SINGAPORE (March 27): The year 2001 marked the rebirth of Bruichladdich whisky on the 606 sq km of land and population of about 3,000 that make up Islay, the southernmost island of Scotland.
Islay is no stranger to the art of whisky-making. As the popular adage goes, old is gold and perhaps this rings true with the Bruichladdich distillery. Designed and built by the Harvey brothers in 1881, the distillery and most of its original machinery are still in use today.
Bruichladdich’s brand ambassador, Murray Campbell, who recently hosted a dinner at the new Soleil Restaurant & Wine Bar at Damansara City Mall, Kuala Lumpur, began the evening with a presentation on the history and philosophy of the brand before unveiling its latest Islay expressions. Dinner took place at one of the restaurant’s two private dining rooms, where we were served a four-course meal curated by head chef Evert Onderbeke.
The brand takes pride in its strong sense of community, hence the term terroir (which is more commonly associated with wine) resonates with Bruichladdich. The whisky, with its strong homegrown characteristics, is made from locally sourced raw ingredients (such as Islay barley and spring water), which also includes the peat used in the production of some of its variants.
The two tipples introduced that evening were the Islay Barley 2009 and the Octomore 7.3, both of which — though not new to the global market — recently joined the collection of Bruichladdich whiskies available in Malaysia.
The first course was salmon and smoked ocean trout tartare with chimichurri and calamansi-mint sorbet. The salty taste of the fish, paired with The Classic Laddie, really brought out the sweet flavours of the whisky, attributed to the brown sugar, oak and malt. I found The Classic Laddie to be one of the lighter expressions but the finish lingered on the palate longer than the rest of the whiskies we tasted that evening. As for the sorbet, its zesty tanginess balanced the strong flavours of the other ingredients in the meal, making for a good start to the meal.
Next was a duck leg confit spring roll with black trumpet mushrooms and roasted Jerusalem artichoke puree. The outer layer of the spring roll was crunchy while the filling was soft and pulpy but well-seasoned. It was paired with one of the new Bruichladdich variants, the Islay Barley 2009, which proved to be a delight to the senses with its multiple layers of flavours. Quite like its bright orange packaging, the young spirit possesses a fruity, floral scent and has hints of citrus and honey on the palate. It is a more complex dram than The Classic Laddie but leaves a lighter, smoother trail.
The third course was a generous portion of spiced lamb shank with vegetable ragout and smoked paprika emulsion, paired with the Bruichladdich Octomore 7.3, the latest release under the Octomore of Octomore series. Likely to be well-received by lovers of smokier variants, the Octomore 7.3 in all its heavily-peated glory was The expanding selection of Bruichladdich whisky ranges from the unpeated to the heavily peated my favourite tipple of the night. It is much less peaty on the nose but, make no mistake, it certainly packs a punch. The Octomore 7.3, matured in American Bourbon barrels and Spanish wine casks from the Ribera Del Duero, is powerful yet elegant with a sweetness about it.
Dinner ended with a dark chocolate fondant served with salted caramel ice-cream and orange-whisky sabayon, paired with Bruichladdich Port Charlotte. While it is less heavily peated than the Octomore, the nose picks up an aroma of smokiness first, followed by tobacco and then vanilla and toffee.
All in all, the food presentation at Soleil was simple and fuss-free, allowing the food and its flavours to be the star of the show. As for the two expressions presented that night, the Islay Barley 2009 and Octomore 7.3, each caters to fans of sweeter, unpeated whisky options as well as those who prefer strong, smoky and peated ones, respectively.
Shalini Yeap is a writer with the Options desk at The Edge Malaysia
This article appeared in Issue 771 (March 20) of The Edge Singapore.