Bruichladdich – Bere Barley 2008
Two things to know about bere barley for the test: 1) it’s pronounced “bear”, and 2) it’s an ancient form of barley adapted to the conditions of the north. These days it’s only grown in a few places up in the wilder fringes of Scotland, producing low yields in poor soil and short summers. The reason to bother, though, is that bere barley tastes quite different from modern barley varieties and has a long history of being used for brewing. I’ve not tried a bere whisky before, so this should be fascinating.
Nose: It’s very Bruichladdich – fresh, soft and melon-scented. There’s some honey and vanilla, and a good deal of apple sauce. A bit of “posh” muesli – the type that makes you go “How much?!” in Waitrose or Booths. There’s also a real sense of being close to the grain: freshly malted and toasty. There’s a Hovis mill near me, and it really smells like when they’re milling the flour – it’s much more wheat, grist and fresh bread dough than is typical for whisky. I assume that’s a feature of bere, but in any case it works really well.
Taste: There’s an immediate big rush of honey and baked apple. Interesting that the slightly-youthful (sometimes slightly-too-youthful) quality of younger Bruichladdich – the Islay Barley, say – is absent. There’s peach and pear. There’s barley sugar. There’s body and clarity. Also this lovely fresh/spicy note – it’s somewhat like the pine needle and ginger that you sometimes find in Caperdonich.
Finish: And it’s that unusual note which develops into something more spicy in the finish – again it’s a more unusual-for-whisky type of spiciness, tending more towards allspice and caraway. Slightly astringent and green. It’s very good. Fades out for a good while on banana bread and citrus.
I can’t think of a Bruichladdich I’ve enjoyed more than this one. And, as an aside, it’s the first “unpeated” Bruichladdich I’ve tried in which I truly couldn’t detect any peat at all (some of those early “unpeated” Laddie 10s!). Really interesting, delicious, fairly-priced and much recommended.