Bruichladdich (pronounced brook-laddie) is located on the western peninsula of the famous whisky island of Islay in the west Hebrides. Islay is the traditional home of the world's smoky whiskies but the traditional Bruichladdich distillery style is in contrast to these, being lighter, fresher and generally with little or no peatiness. The distillery was originally founded in 1881 by Barnett Harvey and sits on the shores of Loch Indaal - it was built using stones from the local beach and was one of the first buildings in the UK to be constructed using concrete! The current owners are the Bruichladdich Distillery Company. They are a consortium of four businessmen and they took over in 2000. It is a small distillery with an annual production capacity of just 700,000 litres and Bruichladdich translates as 'the brae (hillside) by the shore' from Gaelic.
Details of the whisky
The Waves name comes from the natural environment surrounding the distillery. This rugged landscape on the island of Islay inspired Bruichladdich's master distiller, Jim McEwan, to create a Bruichladdich whisky with a slight difference. This has a mild level of peat smoke of approximately 15PPM (PPM is the scientific measurement used to calculate peat levels in the barley and whisky and stands for 'Phenols Per Million') and has been matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to Madeira wine casks. It is bottled at seven years of age and 46% ABV alcohol strength, and should cost around £30-35 a bottle from specialist whisky retailers or through www.bruichladdich.com.
Our tasting notes
The colour of the Waves is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose has a pleasant freshness to it. There is an immediate hit of vanilla, honey and sultanas and this gives way to more tangy notes, especially some zesty lemon and a hint of saltiness. Then comes the distinct notes of coarsely milled cereals and mild, earthy peat smoke. It seems delicious. On the palate, the characteristics observed on the nose are all present, but appear mostly in reverse. Firstly, the cereal grains and peat smoke (think of damp moss) kick things off with a slightly bitter edge (imagine iodine). These are quickly joined by the tangy lemon zest and salt notes, before the sweetness comes through with some rich vanilla and honey. Finally, comes dried fruit (sultanas again), some stewed fruits (think of pears and apple) and a hint of toffee. The initial feeling is slightly jarring but everything combines well in the end to give an enjoyable and balanced dram. The finish is decent with the smokiness becoming more prominent than before and adding a touch of dryness right at the end. However, overall it is soft, sweet and very easy to drink!
What's the verdict?
Bruichladdich Waves is a decent and well balanced dram that offers richness, softness and a little flavour of peat smoke. This would make it ideal for a beginner but also for someone who is wanting to learn more about smoky whisky, as it has that smoky peaty element but without it being too heavy or the predominant feature.