Origin: Isle of Islay (Scotland)
Type: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Ageing casks: Ex-Bourbon first fill
Added coloring: No
Owner: Bruichladdich (Rèmy Cointreau)
Average price: € 150.00
Official website: www.bruichladdich.com
The Octomore series is now ‘legendary’ for lovers of peaty whiskies, known for producing bottles with a spectacular, for some even repelling, smokiness, with which Bruichladdich experiments and plays with casks and barley as in many other of its bottlings.
Starting with the first distillations in 2002, this label is characterised by very young bottlings (between three and five years old) derived from the distillation of Islay barley aged in different casks.
In the words of the distillery, ‘Octomore defies logic and rewards the unreasonable. It requires courage and faith. But there is light for those who seek the truth’.
Practically a religion!
Bottling 01.1, containing a distillate from October 2002, came out in April 2008, and was followed by more or less yearly editions until the latest (at the time of writing) in July 2019 with the number 10.4 and ageing of 3 years.
The whisky I find in my glass was distilled in 2013 from barley harvested the previous year (of the Concerto variety), aged five years in casks that contained Bourbon from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s, producing 42,000 bottles.
Quoting Bruichladdich’s launch again, “our new series explores a different realm of ‘smoother smoke’. We ask you to ignore the numbers, and forget everything you know. Openness to the unexpected was required in its creation, and we ask you to do the same.”
Straw yellow in the glass.
We have to agree with whoever wrote the above mentioned pitch, the smoke is really soft on the nose, of fleshy but not aggressive peat sprinkled with lemon. Nutmeg and pepper pinch the nostrils at first (more than the hard alcohol content), but gradually you discover aromas of malted biscuit, orange, fruit (peach, but also tropical like pineapple and melon), while the peat acquires maritime touches, with a full-bodied salinity. With the addition of water (which I’m generally against, but here it’s a must), the aromas open up to wood and leather, with an unexpected herbaceous touch. Inviting and full.
The alcohol content is noticeable, but not as much as one might expect. It should certainly be taken with care and patience so as not to burn the palate (and throat). Underneath the alcoholic bang there is always peat, smoky and still very marine, with that smoky herring scent that I personally like very much. Burnt wood chunks with fruit rubbed on top, liquorice, orange, crème brûlée, plenty of pepper, more nutmeg and even pickled olives. With the addition of water, which tames the alcoholic bite, leather and wood return along with a splash of coffee.
The finish is very long, of smoked herring, toasted wood, orange and leather.
With Octomore you are always faced with a unique and all-encompassing experience, uncompromising, difficult to pigeonhole or compare with other peat coffees: the drive is so excessive that you find yourself making a choice, either with them or against them.
I choose with, because there’s more than just a ‘big peat’ here, and you can sense the ongoing research and work in exploring what peat, pushed to its limits, can offer.
Either play along, or get out.