We didn't make it over to Islay for Fèis Ìle this year, but we did manage to bag a few samples of the special releases from quite a few of the distilleries. Today we're going to look at Bruichladdich and their new Rock'ndaal releases.
Rock’ndaal 01.1 Fèis Ìle 2022
This release comprises of all Islay barley from the 2007/2008 vintages. It's a mixture of Bruichladdich's 3 distinct spirits - Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore. Mostly bourbon matured, with some casks having been transferred to sauternes for a period. Natural colour and non-chill filtered.
We’re getting an initial hit of creaminess, very smooth whipped vanilla cream. There’s a salinity too, reminding us of a coastal breeze. Sponge cake, burnt marshmallow, a little dry earth backed up by a subtle yet present smoke. The alcohol isn’t overpowering, and we’re getting little yeast and freshly baked butter biscuit as we move the glass away from our noses. Going back we’re getting some warehouse mustiness, toasted breadcrumbs and some moist oak.
It’s very sweet, more so than we were expecting. It’s got that refined white sugar flavour mixed with some mild vanilla and the smouldering cinders of a fire just gone out. It’s quite ashy, a recognisable flavour we tend to get from Port Charlotte. There is a fair bit of ethanol that we’re not the biggest fans of, and feels quite out of place. There’s also some sort of metallic tang, acidic but not in a fresh way. The medium length finish ends with more of that ethanol flavour and a light smoke. Overall the palate seems disjointed, lots of component parts but nothing really singing in harmony.
Nose (with water)
We’re getting more of a richer, deeper sweetness now, brown sugar, caramel, more vanilla with the same backbone of peat smoke. It’s very pleasant actually. There’s some cereals appearing, gingerbread, along with dry earth and burnt twigs.
Palate (with water)
Similar to the nose, water has brought out somewhat richer sweetness, but we’re still struggling with the raw alcohol taste. We’re being transported to our teenage years, where all we could afford is cheap vodka. There’s a little honey and some apple schnapps going into the same length of finish we experienced before.
We’re big fans of Bruichladdich and with the nose on this, we had some high hopes for this dram. Unfortunately the palate felt disjointed, overly ethanol-forward, metallic and a little unpleasant. There’s good bourbon sweetness here but the lack of harmony ruins it for us. We’ve seen what Bruichladdich can do with the Ternary project, taking their 3 component spirits and blending them together to create something special, but this bottling doesn’t work for us. We’re going to give it a 6 because the nose is pleasant, otherwise we’d be down at a 5.
Rock’ndaal 01.2 Fèis Ìle 2022
This release comes from the 2005/2006/2007 vintages, and again is a mixture of Bruichladdich's 3 spirits, with less Bruichladdich, more Port Charlotte and more Octomore in comparison to 01.1. The casks are all sherry or wine, with Adam Hannett giving away that there are oloroso, PX and grenache casks amongst the mix.
It’s a little closed off at first, but as we get further into the glass, we’re getting fudge, cinnamon, nutmeg and freshly cut grass. There’s a little treacle syrup here, some sultanas, dates and ground ginger spice. It seems reasonably balanced on the nose, but we are detecting a slight raw alcohol aroma right in the background. The peat feels almost undetectable for us, there’s something akin to smoke but it’s more like toasted oak or an extra-charred cask. Going back we’re getting some strawberry and some rhubarb, but those are more supporting aromas.
An initial hit of spice, pink peppercorns, dried chilli flakes with complimenting red fruits. We’re getting the strawberries and rhubarb from the nose with the addition of raspberries and maybe a little cranberry. It’s quite dry, we’re struggling with moisture in our mouth’s after only a few sips. Similar to 01.1, we’re getting the strong ethanol note coming through which throws the whole dram out of balance. The finish has a medium to long length, giving us mostly light fruit syrup notes and drying oak with a bit of a raw alcohol bite. Similar to the nose, we’re struggling to detect any peat or smoke here, there’s an earthiness at the beginning of the palate, but that’s about it.
Nose (with water)
We’re now getting a mix of sweet and sour, cherries, more raspberries, and strawberry with a little balsamic vinegar. Some more of the red wine influence feels present now, it’s more tannic and earthy, but it’s lost some of those richer sherry aromas. We’re still not really getting peat here, it’s earthy with some dried dirt and old leaves but not particularly smokey.
Palate (with water)
We’re starting to find the peat! It’s earthy, dirty with a touch of medicinal flavours too. Saying that, there’s also more sourness, tangy metallic orange and lime balanced with a little fudge sweetness. We’ve still got those unfortunate ethanol notes that ride into the finish, but water has definitely changed the flavour for the better in our opinion.
A rich, sherry/wine led nose which seems balanced at first, but then falls down as you get further into the dram. The ethanol notes on both the nose and palate are unpleasant and out of place, ruining the enjoyment of the whisky for us. We’re also missing the peat, but perhaps the cask influence has overshadowed this. Saying that, the good amount of cask influence makes this better than the 01.1 in our opinion, but we can’t help but be disappointed at Bruchladdich’s Fèis Ìle releases this year.
- 10 - Perfection. A whisky that we’ll remember forever.
- 9 - Amazing. We’d pay through the nose for a bottle.
- 8 - Great. Pick this up at RRP.
- 7 - Good. Happy to have a dram or two but wouldn’t buy a bottle.
- 6 - Passable. Would accept a dram, but wouldn’t seek it out.
- 5 - Poor. Would drink if it was the only option.
- 4 - Bad. Maybe it can be saved by ginger beer?
- 3 - Awful. It can't be saved by ginger beer.
- 2 - Pour it out
- 1 - We’ve never tried a whisky rated this low and hopefully never will.
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