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01 Rebirth and Renewal

pairings   bruichladdich distillery

Resurrection Dram 2001 with Candela Bonbon and Illusione No. 2 Cigar

As we are about to embark on a New Year and the end of a tumultuous decade, it seems appropriate that this month's featured pairing would focus on a story of rebirth and renewal.  It is well known that Scotland has lost over 250 distilleries in the last 150 years. The Islay region has been one of the hardest hit with only seven survivors from an original 20 distilleries.  Having recently had the pleasure of sampling Bruichladdich's Resurrection Dram, we wanted to share the inspiring back story of the rebirth of this mothballed facility and celebrate the men whose dreams and risks were responsible for its renewal. 


reynierThe Bruichladdich (pronounced "brook-laddie") distillery was founded in 1881 on the wild western coast of Islay at Loch Indaal.  It operated for decades until, after a series of ownership changes it was deemed by multi-national Fortune Brands to be in excess of requirements and the plant was shut down.  Mark Reynier was literally run off the shuttered property in 1989 when he first tried to visit, having been impressed with the quality and style of this scotch.  Surprise at the plant closing turned into fascination with the idea of personally launching a fledgling whisky company.  This sparked a number of attempts over the next ten years to acquire Bruichladdich.  Perseverance resulted in opportunity when Fortune Brands finally agreed to proceed with the sale.  Mark, a former fine wine retailer and founder of Murray McDavid Ltd., an independent whisky bottler, was then challenged to raise the millions of capital required to conclude the deal.  On December 19, 2000 the acquisition was completed as the last funds reached the Fortune Brand's bank account with only one minute to spare before transaction deadline.  The first part of his dream was fulfilled.  Bruichladdich was now under private ownership with Reynier as Managing Director.

mcewanBut it wasn't just capital that was needed for a successful revival of such a legend.  Bruichladdich owes much of its new found success to Jim McEwan, who sacrificed the security of 40+ years of employment at rival Bowmore, to become a founding shareholder and Production Director for the new company.  Starting his career at the tender age of fifteen as a cooper at Bowmore, this Islay native has worked in all aspects of distilling.  His reputation for quality and innovation has been publicly acknowledged with awards of the coveted title of Distiller of the Year, not once but three times in years 1998, 2000 and 2003.  He quickly put Bruichladdich "back on the map" with malts such as the Octomore and an aggressive release of new expressions.  It has clearly become one of the fastest growing brands.

The revival of Bruichladdich was also an operational challenge as more than a decade of rust and dust needed to be swept away and fallowed Victorian machinery restored.  The task was fulfilled with relish by Duncan McGillivray, a long time Bruichladdich employee and mechanic extraordinaire.  In less than six months following acquisition, the first new spirit was trickling through those refurbished stills to be bottled and await its fate in the seaside warehouse, along with the other thousands of casks gained in the sale that now make up "Laddie's" future liquid gold. 

bruichladdich resurrection Resurrection 2001 Dram was named to commemorate this new start.  The first spirit to be distilled (in 2001) was bottled and released in November 2008, where it finally made it to the U. S. late in 2009.  It is surprisingly rich and smooth for such a young malt.  The aroma begins with a rather distinct smell of wet and farmy fur that quicky dissipates and does not carry over to the palate.  This is replaced by oak, conspicuous peat and a rather honey sweet yet slightly herbal or medicinal aroma.  McEwan used an experimental 10 parts per million malted barley for this expression, making it quite rare.  Peat is immediately evident on the palate giving way to both a fruity and herbal sweetness with a slight maritime feature.  It has a wonderfully spicy and lightly smoky tobacco finish.  

candelaWe have paired this fine young whisky with one of our favorite Chuao bonbon's, the smoky Candela.  The gristy texture of its macadamia nut praline filling delivers a wonderful contrasting mouth feel to this silky liquid.  The nuttiness plays well with the oak, but it is the subtle smoky flavor of Candela's chipotle chili that enhances the wonderful peatiness of this dram.  

illusione 2 stick

Even while the cigar industry was in the midst of boom times, a similar rebirth story occurred in the tobacco fields of Nicaragua.  Before the Sandinistas took over Nicaragua in 1979, that country was growing some of the best tobaccos in the world. Prized fields in the Jalapa Valley and Esteli region produced cigars that were strong, bold and clean. After years of neglect under the Sandinistas, those old Somoza fields have been re-cultivated by the legendary master grower Arcenio Ramos of Cuba, along with Fernando Chandito and famed agronomist Jacinto. They have re-grown these fields to yield their fullest potential again. Thus Illusione, a new brand, is born from those revitalized plantations. Owner Dion Giolito masterminded the creation of the blend that utilizes first generation Corojo '99 and Criollo '98 seed tobacco, wrapped with a grade one Cafe Colorado wrapper, and finished Cuban style with a triple cap in the Raices Cubanans factory.  All of the cigars are made in small-batch quantities to maintain quality and consistency and deliver a taste and quality of smoke rarely found in today's market. (Excerpted from the Illusione website.)

The Illusione 2 - and crowned of thorns - was released in 2007 and quickly garnered top ratings including #7 for the year from Cigar Aficionado. With the beautiful rosado wrapper and excellent construction the No. 2 is well balanced, very flavorful and nicely aromatic. The flavor development is very interesting as the cigar progresses from leather and coffee, to sweet nuttiness with spice and pepper, then back.

What makes this malt and cigar match work so well, is the complexity of flavors in both, and the interesting flavor profiles that contrast somewhat with each other. The unusual smoky, sweet, peppery flavor in the Illusione interacts well with the peat, medicinal, and herbal flavors in the Resurrection Dram. Both malt and cigar are moderately strong in flavor as well, so neither overpowers the other.  Inject the cayenne pepper flavors of the Candela bonbon into the mix, and the result is over the top. (Click on picture to read additional tasting notes.)

Sample our featured pairing this month and toast the determined men who made their dreams come alive.  If you would like to read more about their venture, check out the novel "Whisky Dream: Waking a Giant" by author Stuart Rivans.

Pictures are courtesy of Bruichladdich - all rights reserved

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