Whisky review: Whisky review: Bruichladdich The Sixteens Bou

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Count Silvio
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Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:50 pm

Two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Mark Reynier about the new whisky release from Bruichladdich and quite recently I received a sample of the new whisky, which I am reviewing today.

Bruichladdich 16 Year Old Bourbon Cask matured Single Malt is distilled and aged by Bruichladdich, a privately owned Islay based distillery by the shore of Loch Indaal, which was built in 1881 by Barnett Harvey, using funds received from his nephew, William Harvey IV.

The distillery was built from scratch instead of the usual farm conversion and was made out of concrete, which at the time was a revolutionary new building material. The annual output in 1881 was 423,000 litres of whisky a year compared to the 1,500,000 litres of whisky a year today.

In 1994 the distillery was temporarily closed and it was maintained by only 2 men but it soon resumed operation when Murray McDavid purchased and completely remodelled the distillery in the year 2000.
Read it all on the frontpage.
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Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:27 pm

Welcome back Count!

I must admit I had a rather different experience with the Bruichladdich 16 Bourbon Cask.

My review on my blog tells the story of a whisky which unfortunately contained an odd bitterness that kept denying me pleasure. In the end I relegated the dram to the status of Mixer, as it was only when i mixed it that I found any way to quell the bitterness.

I wonder though, did I taste the same dram as you? (our reviews are separated by about two years).

Mostly i wonder because I remember about a year and a half ago, I bought a Rum Cask 18 year old Bruichladdich based upon a stellar review I read online. My bottle unfortunately was terrible. I found out later that a separate bottling had been done for my locale, (Alberta). Jim Murray noted this different bottling in his Whisky Bible, His one word review for the bottle I bought..."ouch".

I have remained generally suspicious of the consistency of Bruichladdie bottlings ever since.

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Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:44 pm

Hmm, interesting observation. I do hate it when they make different bottlings for different markets. It could make buying by the review harder as reviews are universal and read by all nationalities. One would have to start making separate reviews then for different nations.

I am just wondering how common this practice is. I have heard certain rums are made sweeter for the US market. :hsughw:
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Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:42 am

I won't pretend to know about alteration of whisk(e)ys, but I can speak to rum. The evidence is overwhelming that rogue rum is frequently "tweaked" with sugar, sherry, glycerol, artificial flavors and spices and the like. Sugar and baking (not spirit) caramel is frequently used as sugar can make a young, continuously stilled rum appear to be sweeter, smoother and have more body than it does. Color alteration usually accompanies this practice as a nice deep amber implies unearned age and character.

Sad. Fortunately, there are sufficient honest and pure rums that we can all enjoy. Bitterness is a strange finding, often experienced by a smaller percentage of tasters who are hypersensitive to these compounds. Fortunately the great majority of tasters do not have this hypersensitivity.
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Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:55 am

I am fairly sure that my observation was not associated with alteration in this case. It seems more to be a matter of the the time and geographical distance that the reviews were apart. The Count's review is obviously near the start of the time period that this whisky became available. My review was near the end of the time period. After two years I suspect any product will change no matter how masterful the blender. The second factor was the geographical distance the whiskies were apart. Alberta has recently become a hot bed for Scotch Whisky, I just think that in this case Bruichladdich was not as careful blending for my markets as they were for the home market, by this I mean that perhaps they were in a rush to get the product there. (I mean blending in the generic sense not that I think this whisky was a Blend.)

I did make one mistake I should rectify and that was in the naming of the previous Bruichladdich bottling to which i was referring, It was not the Rum Cask but rather the Bruichladdich 1989, which scored a 94 in Jim Murray's whisky Bible in 2008, and prompted me to by the bottle. In the 2009 Bible it still scored 94 but the Alberta Bottling of the same whisky scored 75. (i love how meticulous Jim Murray is about things.)

I think we have something similar to his observation with the Bruichladdich Sixteens.

I did get a comment on my blog from another who also noticed the bitterness I found, but thought my assessment of the whisky (relegating it to a mixer) was brutal. (The way the comment was written led me to believe the commenter was associated in some way with the whisky.)

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Sat Sep 18, 2010 2:08 pm

Let me be more specific. One of the phenols that may result from either fermentation or distillation is phenol-thiol-urea (yes, I know). A number of studies have shown that in most populations about 25% of the tasters interpret this phenol as "bitter" to a greater or lesser degree. The vast majority, or 75% of the population find this phenol tasteless, and for most it has literally no effect on the taste.

