Bruichladdich 19, 1999-2009, Black Art

Bruichladdich Black Art 19 yoThis was the first in Bruichladdich’s Black Art series of complicatedly matured malts (bourbon and then, from what I can tell online, every kind of wine cask that head distiller, Jim McEwan could get his hands on). The bottles are striking–black with alchemical images–and the prices are high. As with a lot of the 75,189 whiskies the revived Bruichladdich released to keep the cash flow going while they waited for their own distillate to come online, this is older stock “finished”, or in Bruichladdich/Murray McDavid’s parlance, ACE’d in wine casks. Some would say that this is yet another case of Jim McEwan making silk purses out of sow’s ears; and others might say that the smell of porcine earwax lingers. You can probably guess which way a miserable bastard like me would tend. That said, there are some of McEwan’s experiments that I have absolutely loved–the Infinity 3, for example, and the Octomore Comus–and I like to believe that I keep an open mind; if dodgy old stock softened up in wine casks results in a fine whisky I am happy to drink it.

Bruichladdich 19, 1999-2009, “Black Art” (51.1%; bourbon and wine cask matured; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Somewhat closed, which is odd considering the abv is not that high. Then winey notes (lots of red fruit), some raisins and nuts. A little saltier with time. With a little more time there’s some citrus peel. Water suppresses the wine but doesn’t bring out anything new.

Palate: Sweet and rather red winey. Cherry liqueur and plums and just a little bit of smoke. Gets saltier with time and there’s some citrus here too. It’s not bad, but is it whisky? Water improves things a little–the red fruit and wine get dialed back and the saltiness expands.

Finish: Medium. Gets more bitter as it goes (but doesn’t get very bitter) and there’s some soot. The salt and citrus continues on the finish. However, with water, the wine separates at the very end.

Comments: This is not as much of a wine-whisky cocktail as the Glenmorangie Artein, and I do like it more but, on the whole, I am very glad I was not ever intrigued enough by this to buy a bottle. There have been more editions but unless I read very strong reports I am not very motivated to seek them out. So, what are the odds that Jim McEwan and Bruichladdich are going to dial back the wine cask maturation now? Though the reports that the new Octomore 6.2 is (part?) matured in eau de vie casks makes me worry about where they may go next if they do….

Rating: 82 points. (Below 80 without water.)

Thanks to Sku for the sample!

3 thoughts on “Bruichladdich 19, 1999-2009, Black Art

  1. Agreed, I dislike the entire Black Art range as far too influenced by the wine. I feel for McEwan having to rescue what were obviously tired casks, but this plays more toward the marketing department than the distillers.

    Also, what’s up with them using a Star of David on the label? Were they going for a pentagram and missed? Brutal.

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  2. The Black Art 2 is almost maroon in color. The wineyest whisky I’ve ever tried. Of course there are no details provided on the wines, but I think there had to be Madeira, dry sherry, and Bordeaux in there. I normally would never be able to pick out wines blindly but there was just so much of them and so little malt, a wine cocktail as you mentioned.

    I like your question, “But is it whisky?” It seemed as if the whisky (not the barrels) had been generously treated by wine. The SWA has banned a number of whiskies over naming issues and extra added oak, but they had no problem allowing The Black Art to be called a single malt?

    The smell of porcine earwax lingers. To take Kipling’s quote out of context, “But is it Art?”

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