Whisky For Girls ~ washbacks to slingbacks 009
Dec. 01.

Ciara’s Journey Whisky Tasting @ Bruichladdich

Ciara’s Journey Whisky Tasting was a special evening held in Bruichladdich Distillery on Saturday 30 Nov. as part of the huge fund raising initiative to support Ciara Caskie Allan and her family. Ciara is 11 years old and lives on Islay. She has been battling with illness since she was three years old. She has to travel to America and stay there for three months while she receives Proton treatment for a brain tumour.

The evening was hosted by master blender and raconteur, Mr Jim McEwan. We were treated to local girls, Mairi and Siobhan’s beautiful singing, both in Gaelic and in English, excellent piping from Alasdair and Katie and the wonderfully funny and poignant songs from whisky musician, Robin Laing.

There were over eighty people packed in to the reception centre, we sat in rows as at a concert.

We had one glass apiece and Jim talked us through each dram, then Duncan and Ailsa would come round and replenish our glass for the next tasting.

The drams were the three new Cuvees, The Valinch with the Calvados Finish and the Laddie 16 yo. Four 21 yo drams and one 16 yo, making a total of 100 years of drams!

Cuvee is a French wine term derived from cuve, meaning vat or tank. The cuvée-labeled wines will usually be special blends or selected vats of higher quality, at least in comparison to that producer’s regular wine(s).  This term is associated with Sauternes wine, a sweet wine from the Suaternais region of the Graves region of Bordeaux. Sauternes is made from SémillonSauvignon Blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. This causes the grapes to become partially raisined, resulting in concentrated and distinctively flavored wines.

What is ‘Cuvee’ in this whisky context, I wondered? ~ Basically, it is the name of Bruichladdich’s new range of expressions. Very clever. As usual, Bruichladdich are ahead of the game. They are using the word as an inherent descriptive measure of quality for the series. Many years ago Britain used a similar tactic when christening herself Great Britain!

Perhaps in future we will see other distilleries producing ‘cuvees’. After all,  I remember a time when there were no such things as ‘expressions’ ~ there were just the different drams each distillery produced….

The Bruichladdich Cuvees have numbers instead of names, all 46%, all non chill filtered

Cuvee 382, La Berenice  is 18 years in a bourbon cask, then 3 years in a sauternes/barsac cask

On the nose ~ thin and sweet, light and ‘grapey’,  On the palate ~melon, cereal & vanilla. Smooth, good body, with the taste at the front.  It is a journey of a dram.

Cuvee 640, PX  is 18 years in a bourbon cask, then 3 years in a pedro ximenez sherry cask

On the nose ~ oranges, very warm and fruity. On the palate ~ rich, salty, hint of ‘mushroominess’, cereal, dark woody underneath. Smooth, but oakey underneath. Full at the end.   It is a rich senation of a dram.

Cuvee 407, Eroica is 18 years in a bourbon cask, then 3 years in a cognac cask ~ Limousin oak cask from Aquitaine which contained Eaux de Vie.

Eaux de Vie is a clear colourless, light fruit brandy.

On the nose ~ very sweet, sugary, lemoney undertones. On the palate ~green grapey, very malty, a saltiness, underlying burn of seaweediness,. Thinner, not such body as the previous one. A drier mouthfeel.  It is unusual.

All the cuvees have the distinct honey/vanilla and salt of Bruichladdich with the additional flavours and textures added by the three extra years.

Why are the cuvees numbered and not named? Is this a nod to the lucky numbers of the East? The birthdays of Jim Mc Ewan’s grandchildren? The ages of the three dogs belonging to Duncan McGillivray?  ~ Who knows? And the Bruichladdich staff weren’t telling…..

The next two drams were the pear flavoured, Calvados matured, Forbidden Fruit of the Valinch which was really sweet yet thinner; sharp and estery. One can smell the pears on the nose.

The ‘deoch an dorus’ ~  meaning the ‘drink of the door’,  the ‘drink before you leave’, ‘the one for the road’, was the Laddie 16 years old, which has a lovely balance and is sweet and vanilla and malty.

The tasting this evening was about more than just the drams. Ciara’s family were presented with cheques detailing  sums of money that islanders, and others have raised  ~ to date the appeal has generated a generous £45,000.

Not bad for a wee island that is closer to T’ir na nOg, than to mainland Europe……

Myself, with whisky magician himself, Mr Jim McEwan.

Thank you to all who contributed in anyway, and most of all ~ lots of love and luck to Ciara. XXX

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