Bruichladdich at Wade Bales 2018

It’s none other than Wade Bales time of year again, where whisky and wine buffs drinkers from around the Cape gather at the African Pride hotel to bask in shared appreciation of great food and the best tipple. One of the increasing number of spirits-related tasting and marketing events happening in Cape Town year on year, I can happily report.

I noticed something at Wade Bales this year, something I was dimly aware of at events in the past but only consciously occurred to me now.

You get this large venue, filled to the brim with novice whisky drinkers and red-nosed die-hards alike. Into that venue you add the biggest and brightest whisky brands – household names with massive marketing budgets, fancy stands and stellar reputations. Scattered here and there some smaller distilleries are represented garnering (unfortunately) far less attention.

There’s one exception to the rule. Inevitably there will be one queue larger than the others, populated by a bright-eyed bunch of folks vying for coveted positions in the front. Like clockwork, the head of that queue will reveal the Bruichladdich stand.

This always surprises me, the sheer amount of love Bruichladdich receives at public events, even from more inexperienced whisky drinkers. Where other distilleries have a visually striking line up of various age-statements, cask expressions and vintages to tempt the casual passer-by, Bruichladdich have exactly… 3 expressions in the core range. In highly understated bottles. Two of which are completely opaque. Where other distilleries bottle at a generally more accessible 43% ABV, Bruichladdich doesn’t get out of bed for less than 50% in their core range. Where other distilleries and brands are easy to pronounce – charming “Glens” and “Parks” and “Walkers” – Bruichladdich requires a period of intense vocal and guttural training to say it like a real Scotsman.

Part of their devoted following in Cape Town is of course due to Caitlin Hill, who has graced the Cape Whisky Club before with her legendary enthusiasm and profound Bruichladdich fanboyism.

But mainly – clearly – the liquid must be speaking for itself. Where Bruichladdich holds back on variety they are absolutely killing it in terms of quality.

This year I took a deep dive into Port Charlotte, my personal favourite of the range and my go-to choice of widely-available peat monster.

Take the salty, maritime goodness of Talisker. The creamy, butterscotch and biscuits of Clynelish. Throw in some brilliantly blended Ardbeg-style peat. Dial that up a little. Some apples and pears from one of the Glens, and finish it off with a milk-chocolatey drop of the likes of Aberlour and you’re on your way to Port Charlotte. Now crank up the ABV, remove all traces of colourant and leave it as oily as it came out the barrel – bingo! Absolutely stunning stuff.

Without a doubt a must-try whisky for any serious peat lover, and a great comparison next to the equally exceptional, unpeated Classic Laddie.

The Cape Whisky Club will soon be doing a side-by-side comparison of the core Bruichladdich expressions versus their 10-year-old counterparts – stay tuned, and get in touch if you’d like to attend!


Another big thanks to Wade Bales and the Friday St. Club for an exceptional evening and some top-shelf whisky!

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