Another highly peated whisky from Bruichladdich this week, this time the far more ludicrously peated Octomore 5.1. I believe at 169 ppm this is the most heavily peated of the Octomores yet. Of course, as Jordan Devereaux and other people with actual knowledge of chemistry have pointed out, the ppm rating of barley before distillation is always a more spectacular number than the ppm rating of the matured whisky, and still shape and size can also have tremendous influence on how much of the phenols make into the distillate (Bruichladdich has very tall stills).
Anyway, I don’t mean to give the impression that I know very much about these things. I do know, however, that despite these eye-popping ppm numbers the Octomores have not been particularly outlandishly smoky in the glass and that I’m increasingly sceptical about the point of this series (see my comments in my review of the 6.1; I’ve also reviewed the 2.1, the 4.2 and the Octomore 10.)
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. Continue reading →
The only proper response to a 10 yo whisky that costs between $250 and $300 is “oh, fuck off!”. But here’s a longer review anyway of the Octomore 10, the “prelude” to the first regular release in Bruichladdich’s line of insanely peated whiskies.
Before it’s even nosed or tasted, three things distinguish this Octomore from the ones that have come before–other than the fact that it costs twice as much as those already expensive forbears: 1) it has the lowest peating level in the series at 80.5 ppm–twice as much as most other peated Islays but half the ppm of the new Octomore 6s; 2) it is bottled at 50% and not an eye-watering cask strength; and 3) it is twice as old as the others in the series, which have all been 5 years old.
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). Continue reading →
The universe saw fit to give southern Minnesota snow on this the first day of May, and I was thus in the mood for something very smoky. And as both the brats were utter bastards at dinner-time I also needed something very strong. And so naturally I reached for my bottle of Octomore 2.1. The word “Octomore”, I assume, means “very expensive despite being very young” in Scots Gaelic. It is the bane of those who like to alphabetize their whisky collections, as the very striking bottle is also very tall (a single bottle of Octomore would cause havoc in a collection housed in an IKEA Billy bookcase). It would also be very good for striking people with as you can comfortably hold it by the neck in a tight fist and use the bottle as a club. But you should wait till the bottle is empty to do that–and when that will be is hard to tell as the bottle is darker than Donald Rumsfeld’s soul and it is impossible to tell what the level at any time is. The feeling of anomie that this sometimes inspires must be another of the things we are paying for when we pay through the nose for Octomore. Continue reading →