Pros: smooth and mellow, without heavy peatiness
Cons: perhaps a little too sweet, perhaps too little peat
There are probably as many kinds of whisky aficionado as there are whisky labels. IN my own house, there are two - two kinds of whisky fan, not two bottles (there are five or six [or maybe seven or eight] bottles). The Ms prefers the more mellow whiskies such as Glenlivet or Oban, while yours truly is partial to peaty drams such as you'd find shelved under "Islay" at the local bottle shop - Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Laphroaig, or the Islay blend sold as Black Bottle.
Until recently there were seven distilleries on Islay, eight if you counted the historic Port Charlotte distillery that was reopened by Bruichladdich in 2011. A ninth - Kilchoman - ramped up in 2005. The classic Islay style, represented best by Lagavulin, Ardbeg and Laphroaig, is a powerfully-peated distillation that some might find redolent of cigarette ashes. Caol Ila and Bowmore produce whisky of moderate peatiness, and the other two distilleries - Bunnahabhain and Bruichlladich - are more lightly peated, though still peatier than a bottle of lowland whisky.
Bruichladdich, a village and distillery on the lee side of the island's western arm near Port Charlotte, is pronounced (more or less) "Brook-Laddie." The name translates (kind of) from Gaelic as something like "The steep bank of the lee shore." Never mind what it means, though, because all you really need to know is how to pronounce it - and you probably will want to learn that! Case in point is today's dram: Bruichladdich Rocks, one of nine bottlings in the distiller's "Classic" line (along with 2001 Resurrection, Laddie 10, Laddie Classic, Laddie Sherry Classic, a 16-year-old finished in bourbon cass, a seventeen-year-old finished in rum casks, the 18-year-old second edition, and a 21-year-old).
Bruichladdich claims no vintage for Rocks, instead citing a variety of vintages combined and then matured in casks repurposed from French red wine vats. In terms of terroir, the water is local - from the renowned springs of Islay, water that's naturally filtered through peat for milennia - and the malt is the product of barley wrested from the island's rocky soil. Good stuff? Good stuff!
Eyes: Bruichladdich Rocks pours a pale amber with the slightest glints of ruby - a highly unusual color for a whisky.
Nose: Serves up an initial sensation of fruitiness, particularly grapefruit and perhaps some apple or pear. Malt character subdued by a well-defined sweetness; a slight molasses scent and a hint of vanilla.
Tongue: Smooth, with a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel. Fruitiness, perhaps from aging in the wine casks, replaces the powerful peat notes of the whiskies from the island's eastern shore; accompanied by a slight spiciness.
Finish: Nicely warm, while maintaining that fruity sweetness. Finally disappears in a faint nuttiness.
Overall: A nice introduction to the whiskies of Islay. The fairly low alcohol content - 46% ABV - makes it relatively mellow, and the light peat character is nothing like the slap in the face of a Lagavulin. While the name, Rocks, fits in with a series of Bruichladdich whiskies that includes Peat and Waves, it's also a bit of a pun: the master distiller says that Rocks is designed to be sipped "on the rocks." That's right, malt-heads, with ice (though I prefer it with a few drops of water).
**** Thanks, John (bruguru), for adding this tasty whisky to the database. ****