingers for a little while and disappears with traces of black forest gateaux and mulled wine.

Person: Fred Goodwin. In business terms, he was very successful and his bank went from strength to strength until he took too many risks. This whisky in the same – for the majority it’s very drinkable, but then there’s one huge, unmistakeable and unforgiveable error. What a spoiler. The epitome of the phrase ‘so near but yet so far’. Sorry Bruichladdich, but I’m disappointed. At least it doesn’t cost several billion pounds to fix and can be easily remedied with a splash of water. I badly wanted this to be a real John McClane (of Die Hard fame) of a whisky. The hard-as-fucking-nails-yet-married-to-a-lovely-wife type. One with gentleman’s vegetables made of steel but with a complex and sensitive side. Instead this is not a man, but a boy. Frustratingly, it’s just a laddie…

The Tiger

Comments

  1. Tiger, we’ve approached the ‘off note in Laddie’ subject several times on and off the blog. Over the course of the last 3 years we’ve tried many expressions from the distillery in search for answers, most of our impressions never saw the light of day for various reasons. But I think some time last year we finally agreed that this ‘Playdoh’ note (you’re calling it rubber and a stale protein shake) was part of the house style rather than an off note as such. And if you change your perspective like that, the question changes from whether there is something wrong with it or not into whether you like it. I’m not the biggest fan but there are certainly people out there who enjoy it, the whisky got some good reviews (but then, we’re probably the only bastards out there still giving bad reviews at all).

    L

  2. I just had this one, and i must say i am disappointed mates…
    i dont think it’s bad as you do but i was expecting more. i shall write my notes soon and post them on the blog myself. but hey, when it’s bad it’s bad.

  3. I agree with you Lukasz in the sense it may be a ‘house style note’ rather than an ‘off note’. It doesn’t change my opinion on the liquid, but that’s all it is: a personal opinion. People will, and already have, said many great things about this whisky. As you’ve said before, nobody can give a completely objective review as we are all subject to our respective like and dislikes, good memories and bad memories and when something doesn’t sit right it just doesn’t sit right. That was what I found with this whisky. For the majority it’s very drinkable and a good entry level whisky but a small part of it doesn’t agree with me for whatever reason. That very small part annoyed me, as otherwise it’s very nice. Personally, I’ll just have to add a splash of water to this one when I drink it in the future. I suppose it’s that old mantra – drink a whisky how you prefer to drink it…

    I must add that after this we tasted the 17yo PX finish from Master of Malt and that was really quite nice. It’s not like I have a conspiracy against Bruichladdich! :)

  4. It’s good to read this opinion, as every other review I’ve read, inc this one (http://www.whiskyadvocateblog.com/2011/10/13/some-new-whiskies-ive-been-enjoying/) from a very trusted source, and the guy at whiskyfun, has said how good this is.

    I know it’s all about differences of opinion, so it’s nice to have some balance on the ‘net, I guess.

  5. @Mac The Lad, thanks for your comment and the link to John Hansell’s article – some very interesting comments in reply to his article there. It’s not so much about necessarily differences of opinion, just honest opinions. Balance is always a good thing though – wonder how many others out there agree (along with Gal and I) that this whisky wasn’t as knock-your-socks-off as expected?

    I mentioned I tasted the 17yo PX Bruichladdich from Master of Malt – look out for a wee article on that soon :)

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