Like two competitive brothers, constantly trying to outdo the other, all the while failing to see how amazingly well they compliment each other, these two single malt expressions are radically different, while being cut from the same cloth.
The distillery that gave birth to both of these stunning Scotches is the ever innovative Bruichladdich. As they stay true to their roots by homage to the distillery that came before them, Port Charlotte, they continue to move forward by experimenting with new techniques, styles, showcasing the elements that make up their whisky.
Nestled in the bay in the heart of Islay, this south-western part of Scotland is known for producing whiskies with a heavy smoke flavor, thanks in part to the roasting of the malt over a fire fueled by peat. What makes the comparison of these two brothers so interesting is while one, the Scottish Barley, highlights and even pushes the boundaries of the peat element, the Islay Barley does everything possible to leave the peat behind and showcase the single farm barley from Rockside Farm.
Islay Barley Unpeated v. Scottish Barley Heavily Peated
Delicate, and full of citrus flavors, the Islay Barley brings out flavors usually not associated with the big bad boys from the Islay region of Scotland. Honied toasted almonds, with a subtle lemon zest nuance comes through on the nose and lingers all the way through every sip.
Probably better said by their master whisky craftsman:
“A painfully slow distillation to gently coax the delicate oils and flavour compounds from the barley, coupled with casks carefully selected to preserve those flavours, has resulted in a whisky of exceptional complexity.”
This is a perfect sipping Scotch for those times that the weather might be a little too warm for a heavily peated assault on your palate. I’m not one usually for recommending scotch pairings with anything other than “another pour” but this is a perfect tapas, or appetizer Scotch. The flavor profile won’t overpower fish, cheeses, or even, and I know this is going to sound like the cheese has slipped off my cracker, but a fruit plate. While my suggestions usually tend towards steak, bold pastas, and more potent dish companions, this one calls for a lighter touch.
Like the black keys to the white, the bass to the treble, the Scottish Barley plays a whole different tune than it’s lighter brother. While the predominate flavor that presides over every sip is nostalgic campfire, and robust smoke, still the soft flavors of the carefully farmed Scottish barely shine through.
Citrusy subtleties and burnt vanilla expand off of the foundation the sensuous smoke has provided. This heavily peated style is a nod to the forgotten distillery of Port Charlotte. Born in 1829 and died in 1929, the hundred years of distilling set a tone for the area, that Bruchladdich has gladly, and thankfully carried on.
“This whisky is testament to our belief that raw ingredients matter. Trickle distilled from 100% Scottish Barley the spirit gently matures in the lochside village of Port Charlotte before being bottled here at the distillery using Islay spring water.”
Since I gave a pairing for its brother, I feel compelled to do the same here. Cigars. There. Go down to your humidor, or if it’s not well-stocked head over to your local fine purveyor of tobacco and get yourself a Padron, a Liga Privdada, or another top tier Nicaraguan delight. The richness of the Nicaraguan tobacco will mingle with the smoke from its Scottish counterpart and elevate both flavor profiles.
With all of that being said, you don’t have to choose one or the other. A single dram does not a pleased palate make. These two very different expressions of the same whisky style are liquid accolades and testaments to the skill level of the craftsmen at Bruchladdich. Treat yourself to an experiment of your own, with an at home sampling of these two Islay brothers and delve into the depth of single malt.