Oh, and this is my 500th Scotch review. So I’ll take my crown please.
A lot of people here have been in the situation that Bruichladdich must have been prior to releasing Octomore.
There they are, making a living on Islay, surrounded by history and distilleries that make the most peated whisky out there. And they make only lightly peated fair.
Sure, Bunnahabhain is there too, but they are small, and kooky. They have their own thing. Not to mention every-so-often they make a nicely peated dram.
That leaves Bruichladdich, sitting there, drinking, finishing their whiskies, plotting.
And one night of said drinking, they snapped.
They said “Fuck it, we’ll make the peatiest and the rest of them can shut their sound holes!”
Actually it more so probably went “Hmm, what if we peated more than anyone has peated before”, but my version sounds more badass.
Thus Octomore was created, and named after James Brown’s farm above Port Charlotte. It’s also the name of an ancient distillery that’s now long gone.
Many years have passed since that drunken night, which I assume caused cows to be born with 2 heads weeks after, when the rain ran upwards in Islay. And they’re still making the crazy stuff.
So let’s see how different batches taste, shall we?
Feel free to skip this part if you understand Peatiness and PPM
You’ll notice that I’ve listed the PPM. When someone dries their barley using peat, the amount of peat in the whisky is measured in parts per million. The more phenol in the whisky, the stronger it was peated, and in theory, the stronger the peated smell.
To give you an idea of how much PPM you have had, here’s a list of distilleries and their typical PPM.
- Bunnahabhain (1–2)
- Bruichladdich (3–4)
- Springbank (7–8)
- Benromach (8)
- Ardmore (10–15)
- Highland Park (20)
- Bowmore (20–25)
- Talisker (25–30)
- Caol Ila (30–35)
- Ledaig (35)
- Lagavulin (35–40)
- Port Charlotte (40)
- Laphroaig (40–43)
- Ardbeg (55)
- Longrow (55)
I hope that helps, and if you already knew it, well.. should have read my skip instructions you illiterate fool.
Bruichladdich Octomore 01.1 is the first release of the now infamous dram. Aged in Ex-Bourbon Casks and released in 2008, with only 6000 bottles in the run.
At the time of release, this was the most peated dram, said to be so peated, it caused bog mummies to no longer smell for a few days.
Price: No longer available at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5Y 9/6
Nose: Pear, peat, freshly cut wheat, apple blossom (the dessert, not the flower), oatmeal, honey, grilled pork chops
Big surprise there’s peat at the front, however let’s move past that.
This is pretty raw and young, a way I only like on some days (I’m on a list now).
Good amount of sweet notes, bourbon influence is noted, and there’s a lot of grain notes here.
Taste: Peppered bacon, pear cake, smoke macaroons, cocoa, lemon
Complexity starts picking up on the taste. Grain turns to cake, coconut shines through, there’s some acidity that brings out the best in it, and all is good in the world.
Granted that could be the alcohol making me relax more, but let’s all pretend it’s a dram that’s hard to get and believe in a little fucking magic in the world.
Finish: Hot cinnamon hearts, fennel, briny, apple jack, licorice, grilled meat
Finishes really hot. Lots of spices that have been turned up really strong. Tons of complexity for a young dram, which I’ll attribute to the amount of peat, because… well there’s nothing else to attribute to it.
Conclusion: A really positive first attempt, however the nose is lacking. I love the finish and the taste on this one. Takes a lot of different earthy/sweet flavours and throws them at your face.
I think that this shows a goofy first attempt that had some luck in the end. I originally marked it higher, however upon reexamining my notes, the rough edges shine through somewhat.
We jump to Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1. Why? Because I’m not fucking made of money, that’s why.
This one was bottled in 2013, and also aged in ex-Bourbon American oak casks. Total age is 5 years old, like the 01.1 before it.
So let’s see what 5 years does in experience, shall we?
Price: $229.95 (CAD) at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 8/6
Nose: Speck, roasted radish, gingerbread, salmon with a maple glaze, butterscotch
More meat on the nose (damn, couldn’t get this far without a dick joke).
Earth is turned down. The nose itself is stronger than the 01.1, and the sweet elements are still there, but not as strong.
Taste: Brown sugar, lemon candy, beef, lots of malt, cookie dough, ginger
Lots and lots of malt on the tongue (dick joke 2 or just a mistake? Who knows?).
Less spice than other drams, this is closer to a sweeter type of peated malt. Good amount of acidity here too, which balances out the amount of sweetness for you skinny fucks out there that I envy.
Finish: Anise, caramel, nutmeg, lemon peel, smoke, seaweed, cinnamon bun, herbal
Wow. Good umami flavours, and blending well with the brine to make seaweed on my tongue (was that a jism joke? Or are we reaching here?)
