Bruichladdich Barley Exploration series

Bruichladdich Barley Exploration Series (2019)

Famously, Bruichladdich has been at the forefront of terroir exploration in whisky in general, and Scotch whisky in particular. They partner with farmers to supply them with barley, leading to spirits that aim to truly reflect the Islay provenance of Bruichladdich.

Last year the distillery even bought a 30-acre plot of land next to the distillery, in order to further experiment with barley varieties, as well as developing its sustainable farming practices. The land gives Bruichladdich a chance to dive deeper into what “Islay terroir” truly means.

A few weeks ago, Bruichladdich released three new vintages in its Barley Exploration Series. There’s one made from organic barley, another from barley exclusively grown on Islay, and a third that is produced using only Bere barley, an ancient variety.

bruichladdich the organic 2010Bruichladdich The Organic 2010 (50%, OB, 2019)

  • Distilled from organically grown barley, raised and harvested at Mid Coul Farms in 2009 for a 2010 distillation
  • Matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for a minimum of eight aged years
  • Accredited with organic certification from the UK Biodynamic Association 
  • Mid Coul Farms

Nose: Hints of burlap, butter and whole grain bread, with a touch of dry apple cider, as well as olive oil and wet rocks, followed galia melon. Freshly cut grass too, and a hint of soot.
Taste: Nice creaminess. There’s a nice initial fruitiness, with pink grapefruit at the forefront, but followed by banana and lemon. This is accompanied by warming spices, pepper and nutmeg mainly, but also fudge and toffee.
Finish: The spices linger, as does a pronounced grassiness.

Score: 87

bruichladdich islay barley 2011 2018Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011 (50%, OB, 2019)

  • Distilled from Islay-grown barley, raised in 2010 for 2011 distillation
  • Matured in 75% ex-bourbon American oak casks and 25% ex-wine European oak casks
  • Coull, Rockside, Island, Mulindry, Starchmill and Cruach Farms

Nose: A touch of hops and grapefruit, but also some dried paprika powder, herbs, and notes of rye bread. Whiffs of band aids, chalk and lemon peel too, as well as pear skin and tobacco leaves. Somewhat farmy.
Taste: Proper oily stuff with loads of character. Dark and intense. Licorice root, ginger, cracked black peppercorns and pipe tobacco. Slightly salty too, as well as notes of bitter lemon peel.
Finish: Lingering herbs and freshly cut grass.

Score: 88

bruichladdich bere barley 2010 2019Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2010 (50%, OB, 2019)

  • Distilled from Bere barley raised and harvested on Orkney in 2009 for a 2010 distillation
  • Matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for a minimum of eight aged years
  • Weyland & Watersfield, Richmond Villa, Quoyberstane and Northfield Farms

Nose: Big on the orris root, but with a quick hit of sourdough, and quite farmy overall, with a lot of grains. Sweet porridge notes. A touch of earl grey, honey, and peaches, as well as golden syrup. There’s just a whiff of eucalyptus also. High complexity.
Taste: Wow! Just, what is this? Great viscocity. More orris root, but also very fruity with peach and apricots. And then there’s something slightly medicinal, which really throws me for a loop. A light minerality too, followed by a touch of chocolate.
Finish: All of the above. Medium in length.

Score: 91


I hate to preach, but I feel sometimes it’s warranted. This is one of those times.

I don’t know who still dares to say that barley variety and terroir don’t matter, but that person must’ve taken a giant brick to the head. Or be deluded. Or at the very least uneducated.

There are plenty of terroir deniers within the whisky industry, and I’m urging them to at the very least taste this trio of whiskies from Bruichladdich. It’s a cliche, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

The diversity of these three new releases—and the complexity and character—is beyond what such young whiskies should have. That’s not achieved because of cask trickery. That’s because of a focus other than yield, but rather provenance and quality ingredients handled with the respect they deserve.

I understand that making whisky the way Bruichladdich does, is not viable for every distillery. It doesn’t always make economic sense, because most of the whisky drinkers don’t care about that stuff. But if you’re at the helm of a distillery and you’re truly passionate about whisky, then you should take note of what Bruichladdich does.

Samples provided by Bruichladdich

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