Does this mean that those who find this "bitterness" are wrong? Not at all. The impression is quite real, despite the fact that this finding is in the minority. Tasters who find that they experience bitterness in a number of spirits or wines, especially when the preponderance of reviews do not make this finding, might consider that they are members of this minority. Because it is not a misinterpretation, they may have to simply ignore their atypical finding or find a spirit that has less of this phenol.

Certainly having this propensity would be challenging for the professional reviewer.
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Mon Sep 20, 2010 12:46 am

Its funny, where you see challenge, I see opportunity. If indeed a professional reviewer was susceptible to this particular quirk, and 25 % of the population was also. I would think that would give his (or Her) reviews a sizable audience.

Now I do not know if I am susceptible to that particular palate quirk, but I do know that I have always tasted things others cannot. Take that pre-cut bagged lettuce that is all the rage, To me it tastes vile. There is a chemical coming off the plastic, or perhaps a preservative in there that turns my stomach. I have heard that 10 % of the population have that same reaction. But you know what, I'll bet everyone has certain tastes that affect them badly, and others that don't. We all taste differently. That is why it is is important to describe the flavours that give us pleasure in a review and also those that don't.

I think it would be terrible if a reviewer ignored what he tasted just to ensure his review conformed to the norm. I say, let the reader decide the worthiness of the review, but keep the review honest with no fudging!

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Mon Sep 20, 2010 1:50 pm

I agree completely.

To those so affected the sensation of "bitterness" is quite real, and it is perfectly honest and understandable if they note or report it. The studies are not cast in stone, and it is well to note that the "25%" who exhibit this sensitivity was "... to a greater or lesser degree". A continuum. This means that a subset of this minority experience a relatively minor sensation, while another subset is but modestly affected, and yet another small subset is greatly affected.

The word "bitter" is quite an extreme and powerful descriptor and no doubt reflects the small subset who are affected to a greater degree. Sadly, the studies I noted did not break it down, but it is obviously less than 25%. Let's say a third - 8% - are heavily affected, bothered enough to dislike the wine or spirit, further bothered enough to report it and further yet, bothered enough to use the negatively powerful descriptor of "bitter".

This would mean that these reporters would be speaking coherently to say 10% of drinkers (their fellow heavily affecteds), and incoherently to say 80 or 90% of those who are not affected, or minimally affected. Quite another matter. As budding reviewers we are obliged to note the body of respected reviews (we all have our short lists) to find and understand the commonalities. If in doing so we find that the leading reviewers' consensus does not find a particular quality, here "bitterness", then we have a problem.

First, one must determine whether we are part of the heavily affected small minority, and if so have a decision to make. Do we speak coherently to the small minority like us (and frustrate or mislead the great majority), or do we learn to omit or minimize this finding in some way? Or do we admit our membership in the heavily affected few and warn our readers?

Although this sensitivity is meaningless to simply drinkers of spirit, it creates a serious issue for the reviewer. I am sure that the non or minimally affected and the distillers of fine spirits would be far less tolerant and accepting of what for them is not present or intended at all. The great majority of readers will not understand or experience the offputting and powerful reports of "bitter". They will either avoid a rum they might have enjoyed, or they will come to distrust the reviewer.

And that's the bitter truth, lol... Something to think about, eh?


*******

Aside:

In our case, Sue Sea and I take great care to avoid other's reviews until after our analysis and experience is complete and reported. Once complete though, then we do check the short list of reviewers we respect. If we find a general consensus on a quality we missed or did not experience, we do explore further to (a) to learn, (b) to determine whether we really did miss something or (c) whether we simply disagree. Trust me, if we found a consensus of unpleasant "bitterness" you can be sure we'd be especially obligated to reconsider and re-review a rum.
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Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:15 pm

Arctic Wolf : Have you ever found a similar bitterness in another spirit? Take Brugal rum for example, they have a dank, earthy saltyness to 'em. Is that similar? Or would you consider the bitter taste as too much time in oak (or something else like Capn suggested)?

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Fri Sep 24, 2010 2:51 pm

In the case of the Bruichladdich, the bitterness seems to be an expression of Vanilla or perhaps which is coming from the bourbon barrel. I have encountered it before (though rarely) and only in Whisky. My memory remembers the other occasions were with a Scotch aged in American Oak as well. Now I always collect my spirits in twos, so I have a second bottle. About a week ago I opened it and that bitterness was absent. Instead I tasted a punch of charcoal style peat. I found this very odd. but it reinforced my view that Bruichladdich is not as careful in their blending as they ought to be.

