We believe firmly in Islay maturation. It's extraordinary to think that Bruichladdich is the only major distiller on Islay to mature ALL their whisky on the island itself.
And yet many wax lyrical about the “marine influence” of their spirit (not much marine influence to be found on an industrial estate in Glasgow!)
All our warehouses sit on or above the shores of Lochindaal – the sea loch on the Rhinns of Islay – the island’s most westerly ocean coast – so Atlantic ozone-rich freshness permeates our malt during the many slow years of maturation.
Oak casks - more osmotic membrane than container - perform the vital task of allowing the evolution of the spirit by way of subtle and complex interactions between the micro-oxidation of the whisky’s flavour compounds, oak tannins extracted from the wood, the ozone-marine influence of the air absorbed through the wood and the whisky texture.
Combining extensive wine experience, hands-on barrel coopering, and decades of whisky knowledge, we have a unique and unparalleled understanding of the complex and quixotic interaction of wood, air and spirit - and continue to explore it keenly.
We are intrigued by the effects of oak from America and Europe's greatest forests on the flavour of Bruichladdich malt; over the years American white oak (Quercus Alba) imparts lush, vanillin flavours, whereas the influence of French oak (Quercus Robur, Quercus Petraea) is more subtle and fine.
The finest oak is a raw material just as important as barley or spring water. As we are not beholden to any one either financially or philosophically, we can be uncompromising in our choice of cask; we can work with the best, so we do. We are privileged to have relationships with some of Europe’s greatest wine-makers and their estates; from Rioja and Jerez in Spain, to Bordeaux, the Languedoc, the Loire and Alsace in France, to the Neusiedler See in Austria we have access to the finest oak casks that have previously contained the world’s greatest wines. The complexity and subtlety of the effect these casks have on maturing whisky are fascinating, and for us when our single malt is put into cask this is the start of a journey of discovery, not a final resting place.
No two casks of spirit are the same or mature at the same rate or in the same way. So it is essential that we are here, on the ground, watching our maturing malt with a hawk’s eye. Not only is that required for quality, but every now and then the whisky gods surprise us and give us something rare, capricious and unexpected – the difference between artisanal craft and commercial production.