Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Whisky Review: Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006/2012

Bruichladdich has become known for making experimental whiskies and this is one of the odder ones. Bere (pronounced like 'bear') is a very old strain of barley that was cultivated by the Vikings as they invaded Scotland in the 9th century. It is well adapted to grow in the colder, acidic soils in northern Scotland and has a very short growing season - roughly 90 days - which made it well-suited to the short summers in northern latitudes. Bere is a six row barley, whereas most modern varieties are two row. Six row barley tends to have a higher protein content compared to two row barley, which has more fermentable sugars, making it the preferred variety for most distillers.

Many thanks to Michael Kravitz for a sample of this whisky.

Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2006/2012
©Bruichladdich Distillery

Nose: very strong and distinctive barley/grain notes, creamy citrus, green/vegetal new make, savory baking spices, a little vanilla and brown sugar oatmeal, maritime/salty, a hint of cheese. After adding a few drops of water, the malt becomes more prominent and creamier while taking on a slightly different character, while the new make notes retreat a bit.

Taste: sweet malt with a lemon accent up front, strong new make quality throughout, pepper/alcohol prickles, very light creamy oak with a hint of baking spices at the back. After dilution, there is more citrus up front, more oak and barrel char at the back, thicker mouthfeel and flavors overall, bittersweet character, and the new make notes become more integrated.

Finish: creamy light oak, malt, new make, grain

I felt like this was an interesting demonstration of how different strains of barley can change the character of whisky, but it's not something I can see myself wanting to drink on the regular. There's obviously a fine line to toe between letting the malt/spirit shine and tempering it with time in the barrel. I feel like Bruichladdich could have used some slightly more active casks or given the spirit a bit more time to mellow before bottling it. I've also tried Arran's Bere Barley whiskey, which agreed with me much more as it felt much more balanced.

With all that said, this is my own sense of taste. But I would recommend trying this whisky before buying a bottle, if you've been considering. Best of all, it'd be a great one for a whisky club to split (maybe compare with the Islay Barley or other younger Laddies?), so everyone can experience it without having to commit to a whole bottle.

1 comment:

  1. By a freak shipping accident, a liquor store here in Edmonton, Alberta recently received six bottles of the new travel retail exclusive 2nd release of this. The bottling code on the bottom reads "16:16 23/1/2014", meaning that since 2006, this should have gotten at least a year and a half more (25%) in the wood than the 1st release. I'd crack it open to compare it, but by another miracle Jim McEwan was in town for a tasting class at the very same store, and his signature really makes me think hard before touching it.