We have released quite a number of different whisky expressions during our first twelve years. We have never actually counted them up, but some folk say it is on the healthy side of 250 different bottlings. Why is this?
The answer is complicated, but here is one simple explanation. Traditionally, whisky is bottled by companies taking casks of a particular age, mixing them all together (or ‘vatting’ them as it is called), and adding some caramel to make the ‘product’ look the same as it did when it was last bottled. Often the plan is to then add water to bring it down to the lowest a.b.v. that you can get away with and still legally call it whisky – i.e 40%.
Adding water causes problems however, because doing so will make the whisky look slightly cloudy at lower tempertures. To get around this, whisky companies chill-filter to remove the natural oils which cause the cloudiness. End result? A homogenised product that looks and tastes consistent, is bottled at 40%, and stays nice and clear on the supermarket shelf and in the glass.
Frankly, we think that is boring. At Bruichladdich, we do things differently and we are happy to say that more and more people are coming to appreciate our point of view. We were probably not the first to eschew chill-filtration and E150 food colouring, but we were the first to really shout about it and celebrate the possibilities this presents.
We have never been interested in camouflaging whisky. We are not interested in selling our single malts at the lowest a.b.v. we can get away with, but instead at the strength considered optimum by Jim McEwan, our Master Distiller.
We are not interested in trying to eradicate the variables so that our whisky all tastes the same. We like to celebrate the differences in fact. We like to explore ways of pushing the boundaries of what is possible. As a result, we have a fascinating back catalogue.
There is more to the complexity of Bruichladdich than simply the lack of chill filtration and E150. Far more. But it is a reasonable place to start.