Bruichladdich Black Arts 4

Bruichladdich BA 4.1.jpg

Changes are an interesting thing that happen to us all.

Or rather, the world and we with it change, grow, shatter, fall down, and get back up.

For some, nostalgia is part of the human condition. Happiness, beauty, and other human emotions are connected to a thing, a time, or a place, and any diminished aspect of that cannot stop making it great. We tweak every part of our lives to get back to that time.

However, as a whisky nerd, I find that silly. We’ll never have the great 1970s Ardbeg again; it just isn’t as feasible to make. Or the great Macallan sherry casks that were at a high strength. And while it was cool to have 180 different Bruichladdich’s made a week by a man who was equal parts showman and whisky maker, it wasn’t as profitable as it should have been.

Some of these things we can’t go back to.

That leads me to Bruichladdich Black Arts 4. You may have read earlier reviews of mine, or the various comments by /u/dustlesswalnut. Some malts can be reviewed in a vacuum, as mysteries, and others cannot.

There have been questions if the newer Black Arts will ever live up to the older ones (with High Noon being an exception). Whispers abound that the 1 and 2 were the crazy ones, and 3 and 4 don’t live up to them. Worried looks bounce about when 5 is brought up, with some saying it rekindles the old ways, and others worried that without the same maker as the first 5, how can 5 be good?

Today I’m going to try and ignore all that. It isn’t easy. I don’t pretend to know them all, and frankly am still hunting to try Black Arts 1. None the less, I bought a bottle of Bruichladdich Black Arts 4 because I enjoyed 3, and hope it’s as good.

So let’s see if any of the hooplah is warranted, or not, and try to drown it out for a bit.

Price: $350 (CAD) at the LCBO

Region: Islay

Age: 23 years

Vintage: 1990

Abv: 49.2%

Colour: 7.5YR 7/10

Nose: Strawberry jam, Sprite, oak, toffee, apple tart, Chantilly cream, nutmeg, peach pie, liquorice, cinnamon

Initially this brings me back to a lot of the older ones. I member. I definitely member.

Lots of different notes, some simple, some overlapping, but constantly changing. Good amount of spice, lemon, and lots of red fruit. Not just fruit though, lots of sugar to go with it.

My belt may or may not have just broken out of the pants I wore in high school. Due to thinking fat thoughts.

Taste: Ginger, raspberry, orange, nutmeg, peanut, almond, malt

Initially this is surprisingly spicy. Lots and lots of spice on it. Given time there’s some nice citrus, fruit, malt, and nuts. It doesn’t change as much as the nose, or any previous drams. It doesn’t have the complexity of 3, nor the sheer amount of notes of 2.

All in all, this is nicely made, but doesn’t have a lot to it in comparison. I like sipping it quite a bit, however can’t stop membering older versions.

Finish: Ginger tea, orange, cola, strawberry, melon, cashew, brine, wheat

So I’m of two minds on the finish: For one, it’s more mellow, than other Black Arts. Compared to other drams? No contest, this has some really nice complexity. However it seems to be trying to split the difference between the two styles. It falls more on the 2 style with lots of different, if small, changing flavours, but doesn’t have as many.

Conclusion: For what this dram is, it’s a nutty, fruity, spicy, complex taste. And the nose is really quite special.

It’s hard to review it. I sat down two times with this dram, each time trying to figure out a score. I know I liked the 3 better, but maybe that was nostalgia speaking. I re-read my reviews, and know the 2 tasted better. I also know the High Noon was better as well.

Another dram. Still not getting the blast of complexity. Almost as though this wasn’t quite ready, or was meant to be the calm version of it all.

It’s splitting hairs, in the end. I love the dram, but I want more. I liked older ones more, but maybe just because I was young and naive. Or am I being too hard on membering, and perhaps I did like them better.

This dram, by itself, is really tasty. There’s tons of drams that wish they could be as good as it is, with the levels of sherry and spice.

But to ignore past reviews would be forgetting the past, and I’d be doomed to drink those drams again (is doomed the right word?) End of the day, I liked this, but I hope they tightened up 5 some more to gain me back.

84/100

Scotch review #522, Islay review #116, Whisky Network review #854

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