I find one of the most interesting bits about whisky is its similarity to both you and I; how it gets moulded and influenced due to the dynamics of what lay around it, defining flavour and character. Even the “odd bunch” expressions, that no matter how far they tend to stray away, are still unable to part with the underlying DNA. An analogy could be seen with whiskies from Islay, usually polarized in terms of its peat dominance. But you also have a handful of expressions that are a far cry from what is deemed normal Islay but still keep up with influences from the region. Take the Bunnahabhain 12 for example, not peaty but such a brilliant expression. Another is Bruichladdich’s three tiered array- the peat goliaths such as the Octomore series catered to the absolutes, the less peaty but still very much butch Port Chartolette for the peat lover and then finally the un-peated Bruichladdich range of expressions, tailored for those who enjoy a more subtle delivery of flavours with still a whiff of maritime!
The Bruichladdich Islay Barley is an ode to locally sourced non-peated malted barley; with the 2011 batch leveraging produce harvested completely from six farms in and around Islay in the year 2010 and distilled the year after. It may be surprising that most Islay distilleries import barley from the mainland even though soil here is fertile, and the reason being the windy and salt laden environment isn’t always conducive for yielding large amounts of barley. Nevertheless, the expression is matured for a minimum of 6 years, three quarters of which it lays housed in ex-bourbon casks with the remainder of time spent in ex-wine European oak barrels. And as is the case with all expressions from the distillery, the spirit is non chill filtered with a lack of artificial colouring.
ABV : 50%
Eye : Pale gold | Non Chill Filtered | Natural Colour
Nose : Grain, corn and vanilla infused with maritime nuances and a distinct earthiness. Sweet fruity flavours emanating from raisins and berries, interleaved with hints of melons and green apples. Savoury nuances, like that of sundried tomatoes, along with green pepper and some charred wood.
Taste : A touch of charred cantaloupe, sprinkled with brine and a drizzle of caramel. Some leathery notes are accompanied with the sweetness of honey and vanilla, followed by smoke and earth.
Finish : Short to Medium | Sweetness from the wine, warm and leather like.
The Islay Barley 2011 plays well on the palate, with the earthy and maritime flavours counter balanced with just the right amount of sweetness. Smooth and medium bodied with a lovely mouth feel, the nose is both refreshing and complex. While the palate isn’t as pronounced, it is enjoyable. The shorter window of opportunity for the wine casks to influence the whisky hasn’t really silenced its effects either, with nuances being felt in some way or form during each facet of the tasting.
Now for AUD $105, it isn’t exactly value for money but having said that, it’s not a bad dram either. The local Islay barley does come through quite well and is an experience worth trying. Personally though, it did miss the mark, and in all fairness I blame it on my experience with most of Bruichladdich’s expressions that more often than not have been much better.
Do let me know your thoughts, should you have had the pleasure of savouring this expression.