Like a piece of celluloid film, a bottling comprises of several different frames. Each frame, when integrated into the whole, plays its own part in the story.
Taken in isolation, if very lucky, a single frame may be sharp and clear, the image somehow encapsulating the very essence of the film.
More often than not, a single frame will be distorted, out of focus, blurred leaving the viewer floundering for an interpretation.
Look closely at a bottle of Chateau Lafite, or any other of the great Bordeaux, and you will see it is labelled as grand vin
. Not ‘great’ as a superlative, but as in Great Britain, big. For the ‘big’ wine is a careful assembly of around fifty ‘small’ wines, each one vinified separately from one of five grape varieties, grown on fifty terroirs.
Here, the skill of the maitre de chai selects and marries the different cuvees and their respective attributes in order to create the ultimate expression from that year’s harvest characteristics: no two bottlings will ever be the same, but they will express the taste of the chateau, its cellar master and chateau owner. That’s why you have never seen a single cask wine.
The more component parts to a bottling and the way they are married, the more complex the resulting cuvee will be, the more layers of flavour - of cerebral interest. That’s what we do at Bruichladdich. Such an approach removes the safety net and introduces unpredictability and caprice – but this is why we are here and this is our mission – to push the boundaries, to challenge received wisdom and to ask: “What if?”
As with Champagne, we can create vertically-integrated bottlings too. We can use specific harvest attributes when creating a cuvee, where one harvest’s characteristics, determined by the climate of that growing season, can be matched with other harvests to create the style we are looking for. The more terroirs (28) and barley varieties (8) the greater the permutations possible. And ours are unparalleled. Because we have taken the effort to forge close relationships with a number of farmers, many of whom grow just for us.
Thus freed from the tyranny of the age statement we can create cuvées to suit a specific mood, the right occasion – bracing, refreshing aperitif drams and brooding, soulful, reflective drams – for ultimate drinking pleasure. We can do it because we understand our work, the interaction of the flavour compounds of single malt whisky - scientifically proven to be the most complex spirit on the planet - the interaction with, the tannins, lignins and vanillins, the oak flavours of the cask, and how they respond to marine air and time. Oh, and, of course, a little love.