They say a legacy is not leaving something for people, but leaving something in people. In a strange way, Bruichladdich’s Legacy Series achieved both of these things. The distillery was reopened in 2001 after nearly seven years of inactivity – brought back to life by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, and not forgetting the host of Islay residents who helped to restore the 19th Century distillery’s machinery. The site still retains a strong link to its past – where other distilleries might have been revived fully automated, computerised and re-modelled Bruichladdich has evolved over the past 17 years through capacity needs, financial necessity and a drive for innovation, not through impulsiveness.
For the Legacy Series, then distillery Manager Jim McEwan selected whiskies from some of the oldest casks remaining in the Bruichladdich warehouses from when the distillery was owned by AB Grant (1960 – 1968) and Invergordon (1968 – 1993). Released annually between 2002 and 2007, the six bottlings in the series feature artwork created by contemporary Scottish artist Frances MacDonald who was renowned for her paintings of Scottish landscapes. Here they all are for you:
Legacy One - 1966 36 year old - 40.6% - 1500 bottles
Legacy Two - 1965 37 year old - 41.8% - 1500 bottles
Legacy Three - 1968 35 year old - 40.7% - 1572 bottles
Legacy Four - 1972 32 year old - 47.5% - 820 bottles
Legacy Five - 1972 33 year old - 40.9% - 1690 bottles
Legacy Six - 1972 34 year old - 41% - 1704 bottles
Today’s review is of the final bottle in the Legacy Series – Legacy Six. This bottling, released in 2007 is unlike the others in the series, in that it’s a vatting of the earliest and latest (by distillation date) casks seen across the whole series. Casks from 1965, 1970 and 1972 make up Legacy Six – the youngest being 34 years of age.
Nose: Orange marmalade and pronounced spit roasted pineapple – both a touch on the dusty and murky side. Stewed berries and reduced fruit jus are joined by honey, beeswax and hedgerow herbalness. There’s a lot of cigar box and pipe tobacco here – old, dry, faintly leathery. Water provides quite an improvement in clarity here (as does resting), opening up the nose to stone fruits and refined sugars.
Taste: A gentle arrival, but relatively mouth-coating. Red berries and yellow fruits to begin with – strangely mulled – Christmas snowberries with mint and nutmeg dusted bananas. The mid-palate is delicately woody, quite drying and becomes steadily more earthy – soils and mosses. There a touch of smoke here – wispy, charred oak – as well as some rather unusual rosewater. Dilution further enhances the earthy and grassy flavours, but sadly starts to wash out the arrival and definition of fruits.
Finish: Medium in length, combining stone fruits, tropical fruits and cinnamon-spiced berries.
Bruichladdich 1972 34 year old Legacy Six is quite far removed from the fresh and crisp distillate that has been produced at the distillery since 2001 – it’s soft, gentle and well-relaxed with age, but at the same time, somewhat fusty and restrained. There’s some unusual flavour combinations here (bananas with rosewater?!), but I struggled to find the perfect balance of water dilution to suit all of the aroma and flavour combinations whilst still maintaining the overall form – where the nose benefitted, the palate tightened. Nevertheless - very solid whisky matured in high quality wood from days gone by.