Photo via bruichladdich.com
An unpeated Islay whisky may sound like an oxymoron, but that’s exactly what we’re reviewing today in the Bruichladdich Classic Laddie Scottish Barley Unpeated Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky. For those who may not know, “peat” is what gives scotch that deep rich smoky flavor which is usually found in Islay Whiskies. Bruichladdich broke away form that to make their flagship Scotch however, focusing on Scottish Barley to represent the classic, unpeated distillery style. What’s amazing about this Scotch, is the fact that they have no standard recipe or formula for it. That means year to year there can be subtle and even very noticeable changes in flavors and consistency. Bruichladdich even posts on their website “The foundation for our Classic Laddie is not a recipe set in stone, but a distilling philosophy. We 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.” The batch I tasted was 20/088 which was bottled in 2020 (you can enter the batch number at bruichladdich.com for more info). Looking at the batch info, you can see that it was distilled at least 7 years before bottling, but they only provide the youngest components distillation age and redact the rest. So I know it’s at least 7 years old, but certain components could be much older.
Preparation: As with all scotches, my first sip was “neat”; meaning no ice, water or any other mixer, just the scotch on it’s own. After that I added a little bit of water for subsequent sips, and finally to get the entire range of flavors, I added ice in the last few sips.
Smell: The high ABV and younger age does make the “alcohol” smell a little strong, but not overpowering. Then there are strong notes of caramel and floral. Also smaller notes of honey, fruit (mainly orange) and vanilla.
Palate: The body is somewhat thick, but not syrupy. There is some burn on the tongue (it is 50% ABV after all) but again not overpowering. As you take more sips the burning decreases quite a bit. Very strong caramel taste at first. Then you can get hints of vanilla, honey and fruit.
Finish: Has a medium finish, the flavors stay with you but not forever. Definitely still have the caramel taste as the most pronounced, but the vanilla and floral are also very much present. It leaves a very sweet flavor on the tongue.
With ice: The ice will take some of the burn away, but the cold and extra water from the melting ice definitely takes away the more subtle flavors of vanilla and floral. You’re still left with a decent caramel flavor, but I would not recommend ice with this one.
Overall: Is it top shelf? No. Is it bottom shelf? Absolutely not. This is a great cheaper end Scotch that takes you outside the “House Scotches” of Dewar’s and Johnnie Walker and your first step into a much larger world of whisky. It is definitely caramel, honey and floral based, so if that’s where your taste lies you’ll be a big fan. But even if you fall on the smoky end of the scale, this is still a great bottle to add to your cabinet. Of course, this is all based on batch 20/088, and it’s possible you could get different levels of flavors with different batches. I honestly look forward to going out to find another batch to see if I can taste the difference.
Cask: Changes Yearly
Region: Islay, Scotland
Age: 7+ years