Fèis Ìle 2021 – Bruichladdich Masterclass

Fèis Ìle 2021 – Bruichladdich Masterclass, Tasting Notes

Our first experience of Fèis Ìle we were lucky enough to win the ballot entry to the Masterclass tasting with Bruichladdich. We appreciate that a virtual Fèis Ìle was not necessarily what everyone was looking forward to, nevertheless it was a great week and a bit with some truly great events put on throughout. A great taster before hopefully attending a live festival in the future.

The Masterclass – 20 years of Bruichladdich

Hosted by Adam Hannet and Murray Campbell the masterclass was fantastically presented. Just the right combination of professional set-up (cameras, microphones etc..) and interaction with those of us attending virtually via comments and questions. With 1,200+ in attendance the chat was full of fantastic tasting notes from other participants, and gave the event a very lively feel.

The drams we tasted throughout the masterclass are a celebration of 20 years of the Bruichladdich distillery. They represent a number of ‘firsts’ and important milestone in the distillery history, whist also looking to the future of whisky making.

We unfortunately missed the live tastings for the first two drams, so joined the event from dram three onwards. Luckily participants were happy to tell us about the first two drams in the chat! Each of the following drams are a component part to the limited Fèis Ìle release – Laddie Origins.

2003 Organic Laddie, 17 y/o – 57.1%

This is the only dram in the masterclass that has been matured in a refill bourbon barrel, all the other drams have are first fill.

Nose: burst of green apple, creamy lemon cheesecake, chocolate digestives and summer grass
Palate: creamy, buttered toasted brioche, vanilla, citrus zest
Finish: ginger spice, chocolate coated ginger (leibechuken)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A great dram to start the tasting with. Fresh, creamy, lots of fruit, and spice to finish. Despite being rich and relatively full-bodied, the flavour palate of grassy, zesty notes helps to keep the overall drink light too.

2004 Islay Barley, 16 y/o – 58.4%

100% Islay – this particular dram is made from barely grown on the island. Typically barely grown on Islay produces less by volume than other barely grown elsewhere.

Nose: coastal air, tropical fruit compote with yoghurt and oats
Palate: cereal and milk, marmalade on toasted brown bread
Finish: slightly charred veg kebab and toast with hints of oaky spice

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It’s always interesting to see how different whiskies respond to locally grown barely, especially from a sustainability angle. The nose and palate of this dram are lovely, however, the finish isn’t quite for us. It would be interesting to see how this compares to other 100% drams, and see if there are any consistencies.

2009 Bere Barley, 12 y/o – 59.8%

This particularly bere barley is grown in Orkney – the last stronghold for bere barely! More common in older whisky production, bere barely originally fell out of favour with producers as it is produces a low yield and is difficult to grow.

Nose: rain water on a warm day, pine needles, farm barn
Palate: very smooth and rich, vanilla and raisin ice cream
Finish: rich dark soil, toffee and honey

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Wow! What can we say about this dram! Bags of flavour and character, the perfect sipper for a late summer/early autumn evening. This expression is really evokes feelings of being in the middle of a countryside farm – the air is fresh, you can hear lambs bleating in the distance, a soft roar of tractors finishes the scene. We were very impressed with this expression, and would love to get our hands on a bottle! A great example of what experimentation with different barely types can produce.

2011 Biodynamically Grown, 12 y/o – 59.8%

Sourced from Wiltshire in the UK we were some of the first people to try this sample outside of the Bruichladdich distillery. Although going against their ‘we only use Scottish barely’ mentality; this particular farm has high levels of traceability, transparency, and authenticity – all core Bruichladdich values. You can learn more about this particular farm from an IGTV they did with the owner – it’s interesting stuff!

Nose: green baking apple, pear, honey, salt in a pancake mix, charcoal, earthy grass and cinnamon
Palate: creamy, honey and apply crumble
Finish: pepper, creamy cereal (cinnamon grahams)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Much sweeter than the previous dram, this just didn’t quite hit the home run for us. Some great nosing notes with the fresh green apples; we feel this would be a fabulous introductory whisky – or do with some additional ageing. Clearly younger than the earlier whiskies that we had tried, it still had a bit of an edge.

2014 Black Ile, 7 y/o – 61.5%

Part of their ‘regional trials’ project; using the same type of barely grown in different places. This dram comes from a specific farm in the Black Ile. With a complete segregation through the malting, distilling, and maturation processes – this particular experiment is looking at what impact terrior really has in whisky. The three locations are: Black Ile, Lothian, and Aberdeen.

Nose: clotted cream fudge, dried pitted fruits and raw cake mix
Palate: honey, malt biscuits and brazil nuts
Finish: oak spice, hot chocolate and creamy porridge, quite a short finish

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A very interesting concept and we would love to see how it compares to the other expressions in the regional tests. Some great base flavours here, a very solid, dependable dram. Despite being over 60% ABV it is still smooth and creamy. It also doesn’t scream out for water, but can very much take a couple of drops.

2005 Tripple Distilled 15 y/o – 69.3%

A somewhat different experiment – looking at what happens to the Bruichaladdich spirit when it is distilled three times. When it originally came off of the stills before casking it was 84% ABV!

Nose: Blackcurrant, vanilla, cream, febreeze, warm beach air, milk chocolate
Palate: Milk chocolate, hedgerow fruits and black pepper
Finish: Spicey, winey and medicinal notes

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A fabulous dram. A heavy hitter with the 69.3% ABV it avoids being harsh on the palate. The tripple distillation has really worked with the Bruichladdich spirit, bringing out the fruit, chocolate, and spice notes. A great way to end the tasting session, to see the full thought process of the distillery.

Our first tasting for Fèis Ìle 2021 (and our first ever Fèis Ìle!) with a distillery we have been recommended a few times, and it did not disappoint. Not all the whiskies were 100% to our liking, but it is always exciting to try new things and test your palate out. The accompanying event was brilliant, and seeing the live bands through their conference platform was also a lot of fun. A distillery to add to the visiting list when travelling is back on the cards!

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