Bruichladdich: Know What’s in Your Whisky?

Know What’s in Your Whisky?

Since Bruichladdich’s resurrection in 2001, their ambitions have gone beyond the simple idea of making and selling single malt scotch whisky. Their goal was to be an antidote to the industry norm.

They set course to be pioneers, provocateurs and change makers. Reconnecting the land and the dram, re-evaluating the prescribed ‘rules’ of the industry, questioning where flavour comes from and understanding why agricultural ecosystems are important. This was a journey that would go on to inspire an army of distillers and drinkers across the world.

And as they continue this path, they discover that the more they learn, the more they know they need to do. Today, their commitments to people and the planet grow stronger, ensuring they use their business as a force for good.

With their empowered team, they pursue this bigger purpose and maintain their mission to create the most thought-provoking spirits they can. They hope our actions will stimulate other entrepreneurial start-ups to emerge on their island home and further afield, each one adding richness and diversity, paving the way for an increasingly dynamic and self-sufficient future.

On Monday 4th May, Bruichladdich Distillery officially became B Corp certified. On this day, 3,327 companies, in 150 industries, across 71 countries were independently verified by the B Lab as ‘using business as a force for good’. This means adhering to the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and accountability, or in other words, balancing profit and purpose.

Set up in 2006, the B Corp certification process was organised to help mission-driven businesses protect and improve their positive impact over time. Acknowledging that governments and non-profits can only go so far in driving change, we join numerous for-profit businesses helping to tackle some of the challenges our modern societies face

Bruichladdich Distillery volunteered themselves to be evaluated, and they’ll continue to do so every three years from now and the Bruichladdich team are incredibly proud to be in this network of change-makers.

TRANSPARENCY: DO YOU KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR WHISKY?

Bruichladdich go to extreme lengths to create whisky with exceptional flavour and provenance. They  want to celebrate that complexity with you, because you should know exactly what you’re drinking.

“THERE’S NO SHORTCUTS AND NO SECRETS. WE’RE AN OPEN BOOK ON WHO WE ARE AND HOW WE MAKE OUR WHISKY.” – ADAM HANNETT, HEAD DISTILLER

WHY TRANSPARENCY?

While many Scotch distillers aim for absolute consistency in their flagship bottle, they have stepped outside convention and tradition, to trace their ingredients from origin to bottling. Each component part, whether barley provenance, cask type or the passing of time, will subtly influence their final recipes.

Every recipe is broken down to give you as much information as they are legally allowed to give you. You have the right to know what’s in your glass, and to understand where that flavour comes from. Each batch, though subtly different, must demonstrate our classic floral and elegant Bruichladdich style.

NO HIDDEN MEASURES

Bruichladdich share the provenance of the ingredients in their flagship bottlings. Only then can you fully appreciate the flavour in every glass.

WHATS IN YOUR WHISKY? YOUR GUIDE TO INGREDIENTS

There are many factors that will contribute to the overall flavour of your single malt whisky, and yet at a very basic level, it is made up of just barley, yeast and water, aged in an oak cask for at least three years.

While age and cask type are often referred to as the most important signifiers of quality, Bruichladdich take a holistic view, embracing flavours from how and where our barley is grown, to the condition of the cask when it is filled, and what ‘vintages’ of spirit are in your bottle.

On average, Bruichladdich Classic Laddie batches are made up of 76 different casks, comprising 4 vintages of spirit, 3 different barley types and 7 different cask types. Put simply, they are not ‘standard’ bottlings. They are a direct embodiment of their commitment to provenance, to quality and their skills as distillers.

BARLEY

Barley, yeast and water are your primary ingredients in Scotch. Barley, in particular, contributes different flavours and textures to our final recipes. Three different barley types appear in the recipes of The Classic Laddie and The Laddie Eight. They are 100% grown in Scotland, and categorised into ‘Mainland’, ‘Mainland Organic’ and from their island home of ‘Islay’.

Their Scottish Mainland Barley is grown in the Inverness-shire region of Scotland, near the home of our malting partners – Bairds. As their mainland barley is grown in different regions within Scotland, they are still exploring the effects on flavour.

Their Scottish Mainland Organic is traceable back to a single farm, which varies according to year. It is often creamy, sometimes grassy in flavour. The texture of the spirit is commendable, with a huge presence on the palate.

Occasionally, you’ll find some casks of spirit distilled from Islay Barley the odd cask of Islay Barley in your bottle. Islay barley is said to be citrusy, with a strong maritime influence.

CASKS

Scotch distillers must only fill their spirit into oak casks. While other world whisky distilleries can use different types of wood, these progressive Hebridean distillers must experiment with oak alone. Their casks are sourced from every corner of the globe. Their casks are described in our recipes according to their origin, the alcohol they previously held, their size and the number of times they have been used but toasting or charring of the casks and the oak type can also affect flavour.

Since the re-opening of our distillery, they have used some of the rarest and most prestigious casks in the industry. This means the quality of our oak is exceptional.

Bourbon Barrels [ 200 litres capacity] – Up to 90% of the casks that they fill at Bruichladdich are ex-bourbon barrels from the USA. They predominantly source casks from Jack Daniels, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam and Old Grandad. Bruichladdich spirit in ex-bourbon casks would normally give vanilla, butterscotch and tropical fruit notes.