The few times I have encountered bitterness in rum, it has been mainly in the Bajan style rums (Cockspur and Mount Gay) with the heavy tobacco flavour. Barcello Imperial has that flavour as well. I know that others taste the same thing, as once when I described this bitter flavour for Barcello, Rumdog007 mentioned that he tasted exactly what I described. However, rather than disliking it, he loved the flavour. Other times when I have described Mount gay i have received comments from people who were relieved that someone else out their found it bitter too.

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Sun Sep 26, 2010 4:06 pm

I am a historian by profession with much of my professional career spent studying the Holocaust/Shoah and other genocides. If I have learned anything from the last decade of research it is to be weary of crazy theories posing as science, even clocked with so-called evidence.
If someone cannot describe to me the mechanism at play that allegedly causes some portion of the population to be more attuned to tasting than to the rest of us then I am going to have to cast serious doubt on the so-called science of this claim. Indeed, taste is affected by so many environmental variables (the shape of the glass, the humidity level of the tasting room, ambient temperature, the amount of airborne particulates, if the taster is a smoker, did the taster recently eat thermally hot or cold food, does the taster have a sickness, has spicy food or bitter food or fatty foods recently been in the mouth, is the taster taking medications that may affect their sense of taste, etc, etc, etc) that one has to question almost any science that attempts to make blanket statements about whole populations of tasters. That is not even to mention the cultural implications of the sense of taste (if one has never tasted an Apple how does one perceive an Apple-like taste?) and the affect of age of the taster on their sense of taste.
I do not believe there are persons who are genetically or otherwise more able to perceive subtle shifts in taste any more than any other person given the same level of training, level of physical body state and environmental variables. The ability to perceive the taste of bitter is one of the last portions of the senses of taste to develop in humans as they age and usually does not emerge until late adolescence. In some persons it may never emerge and in those persons bitter and sour, as with a child, are often confused. Yet there may be a reasonable argument that all persons can perceive the bitter taste but some just refuse to acknowledge it due to early-life preferences. This instance of the actual inability to perceive the bitter taste is likely quite small but is also, due to the lateness in when it is developed, likely to be affected by the stated choices a person makes in what they like to actually eat. In other words children can perceive sweet flavors and thus the sweet flavor and the ability to perceive subtleties in it are attuned early in life. Since the ability to perceive bitter flavors comes much later in life some people never actually develop a desire for bitter foods because they have not trained their senses to the subtleness of the range of bitter foods. That is not to say they cannot taste bitterness in foods it merely says their preference not to eat bitter foods has precluded their ability to understand the subtleties of bitterness being sampled by their tongue. In other words the sense of taste is quite individual and blanket statements really cannot be made regarding what persons are or will actually taste when eating foods. All sorts of variables are present including that old monster; emotional preferences.
Now, if someone is making a claim that they can taste something in foods that 90% of the human population cannot without any specific training or methodology than I am going to have to seriously question that claim. That seems not to be able to be supported and appears to my intellect to be based more on their tasting preferences than on something that can be examined, qualified, and supported with some sort of true, repeatable scientific method.

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Tue Sep 28, 2010 2:38 am

From MJB

quote

"I am a historian by profession with much of my professional career spent studying the Holocaust/Shoah and other genocides. If I have learned anything from the last decade of research it is to be weary of crazy theories posing as science, even clocked with so-called evidence.
If someone cannot describe to me the mechanism at play that allegedly causes some portion of the population to be more attuned to tasting than to the rest of us then I am going to have to cast serious doubt on the so-called science of this claim. Indeed, taste is affected by so many environmental variables (the shape of the glass, the humidity level of the tasting room, ambient temperature, the amount of airborne particulates, if the taster is a smoker, did the taster recently eat thermally hot or cold food, does the taster have a sickness, has spicy food or bitter food or fatty foods recently been in the mouth, is the taster taking medications that may affect their sense of taste, etc, etc, etc) that one has to question almost any science that attempts to make blanket statements about whole populations of tasters. That is not even to mention the cultural implications of the sense of taste (if one has never tasted an Apple how does one perceive an Apple-like taste?) and the affect of age of the taster on their sense of taste.
I do not believe there are persons who are genetically or otherwise more able to perceive subtle shifts in taste any more than any other person given the same level of training, level of physical body state and environmental variables. The ability to perceive the taste of bitter is one of the last portions of the senses of taste to develop in humans as they age and usually does not emerge until late adolescence. In some persons it may never emerge and in those persons bitter and sour, as with a child, are often confused. Yet there may be a reasonable argument that all persons can perceive the bitter taste but some just refuse to acknowledge it due to early-life preferences. This instance of the actual inability to perceive the bitter taste is likely quite small but is also, due to the lateness in when it is developed, likely to be affected by the stated choices a person makes in what they like to actually eat. In other words children can perceive sweet flavors and thus the sweet flavor and the ability to perceive subtleties in it are attuned early in life. Since the ability to perceive bitter flavors comes much later in life some people never actually develop a desire for bitter foods because they have not trained their senses to the subtleness of the range of bitter foods. That is not to say they cannot taste bitterness in foods it merely says their preference not to eat bitter foods has precluded their ability to understand the subtleties of bitterness being sampled by their tongue. In other words the sense of taste is quite individual and blanket statements really cannot be made regarding what persons are or will actually taste when eating foods. All sorts of variables are present including that old monster; emotional preferences.
Now, if someone is making a claim that they can taste something in foods that 90% of the human population cannot without any specific training or methodology than I am going to have to seriously question that claim. That seems not to be able to be supported and appears to my intellect to be based more on their tasting preferences than on something that can be examined, qualified, and supported with some sort of true, repeatable scientific method."

