Let’s discuss good young whisky for a bit, shall we? As the whole NAS argument rages on, one of the periphery issues has been drawn kicking and screaming into the spotlight as well: can really young whisky actually be good enough to sell at the elevated prices that support the brands’ push for profit (the very essence of the NAS debate)? If the answer is yes it effectively negates any argument in support of the validity of hiding information from the consumer.
This discussion, in turn, leads down the rabbit hole of ‘is older better?’, but we’re not going that far in 500 words or so, lest we turn this into another firestorm of an essay. Let’s just say here that generally speaking, more mature whisky is better than young whisky. Octomore is one of the exceptions that proves the rule, so to speak. This brand has always been (excepting the one-off 10 year old) a 5 year old malt – clearly stated on the label – and is indeed a killer dram. There’s no denying that the juice is good and it’s borne out by a broad sweep of positive reviews in all sectors of the whisky world.
Wait…so a five year old whisky – clearly labeled – can still retail for high prices and satisfy both consumer and producer?! Weird. Exactly what we’ve been saying for a long time now.
Octomore 4.1 is knee-buckling 62.5% abv bog beast of a dram. It is as sharp and jagged as obsidian to the newcomer, but as warming and comfortably atmospheric as a beachside bonfire to those of us like to bask in the fires of hell. Phenolic heights in the malted barley of this one soared to a stratospheric 167 ppm (prior to distillation, of course), but you’d be hard-pressed to say this was any smokier than an Ardbeg or Laphroaig.
And for those suffering from a wee bit of intimidation…interestingly enough it is possible to find softer, safer versions of Octomore (ignore the abv and phenol counts, and simply rely on the creaminess you’ll discover by the senses), but I do concede a soft spot for the more rough and tumble expressions such as this one. Beastly and not of this earth.
Finally…though Bruichladdich plays on both sides of the NAS field, let’s give them kudos here for being ballsy enough to shove a five year old malt into the forefront of the whisky scene. Love it. Team turquoise…if you’re reading this please take note: You’ve always been the ones to buck the trend. Please do so again. Stick with age statements. We like your whisky young and will buy it.
Nose: Smoke. Candy sweetness, like green Jolly Ranchers and green Ju-Jubes. Citrus (lemon and key lime). A BBQ note brings a slightly tangy edge to it. Earthy and dry. I get a slight ‘weedy’ note (and yes…that IS what I mean).
Palate: Whoa. Smoky. Rubber. Burnt rubber. The smell of barley smoking abovbe the kiln (if you’ve experienced it, you’ll know). Sweet, with some salt licorice notes. Grilled scallops and lemon. Lemongrass. There’s a bit of chocolate with fruit candy too. Quite a workover for the palate. Leaves a slight barley note and a touch of seafood.
Thoughts: A sweet example of Octomore. Not the best of the bunch, but great nevertheless.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
This was thefirst Octomore I tasted in December 2012. I don’t know if I would score it a 87. I went into CSN and was offered a sample… Offered a sample of a $150 Scotch! I had no intention of buying it. I had simply noticed it because I had read about it and I knew it was NOT available in Ontario.
That night I would have scored it a 90 or more for sure. It was fabulous.
I have not opened the bottle I bought that night. I almost bought another the next year (it was $30 cheaper) but I held back. I think that’s ok. I have so many bottles, it will be a while before I can get to the Octomore.
I’ve tried the 6.1. Good, but not as memorable as my “first”.
Very nice review and – as I did before – I see the method to your madness, but it’s still going to be one helluva bumpy ride when it gets to the bad ones. I REALLY don’t want to argue value judgments with people in terms of what defines “good”, but I think the issue that IS at the heart of things is that good young whisky is relatively difficult to produce – compared to good middle-aged whisky or “just young” whisky – and that’s why there really isn’t too much of it, why most people haven’t tried it and, yes, have a “prejudice” against youth until they do. I put “prejudice” in quotes because although it is technically prejudice in the sense of pre-judging a product without immediate evidence, it’s also based on practical experience for many – if you haven’t seen/tasted it, you can’t be faulted for not believing that young whisky can be good. Furthermore, the industry really isn’t helping to make the case with abundant examples either. Ignore/obscure age to help out sales? OK… but it WILL tell in the product.
Octomore is, on the whole, pretty stunning and a must-try for any peat head. Youth, like the peating and the strength, is an intrinsic part of the character and, although it can come across as more dare than dram for some, it’s not to be missed at any opportunity which offers it – it would be like going to Disney World and not going on Space Mountain.
We didn’t go to space mountain…
If it was a trade-off for trying Octomore, you came out ahead.