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Whisky, Traceability & The Islay Revolution

Blog • June 3rd 2019
Bruichladdich Distillery

Bruichladdich share many of the same core values as Farmison & Co so we took some time to chat to the distillery to discover more...

Port Charlotte Cote de Boeuf

F&Co x Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Cote de Boeuf

Q- Describe the Islay Revolution. What does this mean?

Our Islay Revolution is about taking a stand around issues that we believe in. That could mean pioneering farming practices within the Scotch whisky industry or putting our community first. It could mean pushing back against lazy whisky stereotypes and communicating the true reality of Islay, which means letting people know that our community is young, dynamic and passionate. Recently we've started a campaign which encourages people to ask questions about how "Islay" and Islay single malt really is. Is the barley grown on the island? Is it malted, matured and bottled there or is an Islay whisky purely distilled on the island and that's enough?

Q - What sets Islay Whisky apart from other Scotch Whisky?

Generally, Islay whisky is categorised as having a heavy peat profile. Meaning it is smokey to taste. Not all Islay whiskies are peated though. Our Bruichladdich expression is unpeated. Perhaps what sets our island apart is the natural beauty and the people that live there. Islay people will go above and beyond to be hospitable to visitors and to help fellow members of the community.

Q- Traceability is key for Port Charlotte Whisky. Please can you describe what this means for someone who wants to understand more about Port Charlotte Whisky.

Within the Scotch industry, it is commonplace to source your barley from outside of Scotland, or even outside the UK. Its normal for maltsters to source barley of the highest yield and for distillers to be disconnected from the original source. Traceability in the context of Port Charlotte means guaranteeing that our barley is 100% Scottish. It means having a genuine connection with some of the farmers who grow for us, and shouldering the challenges they have in growing malting barley. In certain cases, traceability means working directly with farmers on Islay to grow barley locally - 18 farmers have now made the commitment to provide for us each year, which makes up 42% of Port Charlottes's barley needs annually.

Q- Why do you think it's so important to be able to trace back where your whisky (or in our case, meat) has come from?

For us, it's just about ensuring that we're prioritising flavour and the farmer's needs over yield of alcohol alone. It means we're able to experiment to a fuller extent, and it means that we're working in partnership with many of our suppliers rather than just using growers based on efficiency alone.

Q- How do you age your Whisky and for how long and why?

Each whisky's ideal maturation age is different. At Bruichladdich Distillery, we mature all of our casks on the island, so it means that our Head Distiller Adam Hannett is able to access each and every cask within ten minutes of leaving his sample room. Having this guardianship over all of our stock means that Adam can individually assess when each cask is ready to be bottled. In the cases of our barley exploration bottlings, that is generally younger than ten years old, as we like to retain the flavour from the barley rather than oak becoming dominant.

All of our warehouses are coastal. This maritime influence can be found in our malts, where you might detect a citrus, salt-tang. Regardless of our flavour, its very much in line with our Islay based philosophy to make sure that we mature and bottle all our whiskies on the island. We fundamentally disagree with shipping any of our spirit off the island to a place where we'll have no control over it.

Port Charlotte In Production

Port Charlotte In Production

Q- Port Charlotte is a heavily peated Whisky. How does this differ to some of the other Single Malts you produce?

We've come to think of our Port Charlotte whisky as having more of a barbeque smoke rather than a medicinal smoke. Our Bruichladdich spirit is designed to be fruity and floral, so when you incorporate smokey malt into the mix, it gives you peat but with elegance and finesse.

We produce two other ranges of single malts and one Islay dry gin at the distillery. Our Bruichladdich range is completely unpeated and is made up of our Classic Laddie, a Barley Exploration series, Black Art and some Rare Cask products. Our Octomore range is the world's most heavily peated single malt range, which is a real surprise to people given its complexity at just five years old.

Since its conception in 2010, we've also produced The Botanist - Islay's first dry gin. It incorporates 22 hand-foraged botanicals from Islay's hills, bogs and shoreline. Our full-time professional forager gathers these botanicals according to when they're in season, carefully building these into a bouquet before distilling.