Bruichladdich Black Art 4

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Bruichladdich Black Art 4
Single malt whisky
stars 5
Islay, Scotland
Best served:
Neat, with water 
American and French Oak
(N) Citrus, buttery barley, hazelnut, chocolate, toasted coconut, vanilla, polished mahogany, drying wine (T) Powerful, assertive and bold, almond noughat, glazed cherries, chocolate, mild smoke, salt, Asian spices (F) sizzling sweet and sour, chilies, smoke, salt, apricot danish, cinnamon

Black Art 4 is the fourth release of Bruichladdich’s popular “Black Art”, which is comprised of whisky from a selection of casks that are kept a closely guarded secret. The only information released about this mysterious whisky is that it was distilled in 1990, aged for 23 years during which American and French Oak casks are used and bottled at 49.2% alcohol volume. All other information appears to be suppressed, just like the recipe for the Big Mac sauce, the Colonel’s herbs and spices or what on Earth my girlfriend wants for Valentine’s day! 
Bruichladdich is a distillery located on the island of Isay in Scotland, where hundreds of years ago the island natives learned the art of distilling from Irish monks.Over the next hundred years demand for whisky gradually expanded, and to service this demand Bruichladdich was founded in 1881. It closed in 1994, and aging stocks of whisky were left to do what they do best – absorb phenolic compounds from the oak. The distillery was subsequently purchased by private investors and re-opened in 2001. Jim McEwan was signed on as Master Distiller and the team has been keeping a lot of people very happy ever since. This history therefore explains how the distillery, having re-opened in 2001, can offer whisky that was distilled in 1990.  
Bruichladdich state that ‘Black Art is Master Distiller Jim McEwan’s personal voyage into the heart of Bruichladdich’ and that he worked ‘with the very finest American and French oak to explore that most esoteric relationship between spirit and wood’. That relationship between spirit and wood is probably the most important aspect of whisky making, because the oak either imparts flavour compounds into the spirit or alters those existing compounds. New make spirit is not as interesting as an aged whisky, because it needs to draw out flavour and have its own flavours altered by being aged in the wood and exposed to oxygen. The Black Art 4, in my opinion, is a great example of the complex aromas and flavours that oak can impart into a whisky beyond the usual suspects – sherry, bourbon, vanilla… WOOD! To get even more out of the experience I highly recommend you read Whisky Chemistry.
Black Art 4 offers some very fascinating twists and turns, and very complex flavours which are not overly oak dominated. This explains Jim’s quest to seek balance between spirit and wood. What I love about Black Art 4 is that despite its age of 23 years the barley still shines within subtle nuances of wood driven character and on the palate the complex sweetness morphs without warning into a smoky haze of salt and bristling Asian spices – a very interesting and unique twist! I think the team at Bruichladdich have done a superb job.  

Tasting notes:
Nose: Burnt citrus peel (orange and lime in particular) accompany buttery barley and bitter hazelnut which develops more sweetness and into Nutella, dark chocolate cherry ripe and toasted coconut with deep vanilla notes softening the bite of drying polished mahogany. There is a wine theme in this bouquet, quite dry with oak driven sugars providing balance. Water softens the burnt citrus peel into orange cake and seems to release more lemon and dill aromas. 

Taste: This whisky has a great mouth-coating texture, and it coats every crevice of the palate. It is powerful, assertive bold and sweet. Almond nougat develops first with licorice, glazed cherries and chocolate, but then the sweetness gradually recedes at mid-palate into a smoky haze of fresh salt and oriental spices. This is where it gets really interesting. 

Finish: The haze of salt and oriental spices then resembles a sizzling sweet and sour hot plate with chilies. The smoke, which began to develop on the palate, is now more noticeable. The finish therefore offers mild smoke and spice with salt and a moderating sweetness of an apricot danish with cinnamon. 

Complex, interesting, innovative, salt notes within sweetness – a real charmer 
£180 (UK)

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