For the first time, perhaps in the long history of distillation on Islay, Bruichladdich distillery has produced a heavily-peated single malt from barley grown entirely on the island. Records detailing the provenance of the barley used in Scotch whisky distillation are few because in the past, nobody seems to have cared where the raw material came from. Growing malting barley on Islay has always been difficult and therefore expensive, so all the distilleries that grew up here following the Customs and Excise Act of 1823 were built on the coast to facilitate the import of barley, and the export of whisky, by sea.
This was also true for Lochindaal Distillery in the village of Port Charlotte which made a heavily peated whisky until it closed in 1929. Islay’s farms may have supplemented the imported barley with home grown grain, but it will all have been added to the general mix, with no sense that Islay barley could impart an individual character to the spirit. Continue reading...
Since 2001, Bruichladdich Distillery have challenged this assumption. They are determined to show the world that the provenance and variety of barley used to distil whisky is of fundamental importance, and to demonstrate, not that one is better than another, but that there are fascinating differences to be explored and celebrated.
This is an exciting journey to be setting out on, and each year since the first tentative steps in 2004, more and more of Islay’s farmers have taken up the challenge of growing the crop and working with the distillery. This pioneering heavily peated Port Charlotte Islay Barley is therefore a whisky of impeccable provenance. The grain was harvested in September 2008 from Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill & Sunderland farms, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year.
Matured for its entire life on Islay and bottled at 50 per cent using Islay spring water, at the distillery, without chill-filtration or the addition of the E150 food colouring that is added to so much modern whisky, this is a single malt of flawless construction and balance. Young, confident and zesty, the texture is smooth, succulent and stimulating.
Master distiller Jim McEwan describes the colour as “gilded lily”. He says: “The warmth of the spirit is impressive, not aggressive. You have the dryness of the peat smoke together with soft fruits splashed with sea spray, all held in a crunchy basket of caramelised wood sugars sprinkled with lemon and pepper.