For Bruichladdich’s former master distiller, Jim McEwan, the Black Art line was somewhat a thought experiment made visceral. Claiming to be ‘unbound by rules and preconceptions of whisky’, the Islay distillery’s wildcard surprised with every edition – often expressing fruity and floral notes in an unpeated style that so differed from the rest of its repertoire.
After McEwan’s retirement in 2015, all eyes were on how his successor, Adam Hannett, would handle the next iteration. Fans of the Black Art 4.1 will not be disappointed. The 5.0 sheds some of the earthiness of its predecessor, but retains the same mystique that is an essential part of the Black Art’s allure: it’s a dram you can sit with for an hour, that yields up a different facet each time it touches your lips.
The most forefront notes are pineapple and plum, with a pleasant couching of mango and apricot, spiced with with cinnamon. Have it neat, as rocks distend the delicate composition into a cordial-like affair.
As this particular Black Art hailed from a ’92 vintage, the question is begged: How much of 5.0 is Hannett, and not McEwan? The incumbent distiller had this to say: “Just before Jim retired in 2015, he took me to one side and handed me this recipe for the next iteration, Black Art 5. It was an emotional moment.”
“I have to say I took the recipe from Jim’s hand and dutifully ignored it. This had to be my Black Art.”
Atta boy, Hannett.