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Bruichladdich 16 Year Aged Bourbon Cask

Whisky Review: Bruichladdich 16 Year Aged Bourbon Cask 76.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 8, 2010

The Bruichladdich (Pronunciation = Brook Laddie) distillery was built in 1881 on Hebridean Isle, in what is now known as the Islay region of Scotland. It was one of many distilleries, which despite its long history and tradition of whisky making, was closed in 1994 due to industry consolidation. The distillery no longer produced whisky, but the existing stocks left inside continued to age. The good news is that on 19th December, 2000, the distillery was purchased by a small band of investors. It was renovated and reopened, and on May 21, 2001 the distillery once again began to distill whisky.

I have written before of the propensity of Bruichladdich to create small artisan offerings using unique cask finishes. I am going in a completely different direction today and reviewing one of their more traditional offerings. A 16-year-old Scottish Single Malt aged for its entire life in a bourbon cask.

In the Bottle 5.0/5

Bruichladdich does everything right when they present their whisky. Sleek metal canisters house their whisky with an impressive selection of information available for the purchaser. In the case of the canister for the 16 year Cask Aged Bruichladdich, the canister clearly identifies the type of cask used to age the spirit, the length of time the spirit was aged, and the length of time the release is expected to be available. As well as information concerning exactly which type of oak was used to barrel whisky is given and why that particular oak is important. Details such as this are extremely helpful in selecting just the right whisky.

The bottles are protected from the light by the attractive metal canister the, the labeling on the canister is repeated on the bottle. The bottles are clear so you can observe the spirit inside. Finally, the bottle is topped with a proper high density cork topper.

A perfect presentation!

In the Glass 8.0/10

This whisky is somewhat of a yellow golden amber colour in the glass. When I swirl the glass I noticed only a light oil and very skinny legs on the sides of the glass. The spirit should be crisp with a little oil in the finish.

Nosing the glass, I notice there is a definite vanilla and bourbon flair on the nose, with accents of honey and butterscotch. But, something is awry here; the aroma from the glass is slightly harsh. The butterscotch aroma seems caramelized and the oak notes seem slightly charred. The scent is more of treacle than of honeyed spice. As well an earthy dankness has arisen which seems to quell the sweetness of the malt leaving it a little flat.

In the Mouth 46/60

The first thing I noticed as the whisky entered my mouth was an odd bitterness, which seemed to steal the pleasure from the experience. Things seem just a bit off, as if the sweetness of the malt has been quelled and the more bitter flavours have been allowed to gain more expression than they ought.  I taste a dank remnants of corn and vanilla which have turned bittersweet and pungent. The addition of an ice-cube helps, but all of the regular flavours I normally encounter in whisky, the butterscotch, the honey, the oaky tannins are all tainted with that odd pungent bitterness, and they seem to be slightly thickened or perhaps more concentrated than they ought to be.

I struggled through various tasting sessions trying to see if maybe my mood was affecting my taste perception, or if maybe my palate had been compromised by an earlier experience; but, the odd bitterness is always there. It acts as an unwelcome agent thwarting my efforts to find pleasure.

In the Throat 10/15

When sipping the whisky, the bitterness is a little too much in the throat, as this is where it seems to find the largest force even well after the whisky is gone. However, as I let my ice cubes melt, the harsh bitterness becomes somewhat muted. The resulting finish with cold water added is an odd combination of treacle and vanilla, with oak spice settling in right at the end.

The Aftermath 7.5/10

I am a huge fan of the Bruichladdich whiskies; however, the 16 year Bourbon Cask was a challenge for my palate. The flavours were bittersweet and I found the experience intimidating. I experimented with ice and water until I found a combination which I could sip, but there was never that moment of discovery where I found enjoyment in this single malt. Sadly, I had to relegate this whisky to the status of mixer.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Recipe Suggestion

Fortunately all was not lost, and although I was denied the pleasure I was seeking when sipping this Single Malt straight or on ice, I was able to successfully build a few cocktails which tasted very nice indeed.  The one I will share is based upon a popular cocktail drink fashioned at the famous Algonquin Hotel, which usually made with rye, The Algonquin.  I made a few modifications and decided to call the resulting cocktail, The Hebridean Isle.

The Hebridean Isle

1 1/2 oz Bruichladdich 16 Year Aged Bourbon Cask
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Pineapple and/or Orange juice
Sugar Syrup to taste (1 teaspoon recommended)

Just shake all of the ingredients over ice in a metal shaker
Then Strain into an ice filled old-fashioned glass

Serve and Enjoy!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)



3 Responses to “Bruichladdich 16 Year Aged Bourbon Cask”

  1. Jasen said

    I agree, was given a bottle for my 40th birthday from a friend that knows that I like bruichladdich. I normally drink my scotch neat unless cask strength. This scotch needs the water to get it to blossom not much but a little.

  2. Ian said

    An outstandingly thorough and professional review; many thanks. I noticed the harshness, too, that didn’t subside into peatiness. But your conclusion is brutal–a mixer! I think it’s still very drinkable–the harshness isn’t such a factor for me and at most I’ll add a splash of ice cold water.

    • Thanks for the comment Ian.

      I am glad that you found more enjoyment from the whisky than I did. The harshness/bitterness obviously affected my palate much more than yours. It is something I have noticed before, that I seem to have a sensitivity to bitterness which is more pronounced perhaps than other persons. In the case of the Bruichladdich 16 I found I had to mix it in cocktails to find enjoyment, but I am extremely glad you wrote of your experience with the whisky as this perhaps gives the review page another perspective and a little balance of opinion.

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