What’s in your whisky?
Your guide to ingredients.

What’s in your whisky? Your guide to ingredients

There are many factors that will contribute to the overall flavour of your single malt whisky, and yet at a very basic level, it is made up of just barley, yeast and water, aged in an oak cask for at least three years.

While age and cask type are often referred to as the most important signifiers of quality, we take a holistic view, embracing flavours from how and where our barley is grown, to the condition of the cask when it is filled, and what ‘vintages’ of spirit are in your bottle. In this section, we explore how these ingredients affect flavour.

On average, our Classic Laddie batches are made up of 76 different casks, comprising 4 vintages of spirit, 3 different barley types and 7 different cask types. Our Laddie Eight batches are coincidentally made up of around 55 different casks, comprising 2 vintages of spirit, 2 different barley types and 5 different cask types. Put simply, they are not ‘standard’ bottlings. They are a direct embodiment of our commitment to provenance, to quality and our skills as distillers.

Barley map of Scotland


Barley, yeast and water are your primary ingredients in Scotch. Barley, in particular, contributes different flavours and textures to our final recipes. Three different barley types appear in the recipes of The Classic Laddie and The Laddie Eight. They are 100% grown in Scotland, and categorised into ‘Mainland’, ‘Mainland Organic’ and from our island home of ‘Islay’.

Our Scottish Mainland Barley is grown in the Inverness-shire region of Scotland, near the home of our malting partners – Bairds. As our mainland barley is grown in different regions within Scotland, we are still exploring the effects on flavour. Read more about our regional trials experiments.

Our Scottish Mainland Organic is traceable back to a single farm, which varies according to year. It is often creamy, sometimes grassy in flavour. The texture of the spirit is commendable, with a huge presence on the palate.

Occasionally, you’ll find some casks of spirit distilled from Islay Barley the odd cask of Islay Barley in your bottle. Islay barley is said to be citrusy, with a strong maritime influence.

You can read more about why Islay Barley means a lot to us, here.

You can read more on the other barley types we grow in Scotland, including our exception to the 100% Scottish rule in our biodynamic barley, here


Scotch distillers must only fill their spirit into oak casks. While other world whisky distilleries can use different types of wood, we must experiment with oak alone. Our casks are sourced from every corner of the globe. Our casks are described in our recipes according to their origin, the alcohol they previously held, their size and the number of times they have been used but toasting or charring of the casks and the oak type can also affect flavour. We’ve kept it to the basics below, but you may wish to explore this diverse area in more detail here.

Since the re-opening of our distillery, we have used some of the rarest and most prestigious casks in the industry. This means the quality of our oak is exceptional.

Bourbon Barrels [ 200 litres capacity ] – Up to 90% of the casks that we fill at Bruichladdich are ex-bourbon barrels from the USA. We predominantly source casks from Jack Daniels, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam and Old Grandad. Bruichladdich spirit in ex-bourbon casks would normally give vanilla, butterscotch and tropical fruit notes.

Hogsheads & Barriques [ 225-250 litres capacity ] – Hogsheads are normally casks that are rebuilt from the staves of ex-bourbon barrels and given new heads. We also use this term in our recipes to refer to wine barriques. Ex-European hogsheads and barriques will impart dry, spicy, fruit flavours – differing slightly according to the type of wine they have previously held.

Butts – [ 500 litres capacity ] – Butts have normally held sherry before making their way to us. The type of sherry that was previously in the cask is important. We predominantly use ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenex in our Classic recipes. Olorosos give nutty, ripe fruit flavours, almost like molasses, while Pedro Ximenex give sweet dark fruit flavours like raisins or figs.


Aging over Time

There’s a common conception in single malt whisky, that the older it is, the better it is. This isn’t necessarily true. Age is not the only signifier of quality in single malt whisky but it is important to consider the length of maturation in relation to other factors. For example, younger whiskies retain more of the cereal and malt notes from the barley, whereas older whiskies will have more time to interact and take flavour from the cask. The condition of the casks are particularly important – whisky sitting in tired wood for a long time won’t contribute much flavour at all. When vatting The Classic Laddie and The Laddie Eight, our head distiller must take all these considerations into account, to balance the flavours of all the ingredients he is using.

We are legally only allowed to tell you the youngest age contained in the bottle, here’s why.

Other Ingredients

While we’ve focussed on exploring barley, cask and age as components of The Classic Laddie and The Laddie Eight, there are other factors which will affect flavour in whisky.

Our distillery was originally built in 1881 so it makes sense that we embrace some of the traditional ways that whisky was made, namely ‘by-hand’. Every distillation may be subtly different depending on the season, the barley type and who is was at the helm that day. These nuances are celebrated when we create our whiskies. Natural whisky should welcome variety and diversity. Read more here.

  • Water

    We use three different water sources in our production process, two of which will affect flavour. One is our source water at An Torran and the other is our bottling water, to bring our whiskies down to bottling strength. This is sourced from a spring that is situated two miles from the distillery, on farmer James Brown’s land.

  • Yeast

    We have deliberately kept our yeast consistent throughout our experimentation. A mixture of a fast-acting strain and a slow acting strain gives us the right balance of quality and yield of spirit. These strains ensure we maintain a classic ‘Laddie-DNA’ to our fermentation in our traditional wooden washbacks.

  • Process

    Our distillery was originally built in 1881 so it makes sense that we embrace some of the traditional ways that whisky was made, namely ‘by-hand’. Every distillation may be subtly different depending on the season, the barley type and who is at the helm that day. There nuances are celebrated when we create our whiskies. Natural whisky should welcome variety and diversity. READ MORE >

Bruichladdich Distillery
Due to regulations in your own country of residence, you cannot access this website

By entering our website, you agree to our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and the use of cookies to enhance your user experience and collect information on the use of our website. For more information about deleting or controlling cookies, visit www.aboutcookies.org.

We encourage you to enjoy our single malts responsibly.