Rock'ndaal 03

Since 2001, Bruichladdich Distillery has released annual bottlings to celebrate Fèis Ile. For Rock'ndaal 2024, Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, has created two phenomenal expressions of Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte, featuring unique music-centric bottle designs inspired by Rock'ndaal.

“Every year I look forward to creating our Fèis Ìle expressions. We’re always pushing the boundaries at Bruichladdich Distillery, but these small batch bottlings are a chance to showcase some more unusual things,” says Adam.

The Bruichladdich Rock’ndaal 03.1 brings in bursts of orchard fruits and layered spices, enhancing the citrus and floral style of the Classic Laddie. Marzipan and honey join a mix of dried fruit, apricot, figs, and dried mango. A subtle minerality coats the palate; a salty tang is balanced with a hint of nutmeg and peaches in syrup. After 10 years maturing, it sits at a comfortable 50.0% abv.

Adam talks about the patience required to create this expression while watching a particular cask type develop.

“A few years ago, I got some interesting butts from Jan Petersen at Fernando de Castilla. Jan described how he had emptied some antique, 500-litre oak casks that had held this sherry for a long, long time and then used them to further age some brandy that he makes. I was keen to see what influence these casks would bring to our whisky as it was something we had never tried before. I filled the butts with a four-year-old Bruichladdich from 2013 that had been aged in fresh bourbon barrels.

“I’ve been checking on this whisky over the years to see how it was developing and could see great potential in the liquid from an early age, but I’ve had to wait until now to feel it’s reached a wonderful stage in its development.

“This expression is different to anything else we’ve ever released. I hope people enjoy it as much as I do.”

The Port Charlotte Rock’ndaal 03.2 sits at 54% abv after having a full-term maturation in bourbon casks and first-fill Sauternes casks. Flavours of ripe stoned fruits, sweet peach, and crème brulee are prominent, beautifully balanced by Port Charlotte’s signature peat smoke. At At 20 years old, this expression is incredibly smooth and luxurious in texture, with crystalised lemon rind providing vibrancy and balance.

Rock’ndaal 03.2 is the oldest Port Charlotte released to date. Like all of our malts, it’s matured exclusively on Islay.

Adam says he’s been keen to see the development of the Port Charlotte that Jim McEwan created two decades ago and passed on to him to watch over as it matured on the shores of Lochindaal. When considering what whiskies to bottle for this year’s festival, he felt this bottling would be an opportunity to reflect on the early days of the rebirth of Bruichladdich Distillery and how far we have come.

“There’s a real element of purity to the spirit,” says Adam. “Sweetness and smoke are beautifully balanced, with the flavourful bourbon casks bringing mellow toasted oak while the sauternes casks add an abundance of fruit. With more time spent in the cask, the presence of Port Charlotte’s signature smoke is subtle yet refined, with a real softness on the palate.

“In my privileged position as Head Distiller, I am afforded the opportunity to taste amazing whisky on a daily basis and this expression of Port Charlotte is amongst my favourite whiskies ever tasted. It’s simply too good not to share.”

Almost as interesting as the liquids themselves are the bottle designs. Inspired by the music of Rock’ndaal, Designer, Dan Roy, set out to make a connection between liquid and sound on a deeper level.

When he began working with the Fèis bottle designs two years ago, he wanted to show off the personalities of the Ileachs. Fèis, after all, is not specifically a whisky festival, but a festival all about Islay. He also wanted to concentrate on the party atmosphere that makes Bruichladdich Distillery’s festival day so popular. All of this led to vibrant colours and geometric shapes becoming the basis for the bottle designs.

The designs for the 2023 bottles grew out of the idea that locals sometimes refer to drams of whisky as “wee sweeties.”

“Exploring our distillery and having such close access sometimes feels like you’re a kid in a candy shop,” says Dan. “All the complex flavours can be expressed in an explosion of pattern, colour, and simple geometric forms, which lends itself nicely to the vibrant, music-based event we’ve become known for hosting.”

This year, Dan’s inspiration came from cymatics: the science of visualising audio frequencies. Sound waves can be visualised by placing water on top of a low-frequency speaker. When an instrument is activated, the water vibrates in resonance with the form of the sound wave. The wave patterns in the water change to reflect the changes in the pitch and volume of the sound.

The Rock’ndaal bottle designs for 2024 “create a parallel between the musical harmonies of the bands and the sampling of whisky to make harmonies when marrying whiskies together,” Dan explains.

By using geometric shapes and sound waves, Dan created a style that’s distinct from the distillery’s standard releases. The connection between sound and liquid gives him a through line from one Rock’ndaal to the next, but still allows him to play with new forms that stand out from the designs of hundreds of other distilleries.

See the bottle designs and taste these small-batch bottlings for yourself at this year’s Rock’ndaal on May 26th! Any remaining Rock’ndaal 03 bottles will be available to purchase online after the event.