Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich 8 Years Old 2009 The Organic (50%, OB, 2018)

Bruichladdich The Organic 2009 Mid Coul Farms, Dalcross

Whisky Review

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What they say

The whisky we distil from the organic barley of Mid Coul reflects the complex natural flavours of the landscape. Just as our stillmen refuse to abandon the traditional crafts of distillation in favour of automation or industrialisation, so farmer William Rose rejects the use of herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilisers. Crop rotation is key. Our barley must take its turn in a seven year farm cycle that also produces organic cattle, sheep, oats, beans, grass, carrots, market gardening and a megawatt of green electricity. Respecting the land, the soil and the climate nourishes a genuine and thorough understanding of terroir and the results are pure Bruichladdich.

RICH, COMPLEX AND A FASCINATING EXPRESSION OF PROVENANCE, WE CAN SENSE, FEEL AND TASTE THE RESULTS IN THE GLASS. ONCE AGAIN, LAND AND DRAM UNITED.

THE ORGANIC 2009 SPECIFICATIONS:

  • — SPIRIT: Unpeated Islay single malt Scotch whisky
  • — GRAIN: 100% organically grown Scottish barley.
  • — DISTILLATION: 2009 from 2008 harvest; a single vintage expression.
  • — MATURATION: American oak casks from ex-Bourbon and Tennessee whiskies
  • — AGED: 8 years
  • — BOTTLING: At the distillery with Islay Spring water, non-chill filtered and colouring free
  • — STRENGTH: 50% ABV
  • — LIMITED: to 18,000 bottles
  • — ACCREDITATION: Entire process from barley to bottle organically certified by the Biodynamic Association.

Official tasting notes:

  • Colour: Dawn on wet sand.
  • Nose: Candied orange and lemon, beautifully floral. A touch of marine spice and citrus.
  • Palate: Deliciously creamy with the barley notes very much to the fore.
  • Finish; A hot toddy.

MID COUL ORGANIC FARMS, DALCROSS, INVERNESS

Mid Coul is an organic farm that lies on the south side of the Moray Firth to the east of Inverness.  It has been farmed by the Rose family since 1912 and, as can be imagined, has undergone a number of changes during that time. Originally traditional sheep and arable farmers, the family moved into pig and turkey production in the 1950’s before refocussing on organic management of the land in the 1990’s.

A particular speciality is the production of high value organic vegetables such as carrots and parsnips but in recent years, much of the production has shifted again, this time towards growing biomass to supply two anaerobic digestion systems generating renewable energy for national gas and electricity grids.

Farmer William Rose has provided Bruichladdich with organic barley since 2003 and was the source of grain for our first ever organic single malt. This was probably a world first, certainly in the modern era, although prior to the Green Revolution (which really only started after the second world war), all farming was organic by nature.

Today, Mid Coul is a fascinating, vibrant place. They proudly claim that: “Everyone on the farm is constantly striving to ensure that the land is managed to best advantage economically and environmentally.” Crop rotation is central to the organic regime and a very wide range are grown in addition to malting barley, including the root vegetables, rye, oats, beans, nitrogen-fixing clover and grass.  Sheep are raised and organic cattle fattened for market. There is even a small farm shop that operates on an honesty-box principle when supplies are available. Our barley therefore has to take its place within this complex organic cycle. Seeing it in the field the rich understory that organic methods promotes is immediately apparent.  This is evidently not ideal if the aim is maximum yield, but what if quality, rather than yield, is the primary aim?  The idea is very aligned to our philosophy at Bruichladdich.

There is a unexpected atmosphere on the farm as a result – one in which very high technology production methods sit comfortably alongside wild and biodiverse hedgerows and field margins that teem with birds, butterflies and wild flowers. An interesting example of this is a good local population of Corn buntings, farmland birds that used to be abundant but are now scarce. According to the RSPB the UK population of these buntings fell by 89 per cent between 1970 and 2003. This is mainly because modern herbicides and insecticides mean fewer seed and insect food sources are available to them on ‘conventional’ farmland. Their presence on Mid-Coul is indicative of the benefits of organic farming to wildlife.

Despite this, the Mid Coul operation feels very 21st century. All the farm tractors are fitted with super-accurate GPS navigation systems which enable them to be self-driven up and down, say, a field of carrots.  The driver does not have to worry about guiding the vehicle, he can concentrate on other tasks such as monitoring the cameras that are linked to weed identification software enabling their mechanical removal. These super-sophisticated systems are backed up by teams of up to 70 seasonal workers who lie out on tractor booms to manually weed the rows.

While we were there, the permanent staff of eight, plus a number of contractors, were engaged in cutting and storing silage in immense pits ready to feed the new 2.4 megawatt anaerobic digester that will supply natural gas (methane) to the grid when it is brought on line in around one month’s time. The giant green domes of the new plant sit rather futuristically in the landscape and work rather like the four stomachs of a cow, converting biomass to biogas through the stages of hydrolysis, acidogenesis, acetogenesis and methogenesis – eventually producing methane.

The waste ‘digestate’ from the process is then spread back onto the fields as a nutrient-rich fertilizer.

One is left with the impression that if we are to maintain our lifestyles in the long term then it will surely be farms like this that lead the way by really addressing sustainability and minimising the inputs of petrochemical based fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides.  An idealistic vision, yes, but one that William Rose is determined to deliver in a rational, commercially appropriate way.  And judging from the number of beautiful dragonflies, butterflies and flocks of seed-eating birds to be seen thriving on this rich organic farm, it is a vision that can only be of great benefit to our native wildlife as well as people.

What I say

Barley, Organic, Terroir, whilst the first of these terms should be very familiar to most scotch whisky drinkers the other two should at least be impinging upon their consciousness by now! As we know there are only three ingredients used in making whisky; barley, water and yeast. The second two of these can have obvious influence on the process.  Water quality and in particular where the water is sourced form and what potentially delicious (e.g. peat) impurities it may contain will influence whisky flavour. Likewise yeast varietals and how long fermentation lasts as well as the type of vessel; clean stainless steal or natural wooden washbacks full of bacterium such as lactobacilli and natural yeasts may all add to the flavour of the wash and subsequent whisky produced. Barley varietals and the malting, including the use of peat smoke or not have an obvious influence on flavour.  The particular conditions under which they barley is grown – collectively known as ‘terroir’ – this includes organic farming methods as used in this Bruichladdich expression, also has an influence on the flavour and yield as it impacts upon the protein and starch ratio’s obtained in the resulting cereal grains. The barley used in this expression was grown at Mid Coul Organic Farm near Inverness and will have been processed and distilled in isolation so as not to be mixed with other distillates and remain completely certified as Organic. In effect this allows us to return as close as possible to original historical distillation runs of surplus farm grain to generate that seaons whisky and so embody the terroir or seasons growing conditions in a single dram.

My tasting notes:

  • Appearance: Light champagne gold (3/20), medium-fine tears and medium slightly oily legs.
  • Nose: Vanilla and honey, light barley malt, sweet apple pie with vanilla and white chocolate ice cream, a pinch of powdered cinnamon.
  • Taste: Creamy, malty, crisp barley,  a little earthy and nutty, sweet and sharp clear apple juice, white chocolate buttons.
  • Finish:Medium-long, vanilla, citrus juice and peel, woody oak.

Overall

Crisp and fresh, plenty of barley with a strong and sweet vanilla influence. A great display of the cereal flavour with a sweetening influence from the ex-bourbon and Tennessee whisky casks just adding a final polish to the distillate.

Score 83/100

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