Lots of spices that weren’t 100% for the rest of the dram. They hid. And now they are out. Out and about. I… have not much else to say but I like it.
Conclusion: I’ve lost my edge.
Nah, I’m just fucking with you. I ain’t lost shit.
So with this one we can see that 5 years has given us a different dram. Gone are the rough earth notes, here are the spice. More peat = More gooder for me, so I’m all good.
In all honesty, this has more sweets, which I like, less earth, and overall a big spice finish. Much better in my books, and on it’s way to becoming a really complex dram.
Next we have less of a skip, because a few years ago I was made of money. It would seem. Or was going through Iceland and saw Bruichladdich Octomore 06.2 tax and duty free.
So I bought it. Duh.
The .2 added was first introduced as part of the 2 series, and denoted “cask evolution”. Or what the rest of us called “Bruichladdich being Bruichladdich, thank goodness for that”.
In the case of Bruichladdich Octomore 06.2, we have the most heavily peated whisky in the world aged exclusively in Limousin Oak from Aquitaine, which used it previously to age “one of the world’s great eaux de vie”.
All you need to know that’s part of France, they aren’t telling us the distillery, and eaux de vie is clear, fruit brandy. So brandy barrels. Make sense? Let’s drink.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Strawberry, raisin, rum caramel sauce, pepperoni, fennel, dead leaves/vegetation
Fruit forward. I later found out that the strawberry note comes up a lot in Octomore. Also has some of the spice and big, rich notes.
Still has some meat flavours, but they are spicer than before.
Taste: Allspice, chicken wings, brown sugar, coffee, bananas flambe, peach/raspberry
Didn’t expect this. Tastes like it’s from Jamaica, not France. Wait, did France takeover Jamaica? No, that was Britain. Glad I could write out answering that. So helpful.
Lots of fruit, deep molasses, and nice spice notes. All works well together. There’s a lot of molasses. This is a rum drinkers dram. If they like smoke. And whisky. Fuck it, drink both, no judging.
Finish: Brine, licorice, cumin, woody, ginger tea, nutmeg, cider
Finishes with the Bruichladdich bring, lots of wood, spice, and apple notes. Like a completely different dram, but still nice.
Granted I’m a sucker for ginger tea and have been drinking some nice, dry ciders, so I may have some bias here.
Conclusion: Damn usually Limousin Oak and I don’t get along. We have a make up here. All good.
I have the best words.
This is a very rich dram that hits a lot of my favourite flavour combos. It’s fruity and spicey. Not as spicey as the last, though I think that works with the rum side of things. Otherwise you’d have a spiced rum thing and that angers some people.
Nice finish. Glad I bought a bottle of this.
Still another baby step up to Bruichladdich Octomore 06.3. So we know the .2 are experimental casks, so what’s up with .3?
Well this is the first time they released it. It’s using barley that was grown on Islay, and each one in the future that has a .3 will also denote that.
This was quite hard to make, however in the end, they broke their old record of most peated. This is, and still is, the most peated dram out there.
Released in 2014, this is aged for 5 years in ex-bourbon casks. So let’s see how the terroir shines through the clouds of smoke.
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Honey, cinnamon, bacon, hazelnut/floral, mandarin orange, peat moss, cocoa nibs, malt, ribs
That’s pretty hot. That’s really hot.
Given some time, there’s lots and lots of peat element. I know. You’re surprised. Hold onto your seats.
Nice orange and meat elements again here. Given time, there’s a large amount of complexity on the nose here.
Taste: A 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas amount of Pepper (take your pick of which side), radish, mushroom, caramel, white chocolate
Look up the treaty, you live in the age of the Internet. Learn something!
It’s a lot of pepper, Really hot. I’m not the biggest fan of the taste. It’s unbalanced towards pepper and any other notes are tainted by it.
Finish: Pepper steak, wheat, liquorice, crabapple, celeriac, salish, manure, cocoa
Pepper calms the fuck down and sits in the corner, where it belongs. Reminiscent of the older Octomores here, with more earth and rawness, though given time there’s more developed notes that are quite nice.
Granted I could just be really enjoying less pepper.
Conclusion: If not for the taste, I’d be in the boat of “more peat = more betterer”, and know, I don’t think I am.
Yes, I’m saying that this is too much. It’s cool to taste, it’s great on the nose, and given some time, that finish is a nice earth balance.
But the taste… holy balls there’s too much pepper. Water didn’t help me, save it brought out the white chocolate.
So if you can get past the taste, this is for you. For me it’s tough to rate, but just take my word for it the vast majority of the score comes from the finish and nose.
Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2014 Octomore Discovery is the next one. Fluked out and was traded this sample from a good guy. Glad I was able to review it as part of this.
But what is it? There’s no numbers!
