Thursday, 18 December 2008 POSTED BY Mark Reynier IN News
"…the first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life.”
The legendary 'perilous whisky', usquebaugh-baul (oosh-ker-vah-voll), was described in Martin Martin's account of his Hebridean tour “A Description of The Western Islands of Scotland in 1695”. With a tasting note like that, I thought, you've got to give it a shot.
This spirit's fearsome reputation came from a unique quadruple distillation - the extra two distillations increasing both the purity of the spirit, while raising the strength to an eye-watering 90% ABV.
The consumption of usquebaugh-baul may have turned the imbiber, perhaps just your regular mild-mannered Viking warlord, in to a homicidal axe-wielding maniac - a berserker - a dangerous warrior, like the fly agaric mushrooms.
The first time Jim distilled our version - X4 - was in March 2006. It's not as simple as it sounds, it's a costly process, and he nearly blew the roof off the distillery, but we were so impressed by the purity of the spirit even if our friends at the SWA thought it was 'irresponsible'. The bard Robin Laing was so impressed he wrote a song about it.
Our ancestors didn’t wait to mature it, nor did we. We bottled some of it straight away, though reduced to 50%. A clear spirit, a true water of life, four times distilled. Partly, the inspiration was to show the difference between a bland, maize-derived vodka and a very flavour-rich, barley-derived spirit.
After only a few months in cask, the rest at that super strength of 90%, rapidly took on an unprecedented style: the extraction of colour from the oak made it taste like a 10 year old and look more like a 20 year old. We bottled some at 3 years of age.
By now we had been boasting about it's purity so much that our friend Tim Greaves, owner of Radical Racing cars, issued a wager: 'If it's as pure as you say it is, you should be able to run a racing car on it.' Churlish to refuse, we thought, so when BBC2’s “Oz & James Drink to Britain" came to Bruichladdich to film we were able to put two and two together and produce 380 bhp. The result can be seen here.
But usquebaugh-baul, X4, is more than a curiosity it's the original Perilous Whisky