A month or two ago, by way of speaking well of our amazing local distillery at Sperryville Virginia - which paradise I forbid you to discover - I wrote disparagingly of those 20-year-old Scottish malts that clutter sideboards and airport departure lounges. This was ungenerous of me, and proof that I am prone to the journalist's vice, of drawing easy contrasts when difficult comparisons would be more just. So I shall now atone for my fault by devoting a column to Bruichladdich (pronounced "Brook Laddie", and Gaelic for a "raised beach"). This is the name of a Victorian distillery on the Isle of Islay, closed in 1994 by Jim Beam as "surplus to requirements", and now revived by a consortium of private investors under the leadership of the wine merchant Mark Reynier. I should add that my motive is not entirely disinterested. On reading my article, Mark sent me a bottle of the stuff: other distillers, please note.
Bruichladdich is produced in three peat levels, of which I have tasted only the mildest. There are people who love the peaty taste of Hebridean whiskies, who were probably addicted to TCP at the time when I was addicted to Robert Louis Stevenson. But Mark Reynier has had the good sense to cater for those customers who - while understanding the medicinal qualities of his product - prefer to experience those qualities in its effect rather than its taste.
The lightly peated 15-year-old Bruichladdich exhales a quiet oneness with the world. Its hazelnut taste and seashore aroma belong to the wind-wasted landscape of Islay, and a couple of glasses consumed neat before dinner entirely cured me of my woes - the principal one being the children, petulantly arguing the superiority of Johnny Cash over Elvis Presley.
The most important feature of Bruichladdich, from our readers' point of view, is that it is a genuinely local product, rescued from the global whisky industry. It is not a brand but a place; its barley comes from 12 Scottish farms, four of them on Islay itself; the grain is increasingly organically grown, and the product is put to rest in Islay's only bottling hall, with no chill-filtration or artificial colouring. The resulting pale amber liquid has won many awards from the Malt Advocate (named in deference to "Nosy" Parker's Wine Advocate) and Whisky Magazine, to whose judgement I can add nothing save the endorsement of my present good humour, and the rather endearing description given by Mark Reynier himself.
His whisky, he assures us, is the result of an "unlikely marriage of manual 19th-century equipment, pre-industrial techniques and wine trade influences - with state-of-the-art telecommunications". I'll drink to that: I have been striving to marry 19th-century attitudes to postmodern telecommunications ever since I first began drinking.