Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bruichladdich Links, The Old Course, St. Andrews - 17th Hole

stats: Single Malt Scotch, Islay, 46%, $8 (50ml)

When a bit of freelance whisky work took me to Florida this past winter I unfortunately had to pass up the opportunity to play golf on what I can only assume were some of the state’s finest courses.

After hosting a successful single malt event I was approached by Mr. Goswami (the Executive Director of Frenchman’s Creek, and a man who commands much respect), and with an approving nod and keen smile he said “Michael, next year bring your clubs”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that not only did I not own a set of clubs, but it had been 25 years since I’d even played a round of golf. “Well”, I thought to myself, “I guess I have a year to learn the game.”

Winter has now finally given way to spring, and since I tend to change jobs frequently I eagerly took advantage of the free weekly golf workshop that my current employer offers as a benefit, in spite of the persistent light rain that was falling at the appointed time this week.

After a relatively successful outing (as the Pro said, “Not bad for 25 years on the bench”), I returned home and something caught my eye; a miniature of Bruichladdich that I had picked up while visiting the distillery last year. I had brought a lot of single malt minis back with me, but this one was somewhat unique; it was part of the Bruichladdich Links series. As these bottlings were made to celebrate Scotland’s love for golf and whisky, it seemed like a perfect drink with which to commemorate my long overdue return to the sport.

There were 14 releases in the series, which ran from 2003 through 2009, and the labels and tins featured the famed golf course artwork of Graeme Baxter. Most of them carried age statement in the 14 year to 16 year range, and were bottled in the standard 700 ml and 750 ml bottle sizes. There were a few that came out in 500 ml bottles, one of which appears to have been bottled both as a 10 year and a “no age statement” version.

But the release that I have (The Old Course, St. Andrews - 17th Hole) is a bit of an anomaly with no age statement and having been bottled in both 50 ml and 1000 ml sizes. While most of the releases had information about the cask types employed readily available, this one remains a mystery with online searches yielding not a clue.

The aromas are densely packed, but not overpowering. There’s a hint of honey on the nose in spite of the fact that it seems quite dry overall.
Medium to full bodied, it seems much richer than the typical Bruichladdich style. The palate puts forth an interesting and unique spectrum of flavors – dry, dusty grain balanced by rich, honeyed, nutty overtones, a salty maritime tang, and subtle fruit and floral aspects.
It moves gracefully into the warming embrace of its spicy finish, and only falls slightly out of balance at the tail end after the spice and warmth have faded away.

Well mannered and complex, but it is atypical of what I know from this distillery. Perhaps that should be expected considering the large number of limited releases and one-offs that they put out.