Bruichladdich Rocks.

NAS, 46% ABV, £35 for 70cl

Score 77/100

What they say:

Bruichladdich Rocks, in more ways than one – as only Bruichladdich can. A bracing, light and floral dram that expresses both the marine top-notes of classic Bruichladdich spirit and master distiller Jim McEwan’s lifetime experience. Jim has selected individual casks from our warehouses from a variety of vintages and then created this vatting, with further maturation in French red wine casks, allowing all the distinct components to melt together into this delicious, rounded and fruity dram. The quality is a testament to Jim’s cooperage experience, his extraordinary palate, the quality of the American and French oak, and the quality of the Rhinns of Islay water we use that for millennia has filtered up through the 1.8 billion year-old gneiss rock – the oldest rocks in the whisky world!

character

Light, bright and full of joy! A fresh, vibrant spirit brimming with the unique flavours of the Hebrides.

Colour

Tea rose/ Wild raspberry.

NOSE

An exhilarating fresh and vibrant bouquet, opening with soft red grapes, redcurrant jelly, pomegranate and red apple all encased in an envelope of syrup, sweet malted barley and brown sugar vanilla.

PALATE

It jumps out of the glass anxious to please. The wine flavours wait patiently while the malt and oak display their charms. Then they emerge – red cherry, strawberry and spiciness. Really creamy yet retaining a coastal crispness.

FINISH

A malt on a mission! Snappy and sweet, zipping along on the crest of a wave migrating from Islay to France but always returning to the homeland.

MOOD

Gregarious. eager, enthusiastic, tireless. Designed as an aperitif malt, or as here on Islay, to be enjoyed instead of tea. Takes water well.

What I say:

Really starting to get used to Red wine finished whisky, in fact so much so that it may be replacing Sherry-finished as my favourite. I first tried the Bruichladdich Rocks as a free taster alongside each of the other Islay distilleries and this one particularly stuck in my mind. Firstly as there is no peat in this, and secondly as after a few seconds a distinct wine flavour pours out of this dram all over your tastebuds. This is a hugely pleasing and enjoyable dram, maybe not quite what you’d expect from Islay, but is a wonderful example of a non-specific wine-finished whisky.

Colour:

Pale rose gold, definite pinky hues – this one also clouds easily with lower temperatures, a sure sign all the good stuff is still in there!

Nose:

The nose starts out fairly oaky, though fresher than the mustiness of sherry-cask, then there is a little cereal aroma before the strawberry and cherry fruits zing out.

Taste:

This is a sweet, wine flavoured dram revealing a subtle balance between the wine and whisky. Overall I am reminded of poached pears in red wine and citrus lemon sponge all mixed in together. The malt barley and vanilla oak also weave in and out of this dram.

Finish:

The finish is reasonably short but smooth with the musty oak returning and also the vaporous wine spirits.

Would I buy it again:

Yes, absolutely. For this price this is a damn fine non-peated well-crafted Islay malt which incorporates all the nice elements from wine finishing. This doesn’t taste particularly young, but it doesn’t taste particularly old either. In wine terms this is like a light fruity red such as Beaujolais or Valpolicella, zingy and refreshing. Would make a good summer dram but has enough complexity to mull over on a dark winter’s evening too [in fact spiced/mulled wine is also slightly reminiscent of this dram]. So despite the lack of age-statement I think this is good value for money and well worth trying especially for the wine-finished whisky sceptics out there.