end quote

Next time save me the stuffy, irrelevant, preamble about your qualifications as a historian. Bringing up the holocaust/shoah and trying to draw some sort of weird parallel with my statements is quite frankly offensive to me.

Why not simply ask me for the basis of my statement and be polite?

I didn't really think I was being all that controversial by saying I taste something in bagged lettuce that the majority do not. I am pretty sure that there are other things I do not taste that others do. That's part of the reason why I like certain things and dislike others.

Although you seem to disbelieve a connection between genes and taste, fortunately the subject has been well examined and I have few links from some well regarded institutions. The first from Oxford Journals:

http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/4/447.full

The Second from Cornell University:

http://www.tastescience.com/research.html

Both of these articles make it clear that there are certain substances that some persons can taste, that others cannot. These articles are based upon, the well known studies of PROP (6-n-propylthiouracil). Some people can taste PROP, and some people can't, for some very sensitive people, the taste of PROP is extremely intense, and nasty. (Just like bagged lettuce is for me) And no surprise...there appears to be a genetic factor involved.

(Their are hundreds of other articles on taste variation and sensitivity just like these, which pinpoint a genetic connection to taste sensitivity.

As for the bagged lettuce, As I said it tastes vile to me, but apparently not to the vast majority of other people, if it did, then then it certainly wouldn't sell very well or be used extensively in restaurants. It was a friend of mine who works in the food industry who told me about 10 % of people have this reaction to the bagged lettuce in varying degrees, again no surprise it seems to be a genetic factor. I suspect the culprit is the preservative, sulfur dioxide. Taste variations amongst individuals for sulpher dioxide have been noted in the wine industry: Here is a link to one site that mentions it, I am sure that a little googling can find a lot more.

http://www.morethanorganic.com/sulphur-in-the-bottle

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Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:58 am

If someone cannot describe to me the mechanism at play that allegedly causes some portion of the population to be more attuned to tasting than to the rest of us then I am going to have to cast serious doubt on the so-called science of this claim.

Indeed, taste is affected by so many environmental variables (the shape of the glass, the humidity level of the tasting room, ambient temperature, the amount of airborne particulates...then one has to question almost any science that attempts to make blanket statements about whole populations of tasters.
I can assure you the science and research is valid, and I completely concur with the Wolfman. It's really rather easy to develop reliable tasting protocol that is standard and reliable. For example, BTI controls the temperature, environment, humidity, glasses and no doubt requires all tasters to wear a fresh pair of skivvies.

One can always argue the exact results - as is clearly evident here - but the general facts are that (a) 25% of several different populations tested were sensitive, to a greater or lesser degree to a particular phenol, and found this phenol "bitter" (whereas 75% of these several populations were not affected at all) - and (b) several different controlled scientific studies have found that approximately 10 - 15% of males were classified as sensitive "super tasters" (more women fell into this category).

The dilemma of "super tasters" is that they react much more strongly to both pleasant and unpleasant sensations. The Wolf's finding of a "vile" taste to bagged lettuce is a perfect example of this, and btw the descriptor "vile" is commonly used by identified "super tasters".

Agree or disagree, this is the way it is. And surely this presents an issue for both drinkers, but especially reviewers whose reactions are far different than the mainstream.
Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:27 pm

Jim,
You are right about one thing. I disagree with you and Arctic Wolf. I go away for a few weeks to work on my book and come back to these amazing diatribes.