Well let me tell you: This is a quadruple distilled Octomore that was aged for 7 years in ex-Oloroso casks.
That’s pretty mental. Quadruple distillation means it went into the barrel at “firewater going blind” levels on insanity. I have no idea how this is going to taste, or if it was a good idea.
So… let’s see how this turned out, shall we?
Price: Never made it off the Island, N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Pear, cocoa, root beer, gingersnaps, butter, wheat, musty leather, green apple
That’s a mental nose.
So… there’s that.
The earth of “lower” PPM Octomores is here, but with more mustiness and lots more grain. It’s like a white wine on the nose, if said White Wine didn’t know if it was a Sauternes or a Chardonnay.
Taste: Pepper, dry apple, eucalyptus, basil, metal
Holy damn that’s dry. I’m dying. I need water. I have water, but not enough. I may be stealing water quicker than Nestle.
So the dram decided to stick to an oaked Chardonnay. Herbal, metallic, and peppery. Dry, dry, dry.
Finish: Dry, pine, wood chips, oatmeal, cookie dough, BBQ chips, Caramilk bar
Oh fucking God this got drier. How? Did it take all my moisture? I think it did.
Given time the dry elements end up giving us lots of sweets. Kinda like saying “Oh sorry, I desiccated you, have a sweetie”.
Damn, I have a hard time with this.
Conclusion: Bias time! I’m not the biggest fan of super dry things. And this… is super dry.
It’s a dry bomb, pure and simple. No other way to say it, this is really, really dry. If that’s your thing, go back in time and buy one of the 1,600 some odd bottles. If not, oh well.
They took a dry wine and mixed it with something most of us would think was Vodka off the still. It’s crazy. It’s aged, smoked vodka pretending to be strong Chardonnay.
While this may not be my “go-to”, it is complex in some odd ways. The nose is interesting. The finish hits you in the face and then has you come back, in a very abusive way.
It’s slightly better than the 6.3, but still mental. Glad I only have this one dram.
Bruichladdich Octomore 07.1 is the latest part. As you know by now, this is 5 years and aged in ex-Bourbon casks. It uses barley from the mainland.
See, you’re learning!
This is peated more than the previous 06.1, however not as peated as the insane 06.3. Personally I think that’s for the best, however perhaps I’m in the minority. For once.
Yay being a white male!
Let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Price: $229.95 (CAD) at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Butter, hot popcorn, lemon, the beach, smoked caramel, peach
Wow. Really buttery and has that corn smell. The brine has grown to a total, encompassing beach smell, and the citrus sticks around to round it all out.
This is one of those noses that does what it’s meant to do really, really well.
Taste: Candy cane, caramel, raisin, cedar, anise, green beans, raspberry cordial
Wait, mint? Who said we could have mint? And sweet! It’s Xmas!
No. It’s still November. Let it happen naturally.
Less earth, some youth (but it works), and lots of caramel and raspberry notes. The cask has given us some really interesting notes, and the sweet aspects really add nice elements here.
Finish: Apple, cinnamon, brown butter, juniper, pepper steak, brine, blackberry
Ends almost like some Frankenstein’s Monster of a whisky, apple jack, and gin. Which I call a Saturday night. And Sunday if you’re lucky.
Similar notes we’ve been having before, however it stands out nicely.
Conclusion: More subdued than the 06.1, I think this is nice, but not as nice as the previous release. Perhaps it’s too smooth, or it’s missing the Umami notes, or I’ve lost my edge.
I want a little bit more from this one. On the finish or the nose. The taste is getting better and more interesting. They are trying things out, and I approve, however I still drive for more, and it’s hard to explain.
Perhaps another year, or a different cask will work (SEGUE!)
Bruichladdich Octomore 0.72, We’re good at patterns, right? It’s .2, so it’s aged in different casks.
This case we have ex-Syrah casks made from American Oak from the Northern Rhone Valley.
The Rhone Valley is well known for wine, and is in the Southern part of France. So this is the Northern part of the Southern part.
And Syrah is red wine, and is a varietal of grape. Syrah is well known in this part of the Rhone, and make medium to full bodied reds with blackberry, mint, and black pepper notes.
Sounds up my alley. Let’s see how it tastes!
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5Y 7/10
Nose: Grapes, red licorice, sea air, freshly baked raspberry pie, lime rind, mango, pepper, coconut
Yup, was in a red wine cask. Lots of grape, red fruit notes, and fruit elements. I’m surprised too.
The whisky isn’t taken over by the cask though (you can sleep well at night). Butter notes, pepper, coconut, and the brine.
Taste: Pear, orange juice, peat, caramel, rum raisin ice cream
More rum elements here. I guess, with lots of cream. Oddly doesn’t go bad with orange, which I assume we’d all expect.
