WhiskyFest San Francisco: Exclusive

As you can imagine by the title of my blog, I made a beeline for Bruichladdich’s table as soon as the doors opened for the WhiskyFest San Francisco 2008 VIP session. The Bruichladdich table wasn’t quite ready by the time the doors opened, so I tasted an independent bottling Bruichladdich 1993 (I think it was 14 years old) exclusive cask from K&L, who was situated in booth 5 (Bruichladdich was in booth 4). After a few minutes (the 1993 bottle was very good, btw…contact K&L for more details; they are in my blogroll), Bruichladdich was ready for customers and I was pretty much the first in line. I had a nice chat with a gentleman from one of their distributors, viz. Winebow, who I have since added to my blogroll.

I tasted two new expressions that are not yet available in the US. I know that Port Charlotte and Octomore generate lots of excitement, but I really enjoyed these two new expressions. These two are from what Bruichladdich is calling their “Italian Collection” and I have the product documentation to prove it (thanks to Scott from Winebow). The two expressions were both distilled in 1993 and aged for most of the subsequent 14-15 years in American Bourbon casks, then ACE’d in ex-wine cases, in one case Gaja Brunello, in the other Gaja Bolgheri.

What’up, ACE?

ACE is a Bruichladdich term: Additional Cask Evolution, describing a process in which they take a whisky that was mostly aged in one cask type (e.g., American Bourbon) and age it for a short time in a different type of cask (e.g., Oloroso Sherry). To quote Bruichladdich: “additional cask evolution (ACE) [is] the art of matching various characteristics of Bruichladdich vintages with alternative cask types and wood origins for greater complexity.”

At the Bruichladdich table I stuck to Bruichladdich products that I don’t own already, and those two were first on my list. They were also pouring the Torrey Pines 14-year-old from the Links series and several others including Port Charlotte 6-year-old Cuiart-Beatha and the new Rocks, Waves, Peat, all of which I have or have tasted already.

As to my preference, I really liked the Brunello. It was outstanding…nice baking spices and a hint of peat in the finish, good dark fruits, and overall nice balance; 46% ABV (bottle strength*). I also tried the Infinity Second (52.5% ABV). Wow. Amazing. Scott says that the first one was better, and I’m on the lookout (like most things related to single-malts, preferences are subjective, and you can find reviewers who disagree with Scott and who liked the Infinity Second better than Infinity; I think in these situations it’s better to try for yourself!). In the Infinity Second I loved the caramel and vanilla mixed with the raisins and prunes and other dried fruits. It was very well done. Maybe it’s just the oncoming Autumn, but the “Christmas pudding” flavors really resonated with me last Friday.

* I think I have cracked the code on Bruichladdich’s labels: If they mention Islay spring water as an ingredient, they must be adding water, so therefore it can’t be cask strength. Bruichladdich’s preferred bottle strength is 46% ABV. With that said, it is possible for a cask, especially a very old cask, to have contents that prove out at less than 46% ABV, and in that case “cask strength” would be less than 46% ABV. If water was added, then the original strength must have been higher than 46% ABV.

In the next update from WhiskyFest I’ll try to summarize the many other things I tasted there.

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1 Comment»

[…] 20% in Sherry butts. One reason that Bruichladdich is able to use wood in creative ways (their ACE process) is, I think, the fact that Jim McEwan has a background as a cooper, in addition to his […]


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