Today we look at a trio of recent offerings from the top of Bruichladdich’s line — the latest release of Black Art and two expressions from the Octomore 9.x series. Details on what’s in each bottle can be found along with the reviews below. Let’s dig in.
Bruichladdich Black Art 6.1 26 Years Old – Distilled in 1990, this sixth edition of Bruichladdich’s prized Black Art series is new distiller Adam Hannett’s second stab at the style, which uses an undisclosed and always-different collection of casks to create an entirely original single malt whisky. 18,000 numbered bottles were produced. It’s a much more engaging spirit that Hannett’s first Black Art (5.1), offering a clear sherry note on the nose, along with some more enigmatic notes of eucalyptus, dill, and well-lacquered wood, sliding into a stronger and fresher furniture polish note over time. While the nose has a lot going on, almost to the point of being pushy, the palate is much more cohesive. It’s initially quite leathery, even beefy, though it makes room at last for notes of fresh nuts, orange oil, and some spice. It’s busy and complex, but intriguing. The finish is chewy and savory, with notes of coconut husk, sandalwood, and more of that furniture polish note. It’s a whisky that could use a bit of sweetness here and there, but otherwise it acquits itself quite well, making for one of my favorite Black Art releases to date. 93.8 proof. A- / $400 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Bruichladdich Octomore 9.1 – Octomore 9.1 “Dialogos” carries a 5 year old age statement. It was distilled in 2012 from 100% Scottish barley, and aged fully in ex-American whiskey casks (the breakdown is Beam (51%), Jack Daniels (26%), Clermont (15%), and Old Grand-Dad (8%)). No surprises here: The nose is a phenolic beast, melding overripe red berries with sulfurous peat, briny iodine, and chimney soot. The palate, as is often the case with Octomore, showcases a sugary, almost syrupy fruity character, crushed peaches, pineapple, and strawberry, all smashed into a granulated sugar-driven paste. Smoke emerges quickly, then lingers endlessly on the finish, all oyster shells and peppered seaweed. A classic rendition of Octomore at 156 ppm. 118.2 proof. A- / $160 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Bruichladdich Octomore 9.3 – This version of the whisky was made from 52 tons of Islay barley, harvested from Irene’s Field on Octomore Farm in 2011. Also 5 years old, it is aged in 1st fill ex-American oak (25%), 3rd fill virgin oak (25%), 2nd fill Rivesaltes (20%), 2nd fill Syrah (20%), and 2nd fill bourbon (10%) casks. A different experience, with less peat (133 ppm) and more alcohol (yikes). The nose is actually quite soft — the alcohol being considerably more evident than the peat smoke — with that fruity character underplayed here as well. The palate feels immediately more familiar, a rush of smoke mingling with a peaches-and-apples fruitiness, a touch of vanilla from the oak. The finish is incredibly hot but short of scorching, sending a warmth down the throat and to the stomach in a way that the 9.1 expression doesn’t. If that’s not your jam, add some water and you’ll find a greener, more pastoral, and way less fun character dominating. 125.8 proof. B+ / $230