Since both of you got your panties in a wad over some mear peasant, like myself, countering you let me spell out my point in plain English. The connection between MY activities as a historian of the Shoah and my questioning of the science that suggests there are some individuals among us who can perceive flavors the rest of the population cannot perceive and thus making them GENETICALLY superior in their ability to perceive taste is simply that there are no genetic supermen. I reckoned that little bit of fiction and the pseudo-science that went along with it was totally discredited as a result of the Shoah. Eugenics as a science had many followers and even more believers in what it supposed to have uncovered. In the end it was all bullshit. Jim, you are right. You can wave all the bogus science around and I will never believe that there are those among us (and I hesitate to point out that you actually have the amazing sense of self-worth to claim to be one of those) that are better or more advanced, genetically than any other. I will question what other super powers do you posses? Do you have the ability to do PK, ESP, understand animals, speak to the dead, fly with your magic cape, spray webs from your wrists, foresee events before they happen, predict with total accuracy market trends, tell me who will win the World Series, the 2012 Superball Winner, explain to me what is the meaning of life, when the exact date is of the Second Coming, shape shift, travel out of body ?????

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Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:38 pm

Oh, one more thing, Jimmy. Since I too live in SoFla I hope I will soon get the chance to see an example of your superpowers up close and personal. I'm pretty sure I know your haunts and hunting grounds as I have been poaching them for some time. When we do finally cross paths I would very much like to see your Hulk hands, X-Ray eyes, bionic nose/ taste buds or any other extrodinary powers you might have. Please feel free to dazzle this puny mortal, your Jimmy Olsen, so I can bask in your superior glow and proclaim to the world the truth about your superpowers.... :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:

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Sun Oct 24, 2010 11:34 pm

They don't call me the Compleat Idiot of rum for nothing.

My sincere apologies if I have offended you, MJL, in any way. If you are the same MJL who used to post at my forum, let me publicly thank you for some great and colorful reviews, and a fantastic tribute to Captain Tony in Key West (link). All thoughtful, wonderful posts.

It's fair to say this forum has been frequented by many intelligent and thoughtful posters like you, and who have also expressed strong opinions. For example there's been some really rousing debates among JaRiMi, the Artic Wolf, the Rum Ambassador, myself and others. And I do mean rousing! But all said and done, the smoke cleared and we have all maintained respect and learned from one another.

A good thing.

Conducted with respect, all debates can be enlightening and useful for all. All opinions are welcome here. Still, strong opinions can, in the heat of the moment, occasionally exhibit unintended edginess and may cross the invisible line of fair play. If my earlier reply did that - again, my sincere apologies. In a spirit of respect, I reviewed and edited my last post to "clean it up".

You might consider doing the same.

Anyway, back to the point at hand. Their term "super taster" is certainly not mine, but apparently was coined and used by various researchers whose studies have found that some people are simply more sensitive to tastes and aromas than others, also that some tasters reacted differently to the same aroma or taste. Many of these researchers seem to be affiliated with the food and beverage industry, no doubt seeking marketing profiles appealing to the broadest number of potential customers. Artic Wolf cited a number of very good studies. The data I found was from a series of studies comparing several large groups of people and their varying tastes with regard to a particular phenol that some found bitter (while others tasted nothing).

But with all due respect MJ, you may have badly misinterpreted both Artic Wolf and myself.

None of these researchers cited considered any one type of taster superior to any other. Their term "super taster" merely referred to those people who exhibit significantly higher sensitivity to aromas, mostly to their detriment. This oversensitivity was actually presented as a disadvantage - the term is not and never was a label of superiority. Certainly not racist, nor discriminatory in the way you seem to have misunderstood. I am not aware of any genetic arguments or hypotheses whatever being either made by any of these studies. While I can't speak for anyone else, I certainly agree that Eugenics is bogus, and that there is no such thing as genetic superiority.

Instead I'd observe that we all love and enjoy spirits, enjoy our explorations and try to share our experiences to our best ability. Personally, my tasting (and other) abilities are really pretty average, if not below average. I have to work very hard to understand a rum or spirits. It's been a hard learned skill. Actually, it seems to me that the so-called "super tasters" may be at a disadvantage, particularly if they are also reviewers.

Now I do hope that clears things up, and we can all remain friends. I'm sure no one wishes to harbor ill will, particularly in a field of inquiry we all enjoy so much. To your health! And by the way, I can assure you my panties are never in a bunch, as never wear underwear, lol....
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Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:58 am

:pith:
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