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Scotch

Bruichladdich Black Art 11.1

$549.99

OVERALL
RATING

8

Whisky Review: Bruichladdich Black Art 11.1

Tasting Notes:

About:
24-years-old; Unknown maturation cask; 88.4 proof (44.2% ABV); $549.99/750ml.
Appearance:
Orange marmalade.
Nose:
Dried apricots and caramel butterscotch richly fill the nose, with candle wax, green apples, nutmeg, and rosemary finding their place between the two.
Palate:
Caramel rears its head, while dried currants and coriander seeds slightly mute it. I can’t help but notice a slight iodine or marine quality, but it is lost in notes of pats and honey on cedar. The finish is a mix of almonds, oak and flint.
Finish:
Comments:
This is a lovely dram that grows on you with each successive sip, layering on new complexity but never overwhelms. Tending toward balance, no one flavor pulls too strongly and is unquestionably smooth with a slight spice to let you know its still there. The high price of entry encourages savoring, which seems to be the intent of the whisky anyhow, though I would be curious to know how it stacks up against other Black Art releases, just to know how individual it really is.

Editor’s Note: This whisky was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs. 

Scotch names can be confusing. Over the centuries that Scotch distilleries have been open, hundreds have been mothballed, closed, bought, absorbed, resurrected, renamed, etc… Take, for instance, the distillery of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. The distillery started in 1797 under the name Ledaig, closed in the 1930s, re-opened in in 1972, was bought by Tobermory Distillers in 1979, closed in 1982, bought in 1993 and reopened, sold in 2002 but kept open, and now has two whisky lines: both Tobermory (unpeated) and Ledaig (peated). 

Some have a less tortured past. Strathisla, for instance, is believed to be the oldest continuously running distillery, but only because it was used by London black marketeers during WWII. Some have an amusing past. The Glenturret? It’s the oldest distillery and was home for 24 years to a cat named Towser, who caught 28,899 mice from 1963-1987, a fact which I couldn’t not share. Bruichladdich? Well, no cat, but the distillery was built in 1881, was traded around, and now has three labels: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte (which was a different distillery from 1829-1929), and Octomore (also a distillery that was operated from 1816 to 1852). 

Bruichladdich, pronounced “Bru-kla-dee” (which means their “Laddie” release is the “bruk-ladee laddie”) is an Islay distillery, which are typically known for their peated single malts. Bruichladdich bucks that mold in that their “Bruichladdich” label is unpeated, though its two other labels are.  

The whisky being reviewed today is the Bruichladdich Black Art 11, the eleventh release of their highly coveted line which is purposely shrouded in secrecy each year. Each release is unique and unrepeatable, with only Head Distiller Adam Hannett knowing the specific recipes. We do know that it is pulled from pre-renaissance casks (not referring to the European Renaissance, but from Bruichladdich whisky made prior to their 1994 shut down) which the distillery has been aging for over two decades, with this release being a 24-year-old-single malt. 

I’m particularly interested in how Mr. Hannett imbued the flavors of oak and caramel into the whisky. I would expect a good amount of ex-bourbon barrel to have been used given the prominence of the two, but given the pre-renaissance casks available to him it could be something more exotic. 

Either way, it is encouraging to see a traditional distillery stretching its legs and giving their head distiller license to mix it up. “Each year, I welcome the creation of Black Art with open arms,” said Hannett. “As a whisky maker, it is liberating to have complete creative freedom. It’s a chance to journey deep into our Islay warehouses and experiment, question and push the realms of possibility.” 

Bruichladdich Black Arts 11.1 review
We review Bruichladdich Black Arts 11.1, aged 24 years in a maturation situation known only to the head distiller at Bruichladdich. (image via Bruichladdich)

Tasting Notes: Bruichladdich Black Arts 11.1

Vital Stats: 24-years-old; Unknown maturation cask; 88.4 proof (44.2% ABV); $549.99/750ml.

Appearance: Orange marmalade.

Nose: Dried apricots and caramel butterscotch richly fill the nose, with candle wax, green apples, nutmeg, and rosemary finding their place between the two. 

Palate: Caramel rears its head, while dried currants and coriander seeds slightly mute it. I can’t help but notice a slight iodine or marine quality, but it is lost in notes of pats and honey on cedar. The finish is a mix of almonds, oak and flint. 

Jeffrey Nitschke

I am a Portland area attorney whose career has dovetailed with a love of fine spirits and cigars. With no formal training in the field, my own interest spurred a thorough education through books, articles, visits to distilleries all over the United States, and a few deep dives into Wikipedia. Outside of my career and ever escalating pursuit of good whiskey, I can be found enjoying CrossFit, gardening, and playing music.

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