This edition of the very highly peated Octomore line from Bruichladdich tops out at a peating level of 167 ppm–though, as always, this is a number measured before distillation and the peat levels in the spirit that makes it into the bottle are not anywhere close to that level or even proportionately higher than malts made from barley with a lower peat ppm count before distillation. At any rate, I enjoyed my bottles of both the 2.1 and the 4.2 (Comus) and didn’t find those to be insanely peated in the glass. Ditto for the 3.1, which I got a taste of at a gathering in March (though I didn’t like it quite as much as the 2.1 or 4.2). Let’s see what the story is with the 6.1 which is also distinguished in that it’s made from Scottish barley.
Octomore 6.1 (57%; from a purchased sample)
Nose: Peat, slightly rubbery and quite sweet. Gets very phenolic very fast and also rather briny–both salty sea air and olive brine. Some oily, almondy notes below all that and some vanilla and cream that begins to come to the fore. With more time and air there’s lemon as well, salty and ashy. With even more time there’s a butyric note. I wonder if water will expand or banish it. Okay, good: water does push it down and brings out more of the salted lemons.
Palate: Starts out sweet and mild for a half-second and then there’s a big peaty wallop as the sweetness takes a sharp turn into tar and smoke. The sweetness never goes away though and the peat/smoke is not over the top. On the second sip there’s even more vanilla sweetness along with the bitter smoke. Gets ashier as it goes, but stays sweet. With water there’s more acid and better balance (the smoke gets less acrid/bitter).
Finish: Long. The sweetness lingers along with the smoke. Some lemon emerges too and the smoke gets more tarry. As on the palate, water dials back the tar.
Comments: This is well balanced (especially with water) and the interplay between the vanilla/sweetness and the heavy smoke is very nice. While it’s not raw by any means there’s no complexity either though and nothing to particularly recommend it over most of its heavily peated Islay brethren (or the earlier versions which I liked a lot more). It’s certainly hard to recommend at the price. You’re better off buying one each of the Caol Ila 12, Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10 CS.
Rating: 85 points.