Big flavours here. This isn’t complex, but what it does, it does big, and it’s easy to pick apart the different really tasty flavours.
Finish: Coconut, currant, basil, cayenne, cinnamon hearts, gingersnaps
Finishes with some dry elements. Lots of spice. If you can’t handle spices, this one isn’t for you, because like the taste, each flavour is big and right there and easy to pick apart.
Also I love spices and this does those and therefore yay.
Conclusion: All in all, a dram with a complex nose, big flavour in the taste and finish, and no sense of consistency. But I think that’s nice every so often. And this is so often.
It’s balanced on flavours, the flavours work well together, and there’s a good amount of cinnamon. That by itself works. The cask has done it’s job to add fruit elements that pair well with the peat. I wish they had left this in the cask longer, personally, because I feel like the complexity was around the corner.
Oh well. Maybe next time.
Bruichladdich Octomore 07.3. What have we learned? Yes, that’s right, .3 means that the barley is from Islay.
But this one is different. It was aged in American bourbon barrels and Spanish wine casks of Ribera del Duero.
Before you look it up: Ribera del Duero is a wine producing region of Spain. Not sherry, but red wine. So two red wines for the numbers of one. What a year to be alive!
Let’s see how this one tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 2.5Y 8/6
Nose: Cherry, black pepper, apple blossom, smoked pork chops, capers, sunflowers, firewood (that’s on fire)
The different casks have both amped up the peat and given us vanilla, all the while adding some interesting fruit elements that blends well with one another.
More floral than I was expecting here. Makes me want to try some Spanish wine, just to see if that came from there or was a nice addition from the ex-Bourbon cask (through a fluke).
Heck, may be the barley too.
Taste: Strawberry cordial, cinnamon, apple, plum, banana, eucalyptus
Big fruit elements. The red wine casks have added quite a bit here. Not enough, again, to block out the whisky, which is appreciated. Say what you will about Octomore, someone was ensuring that it didn’t turn into just a finished whisky.
Dry and sweet elements here vie for control. They work well. Very fruit forward, but the spice, like a good apple pie, works in a pinch.
Finish: Apple, nutmeg, cinnamon, strawberry jam, curry powder, espresso
Wow. Spice finish that I wasn’t expecting. And I get to drink coffee! I normally can’t!
Well there’s my bias. Let’s move along.
Conclusion: I’m a sucker for the finish on this one. It’s spicy, fruity, and nicely balanced. So I’m giving bonus marks for that.
The taste is interesting, though at the end of the day the peat has given us eucalyptus and not much else. The nose is really the most interesting part if you aren’t easily swayed like me.
I appreciate this one over the last .3, and think this is a better balance, and cool beyond the overpeated aspect.
Bruichladdich Octomore 07.4. So wait… What the heck is this .4 shit? We just went through all this other number stuff.
Man, my old accounting classes are coming in handy here.
So anything with .4 has been aged in virgin oak casks. Not the kind of virgin oak we’re used to in North America though: This is virgin French oak.
Which based on my life… I have nothing to say about having sex with the French, so I have no idea.
So let’s drink away that pain, shall we?
Oh… Maybe I should say this now. I’m not the biggest fan of Virgin Oak whiskies. I do enjoy the odd Bourbon, but… well keep that in mind (and no, I didn’t know this was Virgin Oak while reviewing).
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 5YR 6/10
Nose: Wood, brine, canned pears, peanut, apple brown Betty, scalloped potatoes
Big wood notes. Elements I usually think of in Bourbon, which isn’t a bad thing, however the smoke has changed into the earthy elements.
Unique notes though. Cream notes, and different ways of using earth.
Taste: Strawberry, basil, brine, green wood, apple, caramel
By the end of all of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that Octomore tastes of brine and strawberries, by itself.
Thus I will assume the earth, caramel, and green wood is from the Virgin French oak.
Finish: Caramel, malt, chocolate, dusty, pear, smoke, brine
Lots of chocolate, but also the smoke, dust, and brine.
I don’t know if I enjoy the finish. I like sweets, so I like that part. But maybe I’m not loving the notes?
Conclusion: I’m very confused on this one, and frankly feel like I could drink through half a bottle and still be confused.
On the one hand, there’s some interesting notes here that aren’t typical. Or typical together. Like it’s good notes, maybe I just don’t like them together. Or maybe the nose was a ton of earth, the taste was an odd bourbon, and the finish is a smoked bourbon Islay thing?
This is unique, I’ll give it that. End of the day, I wouldn’t make a new .4, however given the outrun on this was 12,000, we’re going to see more, and I hope they are more cohesive moving forward.
Scotch reviews #500-508, Islay review #105-113, Whisky Network review #814-822