Jim McEwan was always one for a good tale and the aptly-named Black Art was one of his tricksy ways to generate interest in a whisky that is representative of what is possible with a skilled distiller and blender.
Unlike the behemoth that is the Octomore that was originally designed to be a statement: one part gut punch and two parts low blow, the Black Art is a tribute to good old whisky alchemy, serving up one part mystique, two parts surprise and three parts delight.
Following the tradition established by Jim McEwan, only Adam Hannett, Bruichladdich’s Head Distiller, knows what goes into the making of the new Black Art 06.1. All we know is that these are some of the oldest casks that they have in the distillery right now, as they date back to 1990. This run of the 26 YO Black Art will be limited to 18,000 bottles.
As the name suggests, putting together this whisky is more akin to an artistic endeavour, one that is defined by Adam’s instinct, passion and experience: “there are no rules, only instinct to follow.”
Interestingly, Adam is very familiar with the casks that were used ever since he stepped into the warehouse. He’s seen how they’ve progressed, and how some of them were recasked on Jim’s instructions to continue their development. With Jim’s retirement Adam continued to shape their collective journey, intervening as and when necessary. “I feel like this spirit and I have been on parallel journeys, each learning and developing in the warehouses, until I have the honour of selecting the casks that I want to represent the next release of Black Art.”
Typically, Bruichladdich is happy to release information about the makeup of its whisky, even to the point of finding ways to legally get the information about its whiskies to its consumers. However, the Black Art is in a way, the antithesis of everything typical of Bruichladdich. Perhaps it is a way to build mystery or a harmless bit of cheek but more likely, it is a reflection of the somewhat inexplicable way in which the concoction is finally deemed to be perfect for release. You just can’t impose a regimen on the process.
Bruichladdich Black Art 06.1
Black Art is also named for the fact there’s so much going on in the whisky – layers and layers of flavour that comes and goes and at times you aren’t sure where things start and where it ends. The 06.1 edition is no different.
Nose Almost your typical fruit basket of berries, chocolate but a hint of pie sweetness and a hint of cedar?
Palate Oakiness can be good and so it is here and which is why blending is truly an art form. A very busy whisky and difficult to pin down exactly what is going on. It carries on from the nose but at times you’ll pick up interesting little snippets of spices and herbs. Other times you’ll get vanilla and hints of coconut.
Finish A little more tropical fruits as you finish, joining caramel and smoke on the dance floor.
Little wonder why the alchemy of Black Art isn’t really documented. Its multilayered nature seemingly suggests that this is entirely made possible through sheer experimentation and the only way one knows when the whisky is complete is down to experience and happenstance.
The Bruichladdich Black Art 06.1 is now available at $650 nett (700ml) at La Maison du Whisky. If you want to try before taking the plunge, you can order it by the dram at Jigger and Pony for $79++ (45ml).