Islay distillery to revive world’s ‘most potent’ single malt whisky

By Jenifer Johnston

The world’s “most alcoholic single malt whisky” looks set to be created tomorrow at an Islay distillery.
The usquebaugh-baul blend will be at least a senses-stunning 92% alcohol and possibly as high as 94%, and comes from an ancient island recipe in which a single malt is quadruple distilled.
Bruichladdich, the firm behind the “whisky adventure”, have been working on the project for months. Mark Reynier, managing director of the firm, said: “To be honest I’m just hoping the distillery doesn’t explode.”
Reynier and Bruichladdich’s master distiller Jim McEwan have been fascinated with the idea of producing a limited run of usquebaugh-baul since reading about the whisky in a historic travelogue.
Martin Martin, a writer and traveller, toured Islay in 1695 and published his account of life on the islands in his work A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland in 1703.
Martin wrote of usquebaugh-baul: “...the first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life.”
Now Bruichladdich are set to re-create the whisky in a limited run which connoisseurs will surely be keen to collect, although they will have to wait for a minimum of ten years for the whisky to mature. The alcohol percentage will drop one to two percent each year.
Reynier said: “In the long-run we will be looking at producing around 5000 bottles, and I honestly couldn’t put a cost on it. It is a challenge.
“Although Martin’s note hints at the dreadful consequences of sipping more than a teaspoonful, this will, I hope, have very floral qualities to it. Despite the high alcohol content you know it’s whisky.”
Martin’s description of usquebaugh-baul may well be the world’s first tasting note, said Reynier, although despite extensive research the origin of the Gaelic name of the whisky cannot be pinned down.
McEwan added: “It should be very similar to the whisky tasted by Martin when he came to the island. It will be very floral, but most importantly it will take your breath away.”
Annabel Meikle, whisky taster at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Edinburgh, said the quadruple distilling process is “a hugely unusual endeavour”.
“There are lots of rules in whisky, but this certainly shows it is good fun to break them.
“I am very curious to see what the final taste will be like, although I imagine you would need to mix in a lot of water in order to do that.”
Stephen McBride of the Lismore Bar in Glasgow, winner of the Malt Whisky Bar of the Year, added that whisky lovers would certainly be curious about usquebaugh-baul, “but I don’t imagine serving anyone more than one dram in a night”.
The process will be captured live on Bruichladdich’s webcams tomorrow. 26 February 2006