The Bruichladdich 16 year-old was introduced as a replacement for the 15 year-old expression. It has been aged in Jim Beam barrels and finished in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels. It is unclear whether the Buffalo Trace barrels are first-fill, though “fresh American oak” appears on the label, which is certainly suggestive. Also suggestive is the prominent “1815” encircled by the phrase “George T Stagg Distillery Kentucky Since 1815”, even though that distillery has been called Buffalo Trace since 1999 and was built around 1870. Clearly, the marketers want to associate the extraordinary George T Stagg bourbon with this single malt Scotch.
The nose is both spritely and slightly resinous, with vanilla, caramel, fresh grapes and melon, some malt, and a hint of oregano (a familiar note to bourbon drinkers).
The palate is hot, but pleasantly so. There is bourbon vanilla, a bit of spice, and some sweetened cocoa. Interestingly, this whisky opens up considerably with just a dash of water, taking the edge off nicely. Walnuts—another common bourbon note—arise on the finish.
There are no traces of the rich, ryed, powerful, magnificent George T Stagg bourbon in the Bruichladdich 16 Year-old Bourbon Cask, presumably because the barrels did not previously mature George T Stagg bourbon within their hold. Nevertheless, this playful yet sophisticated dram highlights the notion that simplicity, even though it is not really Bruichladdich’s stock in trade, can often yield great results.