Hogsheads & Barriques [ 225-250 litres capacity] – Hogsheads are normally casks that are rebuilt from the staves of ex-bourbon barrels and given new heads. They also use this term in their recipes to refer to wine barriques. Ex-European hogsheads and barriques will impart dry, spicy, fruit flavours – differing slightly according to the type of wine they have previously held.

Butts – [ 500 litres capacity] – Butts have normally held sherry before making their way to Bruichladdich Distillery. The type of sherry that was previously in the cask is important. They predominantly use ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenex in our Classic recipes. Olorosos give nutty, ripe fruit flavours, almost like molasses, while Pedro Ximenex give sweet dark fruit flavours like raisins or figs.

 

AGING OVER TIME

There’s a common conception in single malt whisky, that the older it is, the better it is. This isn’t necessarily true. Age is not the only signifier of quality in single malt whisky but it is important to consider the length of maturation in relation to other factors. For example, younger whiskies retain more of the cereal and malt notes from the barley, whereas older whiskies will have more time to interact and take flavour from the cask. The condition of the casks are particularly important – whisky sitting in tired wood for a long time won’t contribute much flavour at all. When vatting The Classic Laddie their head distiller must take all these considerations into account, to balance the flavours of all the ingredients he is using.

They are legally only allowed to tell you the youngest age contained in the bottle.

OTHER INGREDIENTS

While we’ve focussed on exploring barley, cask and age as components of The Classic Laddie there are other factors which will affect flavour in whisky.

Bruichladdich distillery was originally built in 1881 so it makes sense that they embrace some of the traditional ways that whisky was made, namely ‘by-hand’. Every distillation may be subtly different depending on the season, the barley type and who is was at the helm that day. These nuances are celebrated when they create their whiskies. Natural whisky should welcome variety and diversity.

TRANSPARENCY: A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE?

“THERE SEEMS, IN FACT, TO BE SOMETHING RATHER LIKE A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE AMONG THE PROPRIETORS OF THE DIFFERENT BRANDS OF WHISKY, A CONSPIRACY TO PREVENT THE CONSUMER FROM KNOWING WHAT HE IS DRINKING.” – AENEAS MACDONALD, 1930

There are many ethical businesses sharing more information than ever before; on their sourcing and supply chain, operations and even their marketing. Bruichladdich consider themselves among the modern-day businesses delivering transparency in practice.

Their transparency has gone hand-in-hand with their commitment to quality ingredients, and the integrity of their founders. Since their resurrection in 2001, the decisions made at Bruichladdich have been chosen because they are the right ones. They are unashamedly open, from their business practices, to their products, to their whisky-making process.

An overarching philosophy of transparency is hard to prove in their day to day, perhaps it can only be proven in many small acts. These are the commitments they have made:

Declaring 100% Scottish Barley

A commitment made to provenance and traceability, knowing that farmers within Scotland are supported from their sourcing, declaring publicly means they will not renege on their promise when crops fail or prices are lucrative elsewhere. Wherever possible, they trace their ingredients from farm to bottle.

Age Statements

Age statements are now accessible for all of their products – whether it’s on the side of the bottle, or on recipes disclosed on their website, all of their products have a declaration of the youngest component part.

Refusal to Caramel Colour

Adding colouring to whisky is still a widely common practice but Bruichladdich have no interest in making any of their whiskies appear darker or more consistent.

Declaration of Batch Process

Their signature bottlings are made in batches, and therefore cannot taste the same each time. Rather than apply practices such as caramel colouring or chill-filtering to standardise our whisky, they would rather celebrate those differences. Each bottle is printed with a batch is declared on their recipes online for you to compare and contrast.

Commitment to Place.

All of their whiskies are matured and bottled only on Islay. They do not outsource when it’s convenient. They’ve made a commitment to the island of Islay, building warehouses, employing local people, keeping whisky as ‘Islay’ as it can be.

CREATING A CLASSIC: HOW BRUICHLADDICH MAKE THEIR FLAGSHIP WHISKIES

The foundation for their flagship Bruichladdich bottlings is not a recipe set in stone, but a distilling philosophy. They have no interest in consistency or uniformity, instead – year by year – the variety and provenance of our barley shapes our spirit, and an ever-increasing range of casks are sourced to evolve the suite of flavours in our warehouse.

Each batch of The Classic Laddie will, by nature, be unique and subtly different, but it is ultimately their Head Distiller who curates this assemblage of our finest spirits, to showcase the classic, floral and elegant Bruichladdich house style.

Composing each unique recipe is a rigorous process; Adam must carry a multi-dimensional picture of the sensory potential that surrounds him. He must systematically sample and evaluate every spirit by nose, taste and mouthfeel. It is painstaking and difficult work, requiring a clear head and many checks, pauses and re-evaluations over many weeks. The final formula will be decided in the quiet of his sample room.

ENTER YOUR CODE: REVEAL YOUR RECIPE

Every bottle of The Classic Laddie has a batch code printed on the back of the bottle. You can enter it below to reveal the unique recipe for that specific bottle.

If you’re new to Bruichladdich, you might like to read more on their website.