The Elements series of pharmaceutical bottlings pays homage to more than just the periodic table. Most are multi-cask marriages blended to highlight particular aspects of either the underlying spirit or the influence of casks that the spirit has matured in. As such, there’s both science and experimentation taking place behind the scenes to achieve a balance of liquids that is harmonious. No easy task.
Head of Cask Management Ollie Chilton has a wide palette of styles to choose from when it comes to the Elements series of whiskies. And Islay whilst synonymous with peat has broader non-peated spirit profiles with which to experiment with. Once such profile is derived from Bruichladdich or Br in the Elements nomenclature (the distillery’s peated output gets its nods in the form of the Ln and Pc bottlings), which is now up to its seventh Elements iteration.
Br7 is composed of four casks - three sherry hogsheads and one ex-bourbon barrel - all from 2001 distillate. Like many of the Elements series it is delivered at a high strength (‘Full Proof’ - effectively a form of cask strength but with some tinkering post maturation) in this case 60.4% - notably high given the length of time in cask.
Nose: Rich and expressive, but at the same time a little bit left-field. Heavily reduced plums and raspberries sit alongside boot polish and gruyere cheese. Chocolate, espresso, marzipan and ginger provide more normality. But then, sunflower oil, marigolds and mouldy walls take thing back into the realm of the strange. In the background, burnt toast, brown sugars and cold brew coffee liqueur. Reduction provides yet more intriguing aromas - mezcal, pickled onion Monster Munch, and tobacco leaves.
Taste: This one comes out swinging with a big impact arrival - you’re likely going to reduce this. Starting with sherry fruits - raspberries, cranberries, damsons and dates, there’s also a soured wine taste that’s hard to isolate - if you’ve ever sniffed a long empty wine barrel you’ll understand. Proving it yet more punch is chilli chocolate and plenty of earthiness, wet souls and mosses. These are joined by a combination of potpourri and Butyric acid (stale milk - that’s not going to be for everyone) wallpaper paste and tree bark. The addition of water adds sweetness - molasses and brandy snaps and tartness - grape cider.
Finish: Fairly long, with coffee beans and walnuts from the sherry influence, but also some drying steeliness and slight chalky minerality.
Elements Br7 is rich, powerful, well composed and definitely provocative. But, is it completely compelling? I’m honestly not sure and suspect your views on this whisky will very much depend on your predilection towards some of the more unusual aromas and flavours that can be achieved from the Bruichladdich spirit - particularly its Butyric side. Here, these outliers are integrated, cohesive and intriguing, but not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Scoring is personal - your mileage might vary.
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