Bruichladdich Sixteens: The Bordeaux First Growth Series

Bruichladdich has, since October 2008, been producing a very limited edition range of 16-year-old whisky. When I say “limited edition” I mean that there are 12,000 bottles; given that there are six related expressions, that probably means 2,000 bottles of each will be produced. Each of these expressions started as identical 16-year-old lightly peated bourbon-aged Bruichladdich spirit. Each of them is bottled at 46% ABV (standard Bruichladdich bottle strength). There the similarities end. From this picture, you can see that their additional cask evolution in French oak from distinct Bordeaux châteaux has really made a difference (note that each expression is clearly a different color!):

The six expressions in the First Growth Series.

The six expressions in the First Growth Series.

Why is this range referred to as “First Growth?” That has to do with the classification of Bordeaux wines in 1855. I am not a wine person, but even I have heard some of these names: Château Lafite Rothschild is one that I have 1) definitely heard of, and 2) probably can’t afford. The list of the six expressions is below. The first five are literally from the “Premier Crus” (i.e.,  “First Growths,” hence the name of this range of Bruichladdich expressions). The last one is from the Bordeaux region, but not from that 1855 “Premier Cru” designation. You can read all the details in the excellent wikipedia links I have provided. If you are a wine aficionado, you will get more out of the descriptions than I do.

Finally, we have:

It’s pretty clear that the Bruichladdich folks know their wine: Mark Reynier came out of that business. It’s literally in his blood. This is most definitely a very cool experiment. I wish I had $1500 (that’s my guess…$250/bottle) so I could compare all six. As a Scotch person, what my eyes tell me is that each of these expressions is visually different, so I expect nosing and tasting differences as well. Another thing that’s different about these casks is that they are made of French oak, which is similar but not identical to American oak. Mark Reynier expounded on the differences between various types of oak on John Hansell’s blog recently. John Hansell is the editor of Malt Advocate magazine.

Kudos to the Bruichladdich team for acquiring comparable wine casks for this experiment and for continuing to make very interesting whiskies. And again, thanks to the wikipedia for providing an invaluable and accurate resource.

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4 Comments»

[…] with the wine business is also strongly at play here (as it was with their Bordeaux “First Growth” series) because they knew that the Le Pin casks would be perfect for this particular, very […]

  tomundone wrote @

I just purchased one of these at Amsterdam duty free, but haven’t tasted it yet.

A couple of things puzzle me. One is that I was able to find this at duty free for 50 euro in 2012. That is odd if there were only 2000 made.

The other thing is that they don’t appear to be listed on the Bruichladdich website. This is typically an indication that the company just made a batch to sell at duty free and doesn’t take much pride in them – but that doesn’t fit your description.

Perhaps the initial 2000 was a marketing success so they decided to make a lot more with the same branding for sale through secondary channels?

  whisky2dot0 wrote @

I think that price in duty free can be excellent, sometimes. Othertimes not so much. 🙂 IIRC, they did release a bunch of 16yo expressions. Due to their website redesign, which is focused on the brand going forward (with the new owners’ new make spirit), they might have de-emphasized their older expressions. I’ll try to find a link and write another comment if I find it.

  whisky2dot0 wrote @

Google has a cached page that reflects the old website content. I imagine that Bruichladdich is simply out of the old stuff and what you found is a remnant (you are very lucky!).


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