Today’s whisky is the second Craigellachie in the Advent Calendar however this one is bottled at full cask strength by A.D. Rattray. The first one being a 12yo bottled at 46% by Weymss Malts.
A young sherry cask matured whisky (this at 6 years of age) is likely to excite the senses. Perhaps even wake you up – especially given the ABV of 58%. The youngest Craigellachie I’ve had was 8yo and that, too, was a single sherry cask from A.D. Rattray. It was a killer release.
Let’s see what this one does.
On the nose — Peanut brittle masks the most unusual note of bile upon first sniff.
After a minute or so, that bile note goes far away and we are now presented with a series of very strong scents such as: leather wallets, grilled apricots, burnt popsicle sticks, cotton candy, hot vinyl seating in a 70’s Chevy Nova, hot wax, and childhood memories.
In the mouth — VERY spirit forward here, almost new make-y. Sour pear, salted licorice, nectarine pit, dry hay on a humid summer day.
I would never have guessed 58% ABV. As youthful as the flavors are, this is a very easy whisky to hold in your mouth.
A few more notes before we get to the finish — green bar printer paper, printer ink cartridges, and more hot vinyl seating.
Finish — Medium in length, pears and nectarine pit hold out.
In sum — Surely a fun whisky but one that I think would have benefited from a few more years in the cask. The spirit character is great to experience here. However, more time in cask to develop would have been the best choice in my opinion. It’s worth your time in a line up of various whiskies but nothing to just sit and relax with.
Let the love affair begin. I’ve heard lots of good news about Bruichladdich’s newer Port Charlotte range. LOTS of good news. And lately, I’ve been hearing some great stuff about the “PC6”. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, “PC” stands for “Port Charlotte” and the “6” tells us that, you guessed it, it’s a 6 year old whisky.
My first reaction to the fact that this is only six years old is similar to the reaction many people have had — “only six years old and it’s how much money???” Oy vey ishmir!
I had a conversation with a guy from Binny’s a while back on the same subject – why so much for such a young whisky (at the time we were discussing last year’s Ardbeg Supernova)? He brought up a good point: “Who cares? Is it good whisky?” he asked. “Yes”, I told him. He went on. “Then why does age matter? You’re paying for a well crafted single malt. You’re paying for a work of art. Who cares how old it is”. Like I said, he makes a good point. Deep in the back of my head there’s that little voice that says “still though…” — But truly, I think he’s right.
So what’s all of this good news I speak about? Check out my links below. Firstly, let’s taste this and see if it’s worth it’s weight in whisky (a special thanks to DH for the sample!!):
On the nose — Big-ass smoke! Powerfully pungent with smoke like burning driftwood (think salty peat or perhaps a beach bonfire). Sparklers on the 4th of July (for my US readers out there). Soured & sweet milk notes (baby vomit).
Serge of Whisky Fun nailed it with his detection of buttered mashed potatoes – on the nose Serge (pun intended)! Leather jackets and damp horse stable. That leather smell alone makes me want to break out Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”. Either that or Yes’ Close to the Edge and put in on full blast – two very different albums but somehow both fitting to this whisky. Powerful yet complex and beautiful.
On the mouth — Mmmm, mmmm – chewy smoked cheese, electrical charges and spent matches, tannic, drying but first a nice juicy entry. Fruity notes and buttermilk biscuits (albeit burnt ones).
The peat is wonderful here and somehow refreshing even in this hot weather (it hit 89 deg fahrenheit today!). At 61.6% ABV I know I should add a little water but this is so nice at full strength.
Finish — It’s all on the leather and now some great grassy floral notes (almost rose petal) come out, then some burn arrives and it gets a tad effervescent. Even an hour later and my mouth is still filled with smoke and ash. Love it!
In sum — Wonderfully heavily-peated expression. If you’re not a peat fan, you probably have not read this far down in the review… If you’re interested in getting into peated and smokey whiskies this will surely pique your interest (but may scare the living shit out of you; in a good way though, like the first time you saw The Exorcist. Scary as hell but, you watched it again and could not wait for the pea soup to flow). If you’re a peathead, welcome to heaven.
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:
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.
I have been a huge fan of madeiras for some time. Madeira, ports, nice hearty dessert wine…
I loves me a port finished dram but never had a madeira one.
Initial whiff — Spiced dried fruit (imagine a fruity pot pourri), big grapes (not like sherry. Sorry sherry heads, this is MUCH better than a sherry bomb (I.E. A’bunadh) for me), honeyed oakiness and a side of Kim Chee. Yes, there’s a slight sour & spicy cabbage smell here that I get upon the 3rd whiff. Somehow, it works and it’s nice.
On the mouth — The nose tells you what you’re going to get. I like that. The spice is pronounced here. Grapey but not overly so. It’s chewy too, almost like a spiced gum drop (an orange one, much like the High West Rendezvous Rye I tasted the other day – there’s a little citrus here).
Finish — Honeyed oak with a long spicey vanilla type deliciousness.
In sum — One thing I’d say is, as nice as this drop is, it would benefit from from a higher abv, perhaps 46%? Just to add to the spice, maybe add a bit more bite… I liken this dram to a sexy 40 something cougar. Voluptuous, sensual, spicey. This dram knows what it wants and it wants you to drink it. Seductive. Dare I say, even more so than the 21yr portwood. This dram is a hot MILF (Did I just say that?! Yes, yes I did).