Ok, before you begin to read my post on this dram, you may want to hit play on the youtube video below (so as to set the mood):
Is it playing? Good. Just keep it sort of quiet and in the background. Umm, a little lower in the volume… there. Good.
When I was young, about six years in age, my uncle started feeding me music from all sorts of great bands. Bands he loved and wanted me to love in kind. Two of the bands stuck out and I still love them to this day. The Ramones and Black Sabbath. In fact, the first album I ever owned was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album.
Let’s put the Ramones to the side for now and focus on Black Sabbath. Here I was six years old, listening to Black Sabbath and… was I scared? A bit (I mean, listen to this song for “Peat’s” sake – you do have the video playing, right?). But mostly, I was entranced. Even at six, I knew that these guys were on some level beyond any other band I’d ever heard.
As I got older, I became more obsessed with the music of Black Sabbath and (here comes a crazy geek moment) Dungeons and Dragons. There, I said it. I was into D&D big time. D&D, Lord of the Rings, you name it, I was into it.
You must be thinking “Hey Hatton, where are you going with this?” or, “Dude, D&D… seriously!?”
The point I am coming to is that I saw something mystical and magical in this music and those role playing games and sipping on this whisky took me back there.
Yes, nearly 31 years later and I came across this interesting and new Bruichladdich expression called Black Arts and I’m taken back to those things that got me interested in the “strange”. But, come to think of it, it was not just strange. It was new, different, unique and artistic – something I think this expression is.
What is Bruichladdich’s Black Arts expression? First, let’s take a look at their bottle:
You’ll notice a matte black finish on the bottle and cylinder. This, as I understand it, is a follow up to Bruichladdich’s “Blacker Still” expression. Just looking at it and I get a creepy-cool feeling. It’s the type of feeling you get when you’re around a campfire telling ghost stories – the good creepy. You want more.
And yes, I wanted more. I wanted to open the bottle right away but, before I did, I took a closer look at the bottle and saw a Star of David on there. Wait a sec. Hold you’re horses. What does this mean? I don’t know any Jew that works in the Black Arts – What’s going on here!?!?
I did some reading up on what this star meant and found that Bruichladdich says the star is actually “two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water”. In fact, here’s the full quote from Bruichladdich’s product sheet: “Alchemy, the black art, the eternal search for rejuvenation and immortality, gave us whisky. Gebber the Arab is said to be the first distiller of al-iksir, the water of life, in Persia around 790 AD.” (or, CE and I prefer to say. C.E. being the Common Era) “The spirits Eau de vie, Aqua Vitae, Vodka, Aquavit, Uisque Beatha all share that same original meaning. Geber understood that precious metals were hidden in alloys and ores. By the rearrangement of base metal’s qualities, via elixir, it could be transmutated into Gold. Elixir also existed as a dry, red powder made from Philosophers’ stone. If it could turn poor metal into gold – it could give eternal life. The two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water.”
Cool stuff, right?
Speaking of “red powder”, after I poured a dram, I wondered if Bruichladdich found this Philosophers’ stone and put a wee bit into each cask. The reason I wondered this….well, take a look at the color of this whisky (on your left – click on it for a larger image).
While it may be tough to see here in this picture. I will tell you that, in person, this fluid is red. Red whisky. I’ve never seen anything like this before and, just like when I first heard Black Sabbath, I was entranced. Just a note here: this is the natural color of the whisky; no color added.
How did they get this whisky red? Is it the red powder from the Philosophers’ stone? If you think the answer is “yes” then I suggest you check yourself into an insane asylum. While you may think the good folks at Bruichladdich are alchemists with all of those great expressions they come out with, this is the real world and they’re using real science here, not alchemy.
So, how did they get it red? A little birdy told me that this whisky was finished in three red wine casks, one right after the other. Awesome.
OK, I think it’s about high time I get to the tasting:
Islay region – 51.1%ABV – 700ml bottle – £75 | €94 (this bottle is not available through US stores)
On the nose — 51.1% alcohol be damned! I can sniff this all night with no issues. Big red fruits! Raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and some fruit of the more tropical variety — passion fruit & papaya (all of these berries makes me think of my daughter’s book called “Jamberry”). Wow. Some nail polish remover notes here, something a bit sour and some over steeped green tea… I’m in love with this nose! This is just the right influence of wine on the whisky. Some spiciness on the nose and a bit of honey (which I did not expect here). With a few drops of water the fruits get very juicy smelling – almost over ripe.
On the mouth — Great entry here and I’m a bit taken aback. What a balance! The fruits are big but dry – like a good & fruity cabernet. Grassy, fresh hay. Quite grapey, quite winey. The mouth feel is nice nothing too special about it though. Let’s add a few drops of water. With water the mouth feel evolves into something completely different and beautiful. I feel like an alchemist turning dried fruits into re-ripened fruits. There’s something deep in the background that resembles the faintest whiff of smoke but, I dont think this was at all peated.
Finish — Longer and slightly burning. Wow, increasingly burning and getting stronger by the second. Cool stuff.
In sum — This is a true artisan’s whisky. And while some folks thought this dram crossed the line a bit between wine finishes and whisky; to me, the extra finishing was something of pure genius. What a great marriage between wine and whisky. While the two whiskies are nothing alike, the mystery surrounding the Bruichladdich Black Arts reminds me of the mysteries around the Glenmorangie Signet. Two very different whiskies; two very great whiskies. My hat’s off to the folks at Bruichladdich. They’ve created a magical dram here.