Whisky Regions

Islay Series #1: Bruichladdich Distillery

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So, my dear readers, the time has come for me to go on, and on, and on about my recent trip to the magical mystery island of utterly fantastic splendidness that is: Islay! Yes, dear reader, I have finally made the pilgrimage to that most wonderful of places, the home of such outstanding whiskies as Ardbeg (which I visited), Bowmore (which I also visited, albeit briefly), Bunnahabhain (which I did not), and Bruichladdich (which I also visited) to name but a few. I will be honest; I have a lot to say. But fear not, I’m well aware of the limited attention span of the peoples of the Internet (myself very much included), so rather than writing one humongous post about my entire experience, I shall divided it up into… Well, a few!

This first post shall focus on one of the distilleries we visited. In fact, it was the very first Islay distillery I have ever sat foot at in my entire life. An honor I fear they did not have the opportunity to savor fully, as it slipped my mind to tell them. One can only assume that I excreted enough excitement through my pores (that’s not half as dirty as it sounds) to arouse a similar feeling in those around me, however, in which case all is fine.

Enough silliness, let’s get to the distillery review. I won’t go into detail on their whiskies within the post – again, this is in the interest of keeping things short, at which I am presently failing – but will focus on the experience of the visit in its entirety. Upon arrival, our little group was greeted by a very friendly and outgoing young man (I’m afraid I forgot to take note of his name, but I think he’s only there over the summer, and he sounded very English) who quickly proceeded to tell us a bit about the distillery while whisking us from the reception into the courtyard.

As we had booked a full tour, the first point of visit was the mill house where their barley is, well, milled. After a bit of history and details on their methods and equipment, the guide proudly offered us the opportunity to take pictures before moving on (due to the number of people present, I’m afraid I didn’t)  stating that they are the only distillery on the island that offers you the opportunity to take pictures at any point during the tour. As it turns out, this was untrue; the same opportunity was offered at Laphroaig. Anyway, we went on in a very similar fashion through the mash house, tun room and still house. Due to the distillery not currently running (most of the distilleries on Islay weren’t) which meant we couldn’t see the process happening, we were offered a tour of the bottling hall as well – which was quite interesting, they do a whole lot of filling by hand – and even more interesting, the warehouse.

Second Warehouse Room

Now, I don’t know whether it is true that not all groups get to see the warehouse – it could very well be the type of thing they say to everyone – but we weren’t allowed in the Laphroaig warehouses (other than to peek in through the entrance door) so it could well be true, I suppose. Either way it was a fantastic experience! As we entered the first room, with perhaps a hundred casks in it, the whole group stopped in amazement and took a deep breath; it smelled fantastic, and the view wasn’t bad either. The guide quickly moved us on insisting that this was nothing, wait ‘til we see the next room. The next room was, as promised, even more impressive, with row upon row of three barrels stacked upon each other as far as the eye could see; again the guide moved us on. The final room was mind blowing! The rows were stacked somewhere between 6-8 barrels high (I was too stunned to do any counting) and there were many a row, let me tell you. I tried to take a picture of it, but the lighting was very poor and as you will understand my humble flash wasn’t much help.

Free dram

So, would I recommend visiting the Bruichladdich distillery if ever you find yourself on Islay? Heck, yes! In fact, it may be my top tip out of the ones I visited – not that the others were bad, they were all highly enjoyable, but I really did enjoy Bruichladdich! I suppose it should also be mentioned that they – in line with Laphroaig, and possibly other distilleries on the island – are happy to serve you a taster of any standard expression. Somewhat surprisingly this included their latest Octomore expression – which can only be described in one word: Outstanding!

About Whisky Critic

My name is Martin and I live in Scotland. I love fine things in life, such as gourmet food, travelling around the world and, last but not least, whisky (naturally, I’m partial to a tipple of whiskey or bourbon as well). I have tasted hundreds of whiskies during the recent years and I finally decided to share my experience.

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2 Comments

  1. Ryan

    August 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for letting us live vicariously through your trip! I am afraid I do not think I’ll be making that trans-Atlantic journey any time soon!

  2. Martin

    August 25, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Hi Ryan,

    You’re quite welcome; and cheers for doing so! I don’t blame you – I suppose it’s a bit more of a commitment in terms of both time and money when you live across the pond – but I would definitely recommend doing so at some point, should you get the chance! It’s a fantastic experience offering not only outstanding whisky, but beautiful scenery and good company.

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