On Black Art

IN

We describe Black Art as the Head Distiller’s personal journey into the very heart of our warehouses here in Islay. With more than 78,000 casks currently on site to chose from, Black Art whiskies bring together the very finest French and American oak and some of the most mature unpeated spirit that we have. We don’t disclose the exact components of these special cuvees; like we said, it’s personal. You just have to trust that no-one knows our casks better than the man composing these limited bottlings. He takes as much care over them as he should when exposing the deepest soul of Bruichladdich.

Adam Hannett has just released his fourth creation in the series; the same number as his predecessor here, Master Distiller Jim McEwan. Adam says that no two editions have been the same, deliberately and inevitably.

The first Black Art whiskies were created in an era when we had just started experimenting with wood from some of the finest wineries in Europe. It was an era of “try anything”, of new revelations, and perhaps a little chaos. The last decade has brought us to a different place. “You go back to the same cask, it’s not just ‘that’s the flavour you have in that cask’, it’s always evolving,” says Adam, “You’re watching it develop, you’re getting a feeling for how it’s going. But you just don’t know what you’re actually going to get, that’s the thrill, the excitement of it… The time, that maturation process – you kind of see it in a third dimension, the whisky. You’re catching things at moments.”

“They all have their different feelings or reasons for being”

Each of Adam’s Black Arts has had, “their own different personality. They all have their different feelings or reasons for being.” For example, Black Art 5, his first, was made as he was emerging from Jim’s long shadow; it had been McEwan’s signature whisky. Adam describes, “A kind of pressure to share my own vision, and my own understanding or interpretation of the whisky that we had in the warehouses.” Black Art 6 was created after our stillman Hoppy passed away. Adam drew a few bottles for the graveyard, as is traditional in Islay, from a particular premium French wine cask filled in 1990 that Hoppy had admired when he and Adam had tried it together in the warehouse. From then on, there was real emotion behind that cask, a special significance, that Adam says he could only contemplate using in a special whisky.

His most recent, Black Art 8, was informed by his recent work with our Rare Casks, and an idea of a simple, a beautiful, identity of the spirit of Bruichladdich. Adam relates a formative experience, shortly after he had started working in our distillery shop as a teenager back in summer 2004. “One lovely sunny day, everyone was in the courtyard having a dram. I didn’t know a lot about whisky back then, but I remember getting to taste this 1970s Bruichladdich, and thinking, ‘That is a game changer. That is… That’s not whisky! That’s just beautiful, what is that?” The softness of the texture, the coconut from the Bourbon cask – not even a great cask – but that buttery golden style, the delicate floral notes, it was just beautiful. Still makes my mouth water just thinking about it now!”

Adam, like Jim McEwan, has released four editions of Black Art to date.

In Black Art 8, Adam has tried to do something quite conceptually different to the rich heavy flavours that we usually get in Black Art, often a paean to amazing wood. Rather, almost like a white art, he’s looked for a balance, “holding that spirit, that essential distillery character at the centre of the whisky.”

He has started work on his 9th Black Art, which he says will be a very different sort of tone poem. As the inherited stocks Jim originally played with mature, and as we continue to innovate with cask types here, the range of flavours Adam as a blender can draw on is approaching the infinite. “There’s hundreds and hundreds of different types of casks, different ages, different flavours there, all playing different tunes at different times; it’s bringing all that back together. I just find that fascinating.”

It’s all these layers of flavour, and particularly with Black Art, the detective work that they inspire, which make it so fascinating and addictive for we who drink it.

 

We have three of Adam’s Black Arts available to purchase direct from the unpeated whisky pages of our webshop ~ Black Art 7, Black Art 8, and his inaugural Black Art 5 in diminutive 200ml bottles, in our ‘Whisky Gifts’ section. 

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