Bruichladdich’s Octomore is now unquestionably the undisputed heavyweight of peated whisky. The phenolic levels in nearly each successive release keep creeping ever upwards, redefining the weight classes and changing the face of the sport (whisky drinking) forever. For a while there Ardbeg Supernova seemed to be an able sparring partner, but these Octomore releases just keep swinging haymakers. At this point it’s simply no contest.
This particular version of Octomore is the ‘6.1 Scottish Barley’. It sports a 167 ppm warning on the bottle. Just hitting the markets as I write this piece is the ‘6.3 Islay Barley’ edition. That release boasts a scorching 258 ppm on the label. Those of you familiar with these escalating peat wars will most likely be well aware that there is a vast difference between the phenols in the malted barley prior to distillation, and those that actually end up in the finished product. In all cases, however, I believe the 258 ppm refers to the peating level prior to distillation. This is most likely the reason why, even though the numbers for each Octomore get more and more ludicrous, the actual peat- and smokiness never seem to get out of hand. The end product is still crystalline and pure. And damn good, I might add.
Forgive the bias lapse in the previous sentence. I am an unapologetic peat head. But you already knew that.
There really is no dud in the Octomore range as yet. This particular batch is probably one of the weaker ones I’ve encountered, if I’m to be completely honest, but even so it comes in head and shoulders above most other young malts. Let’s face it…most drams hitting the shelves at a similar age would be outright flops. Peated whisky is a different story. And Octomore is yet an even different story.
If you’re a daring soul, and someone who appreciates bold flavours and doesn’t mind dropping between $100-150CA on a 5 year old whisky, give it a go.
Nose: Crisp smoky bacon. Earthy. Saline and heavy in all things related to fire (smoke, ash, char and …well…more smoke, honestly). Sweet BBQ. A squeeze of lemon. Rubber (like a new pair of Wellies). Anise or fennel. Cola syrup. Mint Leaf chewy candies. At the tail end of a good, long inhalation, you’ll get some butter and cereal notes.
Palate: Rubber and tart apple. More peat now, and still smoke, of course. Lemon rind. Slightly burnt olive oil. Ocean-doused campfire ashes (not that I’ve ever had a mouthful). Walnut, as it fades (almost Chardonnay-ish, somehow).
Thoughts: The palate is a notch or three below what the nose had me hoping for, but still a rather exceptional five year old. Let’s not forget that…this is only five years on. Not my favorite Octomore, but a worthwhile dram nevertheless.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt