THAT’S a trick question. No one knows what goes into a Black Art – that’s the whole premise of the Bruichladdich blend, and why the reveal of each edition is closely-watched by both whisky investors and aficionados alike.
Even the current head distiller of the Islay distillery, Adam Hannett, wasn’t privy to the formula behind his predecessor Jim McEwan’s plans for the Black Art 05.1, until it was time to hand over the reins to the operation.
Hannett promptly ignored all the contents of the recipe, upholding the time-honoured tradition of keeping the Black Art intensely personal for the distiller. “This had to be my Black Art,” he famously said. And so we got a fruit-forward 05.1, with plum, mango and apricot at the fore and a tail of cinnamon.
The 06.1 – 26 years old this time – takes as wide a turn as the 05.1 did from the 4. Some in the room, in fact, concurred that it was almost an about-face back to McEwan’s swan song – but that comparison isn’t fair. It may share the same depth and subtle char, depth and char, but the new bottling leans towards earthiness and chocolate and – very noticeably – fig, all couched against distinct notes of custard and brown sugar. A few drops of water is recommended to grant the dram a second life – something we would not have done with the 05.1.
As for the exteriors, the bottle retains its signature matte ebony sheen and cryptic symbolism – apt for what can be considered a niche, cult offering. We asked after bottles of the 04.1, but they’re already long gone, and the 5 will be soon to follow. Only 18,000 of the 06.1, individually numbered, will be available worldwide, so if you have a mind for investment, snag at least two of these. Each bottle goes for $650 nett at La Maison du Whisky, but if you want to get a single dram’s worth of opinion on it before committing, just hit up Jigger and Pony at its new premises in Amara Hotel.