As they say, once you go black, you’ll never go back. Bruichladdich’s Black Art bottlings have acquired a cult following, evident from their general unavailability and high prices seen at auctions. Collectors and enthusiasts here would surely be rubbing their hands in glee with the official Southeast Asia launch of the latest edition – the Bruichladdich Black Art 5.
For the uninitiated, the Black Art series provide an avenue for the master distiller to create an expression without restrictions. He can choose casks of various types, vintages and maturity to create a flavour profile that he desires. However, the actual composition and cask type will always remain a secret. To accentuate this air of mystery, the distillery chose a matt black bottle and has graphics as well as symbols that denote the dark arts.
For the Black Art 5.1, Bruichladdich revealed that the whiskies were aged for at least 24 years. The whiskies were matured entirely in Islay and the 5.1 comes at an ABV of 48.4%. Only 12,000 bottles are available worldwide.
Adam Hannett (pictured above) took over the reins at Bruichladdich after the retirement of the legendary Jim McEwan in July 2015. This particular Black Art is the first that is created entirely by the new Head Distiller.
He had to emphasize that aspect via the press release: “Just before Jim retired in 2015, he took me to one side and handed me this recipe for the next iteration, Black Art 5. It was an emotional moment. I have to say I took the recipe from Jim’s hand and dutifully ignored it. This had to be my Black Art.”
We had the opportunity to taste the 4.1, made by Jim McEwan and the 5.1, made by Adam Hannett, side by side. Although, the comparison is rather moot, as the different Black Art editions are meant to be different. But if anything, we can get to compare the tastes and preferences of the preceding and incumbent master distillers.
Relatively speaking, the 4.1 is more mellow, but has layers of flavours and packs a bit more complexity. Lemon zest, orchard fruits and just a bit of tannins to plump up the mouth feel. The 5.1, we feel, should appeal to more people simply because you get more of the sweeter notes in this expression. The latest edition is a little more pronounced.We got tropical fruits, vanilla, honey and subtle spices.
Both are great expressions, by the way. Their flavour profiles alter slightly over time (in a good way), and these are really engaging whiskies that you can nose and sip all night long.
Also, check out this art house-esque film on the Black Art 5.1: