With Scottish Single Malt Whiskey you can go one of two ways: mass-produced supermarket classics (still a very lovely treat), or the niche small-batch special batch directly from the distillery. The latter of the two may well set you back at least a couple of hundred. So you better love whiskey if you're willing to sink a stone-cold hundred into a bottle.
Thankfully, I think I found a whiskey that is more than equipped to bridge the gap: Bruichladdich: The Classic Laddie.
Who is Bruichladdich?
If you're unfamiliar with Bruichladdich, then know that they are one of the oldest and most established whiskey distilleries in Scotland. The distillery itself (although it looked very different than it looks today) was established in 1881 (by John and William Harvey) on the southwestern Scottish island of Islay: known for its high population of stunning whiskeys.
In those days, the distilleries were set up illegally and in remote areas of the highlands so they could not be found by the tax man (who in those days had more than enough trouble with illegal distilleries in both Glasgow and Edinburgh).
The story of the Bruichladdich distillery is not too dissimilar to most of the distilleries in the region. William Harvey operated the distillery until a fire in 1933, and William's death in 1936. The distillery passed through the hands of multiple alcohol companies before being mothballed in 1994.
The distillery was thankfully restored in 2000 and brought back to it's former glory, using the same processes and equipment as had been used during the days of the Harvey's.
Since then, it was purchased in 2012 by Rémy Cointreau for the sum of 58m. Some going.
The Classic Laddie Review
As I write this, I am sampling the very same whiskey as we will be reviewing. So, if my words start to become misspelt and my sentences become longer, just bear with me.
Let us start with the presentation of the bottle, which some purists may dislike wholeheartedly. It is flash, colourful and would stand out surely on a back bar, but not quite the whiskey for a sophisticated drinker you may think. Don't let the immediate presentation put you off.
One point I must make, is that when you taste a real small cast Scottish whiskey you can never drink a poor bottle again. Some of the larger companies stretch and flavour their spirits to ensure consistency year after year. This, is sadly just not how whiskey works. Like all products which use quality ingredients, they change over time depending on the weather, harvest etc...
This is something that Bruichladdich cherish and they have sought quality over consistency. Whatsmore, there is a potential that each bottle of whiskey is subtly different from the next. Which makes it an exciting uncorking experience.
On the nose, my glass is giving off big notes of sweetness. Barley sugar, floral summer nectar and fresh vanilla pods. I notice subtle oaky notes which are sweetened to the point where they are almost unrecognisable.
On the taste, the alcohol is clean and bright which is a sure sign of quality (and potentially the fact it is in the region of 50% ABV). The flavours of malt barley, sweet floral honey and vanilla all burst under a powerful overtone of candied oak. There is a very subtle fruitiness on the finish which dances with subtle spices. A truly smooth and delicious whiskey. One if you're keen on upgrading a Dalwhiney or Glenlivet.