It was with some measure of horror that I realised I hadn’t actually (officially) reviewed any of the core Bruichladdich drams.
Bruichladdich is just bloody awesome. Exceptional whisky overall, fantastic people, transparency-first whiskymaking (alongside pioneer Compass Box) and the best visit on Islay you can have. Despite being owned by a luxury brands company, the distillery tour gives you an up-close-and-personal insight into traditional whisky production with the most relaxed, laid-back group of whisky nerds there are.
Classic Laddie is “the whisky” of the distillery. No vertical ladder, no endless series of age statements. Some annual releases aside (most notably barley varietals), Classic Laddie is the core unpeated product of the distillery, alongside Port Charlotte representing “peat” and of course Octomore representing “bonkers peat”. It clocks in at a completely standard 50% ABV – a delightfully OCD-appeasing round number, and something being mercilessly copied by some new distilleries. It, like all their expressions, is proudly non-chill filtered and naturally colour, and state as much on the actual label, rather than hiding it in some easily retractable webpage or cheesy tasting video (cough, Highland Park).
It also has the sexiest bottle in the business, that Bruichladdich matte turquoise jumping out on any whisky shelf and raising incredulous eyebrows from the unenlightened 🙂
Deep, coppery gold.
Ah man, such great whisky. GREAT whisky.
Imagine this – take a familiar, unpeated, predominantly bourbon matured whisky (let’s say Glenfiddich 12). You have this solid base of apples, vanilla, oak, malt and caramel – easy to drink, fruity and sweet. Classic Laddie takes that and tweaks the Levels filter on Photoshop until the blacks are blacker, the whites whiter and then slaps a layer of Sharpness on there for good measure.
All of which is to say that it is easy to unpack, crystal clear and yet potent as hell. Powerful. You get a heavy dose of floral stuff wafting out the glass, but none of that “bathroom perfume” – here it genuinely smells like the garden, fresh and herbal and earthy. Cherries, but not too sweet. A heavy dose of pineapple, a little melon.
Classic Laddie is one crisp sonofabitch – like biting into some perfect piece of fruit, with accompanying explosion of flavour. Every sip brings a smile to my face, so as I type this I currently look like a total dork, grinning like a madman while nursing my glass.
Tastes line up with smells. I find that batches of Classic Laddie do vary slightly – the product of their old school methods – which means the balance between fruit and floral tends to differ a little. But they all have a really exceptional, sea salt and briney flavour that doesn’t reveal itself until a few sips in and your tastebuds have had a cooling off period. Slightly chalky, a little marzipan, grapes. Fresh bread. Just… yeah, terrific.
The finish is what hardcore malt whisky is all about. It really does taste like how malted barley smells – a thick cereal oiliness, rich and enduring. The slightest malt bitterness, the perpetual alcohol zing. More “Weetbix” than “Cornflakes”.
It will come as no surprise that Classic Laddie (and quite frankly, the entire Bruichladdich stable) swims like a champion. That fruitiness gets top billing when the alcohol has been taken down, and the floral notes get a little subdued – so you can enjoy it any way you prefer. It can take a serious water beating – so I’ll happily sip this over ice, and be thoroughly tempted to turn it into a highball.
It’s abundantly clear why Classic Laddie is so universally loved. If you tend to forego heavy peat, sherry or other exotic casks in favour of that “simple malt style”, this is pretty much the zenith of what the style offers. If you’re a daily “Glen” drinker, in all likelihood Classic Laddie will be your 10 out of 10 – it really doesn’t get better than this.
Pricing is a little tricky – however, keep in mind that you’re getting a hell of a lot of alcohol per bottle, so there’s some wiggle room. Still expensive regardless, but the bottle sure does make one sexy flower vase!