Hot Young Thing: Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2006 (Dunlossit)

I concur with the sentiment that Jim McEwan is the Willy Wonka of Scotch. Whenever I venture off the standard bottlings, I find that Bruichladdich is always walking the line between innovative and gimmicky, and this one is no exception. This one is more gimmicky than innovative, though.

Nose: This is where it wins. Creamy, banana, and at times, almost a pina colada. Sweet, vanilla and custard, cinnamon and nutmeg. A real dessert dram. The nose is surprisingly clear and not at all prickly for something so young in the 50% ABV range. It has a scent that I can only say reminds me of “London”. Not in a bad way, either.

Palate: It’s a bit hot, but much less so with a good helping of water. It swims well. The hot nature of it is something you’d expect from a whisky about 6 years old, so it doesn’t surprise me. Barley, sweet vanilla, medium-oily with the cinnamon. Some lemon curd on toast.  Oak notes, too.

Finish: Initially, some raw alcohol, but then it returns to the vanilla, lemon custard, and barley.

Grade: B-

This one is rather straightforward. Tasty, but straightforward. The nose promises a lot more flavour and smoothness than the palate delivers. This one can surely deal with a lot of water, though, and that really tames the hot palate. Serving suggestion for this one: a tablespoon of water. It goes a long way.

Review Stub: BenRiach 20

This is review #4 from my BenRiach distillery collection taster pack (HoS, 12, 16, 20). This is where age makes a difference.

Nose: The nose is fat and buttery. Buttered bread with some vanilla and other sweets. Peaches and a bit lighter on the apple. Malty, and oddly, a little celery in the background. A tad bit of furniture polish, but in an “Oh, that’s cool!” way. A surprisingly powerful nose for 43%, and damn if it isn’t very pleasant.

Palate: Medium oily, savoury and buttery. More of that olive oil on french or italian bread. The second wave is malty with graham crackers, then it comes in slightly fruity with peaches, apple, brown sugar and cinnamon. Much less jagged than the 16 by a long shot.

Finish: Long, mostly sugar and vanilla sweetness. Terribly pleasant.

Grade: B+

This dram makes the tasting pack worth it. The HoS was a pleasant surprise for something so inexpensive, while the middle of the range (12, 16) were rather muted or lifeless. The 20 is something BenRiach can be proud of, though they get more whisky out there faster if they could do more at the younger years. I’d love to try this at 46%, too.

While the HoS, 12, and 16 are very similar, and not all that inspiring, the 20yo takes BenRiach to a whole new level. Perhaps they need some work with their maturation process, because they could really do better work at the younger ages, and go for pure quality instead of this high quality-to-price ratio. An $80 bottle of 20yo whisky is a steal, yes, but I’d pay $80 for a really good 16yo bottle, too.

Review Stub: BenRiach 16

This is review #3 from my BenRiach distillery collection taster pack (HoS, 12, 16, 20). This far in, I’d say there was a noticeable difference between the HoS and the 12yo. The 12yo and 16yo, however, are very similar.

Nose: Apple, but not so artificial. Similar muted nose to the 12yo. Slightly buttery, with a bit of anise. Noticeable malt and a bit of brown sugar.

Palate: Medium oily, malt and oak. A little jagged, burnt brown sugar.

Finish: Medium, mostly honey, malt and oak.

Grade: B-

About as impressive as the 12yo. Nothing much as changed in 4 years, except for maybe the finish length. A little too rough for what I’d expect a 16yo to be.