The Octomore Comus consists, I believe, of bourbon cask matured spirit “finished” for an unspecified length of time in sauternes casks. Now, I’m not generally a fan of sweet wine finishes but this is really a very lovely whisky (spoiler alert!). And the frosted glass makes the bottle far more elegant, in my opinion, than the regular opaque black livery of the Octomore line (see my complaints about it here). Peated to 167 ppm, this held the record for highest peating level when released but has since been passed by whatever version of Octomore we’re at now.
If you want a bit of a laugh, or alternatively, if you haven’t rolled your eyes in a while and would like to get in a lot of practice, here’s a video of whisky legend, Islay icon, and Bruichladdich’s head distiller, Jim McEwan talking about the Comus (and no, he doesn’t seem very much more certain of how to pronounce the name than you or I are).
Octomore 4.2, Comus (61%, bourbon and sauternes casks; from my own bottle)
Nose: Sweet peat; something vegetal and organic in there along with graphite (pencil lead) and something vaguely meaty. Quite smoky but at first or fourth sniff this does not seem like it is either insanely peated or sauternes finished. With a little more time a truckload of salt arrives as do some makrut limes, lemongrass and oysters. With more time there’s some berry sweetness (there’s the wine) and some cream as well. A faint butyric note shows up for a bit but dissipates quickly. 15 minutes in, the dominant note on the nose is lemon, alternately musky and minerally. Water makes the lemon really musky and the creamy/buttery note really expands as well. A lick of smoke plays along the edges at all times.
Palate: Somewhat closed at first sip (that’s the high strength) but not as aggressive as you might expect at either 167 ppm or 61%, let alone together. Oh wait, I just got most of my second sip on the back of my throat and it’s certainly very aggressive there. I would recommend sitting up straight when tasting this. After a small recovery period and a lot of water, a third sip: rich, mouth-coating and sweet. A fair bit of tar follows the initial sweetness, and then some acidic, almost acrid smoke. Oh, and there’s the lemon (with salt crystals) and maybe even a hint of that cream from the nose. At first it seems like this really needs water but time and air open it up a fair bit too. With water it gets sweeter, yes, and a little fruitier but it also gets tarrier and smokier.
Finish: Long, tarry. Salt comes in after a bit and the tar turns to ash. After a while the lemon begins to hang around on the finish as well. A faint hint of coffee liqueur on the back of my tongue long, long after I swallowed the last sip. Water makes the finish much smokier and the smoke goes on forever; a little more acidic too now.
Comments: I know I said in my review of the Octomore 2.1 that I didn’t like that one quite as much as the Comus, but tonight I don’t think I find much separation between them. I think that it really comes down to the mood. The Comus if you’re feeling contemplative, the 2.1 if you want a more direct restorative. If you are willing/able to give it a lot of time you might be able to hold off on adding water, or much water. I don’t think water does it any harm, mind, and I really like the development on the nose with water added.
Rating: 88 points.
Ah, now you’ve struck a chord.
Of 59 whiskies tried over a four-day period at the 2012 Victoria Whisky Festival Comus was my favorite. Bruichladdich’s Joanne Brown led the Master Class that included Comus in a plump, bespoke ‘laddie bottle with a hand-written label. I found the whisky absolutely enchanting. Terribly spendy for a 5 yo, but worth it for an occasional short trip to ‘nother world.
59 whiskies in four days. You’re made of sterner stuff than I am.
I liked it a lot more when the bottle was first opened–if I’d had the blog then and reviewed it I would probably have put it at 90 points. It’s still very good now, and who knows, on another night it might still be a 90 pointer.
I’m curious about why they had a bespoke bottle for the festival–were they selling that as a special edition there or was this just for the tasting? If the latter, why didn’t they use the regular bottle? Was it not yet in regular release?
Right, it hadn’t been released at that point. I saw the first press release with a picture of the Comus bottle bout three or four weeks after the Victoria Whisky Festival.
As far as the 59 malts in four days, 13 of those were at Jim Murray’s “best of last year’s” tasting. JM doesn’t let you swallow! Then there were the four Master Classes over two days. Two tiny sips of each whisky net a yes or no score, and then the typical flow-chart “if yes…” might earn another sip. When Andrew Symington poured a 40 yo Kinclaith you can bet I finished the full measure (same with Comus). By the end of the four-hour VIP/Consumer tasting I had a slight buzz, but I try hard to maintain my faculties–great food and lots of water helps. As JM said during his class, “Anyone can get drunk. Nothing clever about that.”