Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Series

Ten Years of Octomore: A milestone for maturity? Or has the experiment only just got going?

The Laddie Team have been quietly toiling away for a decade now as they work to perfect the production of Octomore, their madcap beast of phenolic thunder.

Experimental as ever, there are many alterations here regarding age, cask, barley, bottling strength, and peating levels.

Having said that, the format of the four bottlings remains in keeping with releases:

  • The 10.1 is a straight-up ex-bourbon cask bottle made with Scottish barley.
  • The 10.2, as in previous years, is matured in European oak (this year a first-fill Sauternes).
  • The 10.3 is made with 100% Islay grown barley.
  • And, of course, the 10.4 is matured 100% in virgin oak, although this year it’s European Limousin instead of American Oak.

I’m keen to see how this year’s adjustments and experiments have turned out. How will the 10.x series stand up to its formidable predecessors? What new tweaks has Adam Hannett pulled from his bag of tricks?

Blind Tasting

At the request of the distillery, having sent the very generous 200ml sample bottles wrapped in mysterious black paper, I tasted each bottle blind, scribbled some notes, and took a pop at which bottling I thought was in the glass. Afterwards, I unveiled the bottles and consolidated my notes.

Thanks a lot to the Laddie Team for sending these out! ūüôĆ


The Octomore 10.1

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2013
Age: 5 years old
PPM: 107
Bottles: 42,000
ABV: 59.8%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Let’s start at the beginning!

This year’s .1 release is in keeping with previous years in most aspects – the age, ABV, and cask type are very typical of previous years. The most noticeable difference is the PPM down to 107 from last year’s 156 (and earlier bottlings being more typically between 160 and 180PPM).

The literature describes this year’s Octomores as having a “softer smoke”. As a dram that’s always differentiated itself on phenol levels, it’s interesting to see the distillery explore this – especially as 107PPM is still nearly 3 times peatier than your average peaty whisky.

Nose: Pear skin, fruit syrup and dry wood smoke. Washed cheese. Unvarnished furniture.

Palate: White grapes: floral, sweet, and luscious. Pear juice. Rising chilli-flake heat with wood resin and soft smoke.

Finish: Sweet and long with a mild peppery smoke.

I was so convinced on tasting this that it was the 10.2. There’s a lovely soft floral character beneath the smoke which I associated with the sweet Sauternes wine it was matured in.

Really impressed with this one! For me the .1 bottling is usually quite savoury and austere but this is packed with delicious fruity notes. As the most affordable of the range, I reckon this will be a great crowd pleaser for Octomore fans old and new with that extra fruity dimension complementing the smoke very well.

Overall: 8/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.1 in the Bruichladdich Shop for £125.


The Octomore 10.2

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2010
Age: 8 years old
PPM: 96.9
Bottles: 24,000
ABV: 56.9%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, First-fill Sauternes
More Info: WhiskyBase

A Sauternes cask, you say? That rings a bell.

Many years ago, the Octomore 4.2 bottling “Comus” was aged in Chateau d’Yquem casks and was described as “a velvet glove, wrapped around an iron fist”.

This bottling is 3 years older than Comus, with a lower ABV/PPM. All-in-all, I’m expecting a much tamer animal.

Nose: Quite coastal and fresh. Ozone, washing up gloves, burnt sugar, damp barley, rock salt.

Palate: Hard boiled sweets, grapefruit, vanilla sugar. Creamy with ashy peat. Builds heat. Luscious mouthfeel, silky.

Finish: Mid length. Peppery and tingly with oak, cloves, and wood smoke.

Very clean, yet powerful with a coastal/citrus profile. I was convinced this was the 10.1 when I tasted blind. It’s not as floral/fruity as I expected but I’m happy to have my expectations challenged!

The sweet edges here are very much more in the boiled-sweet category, and the mouthfeel is just beautiful. A cliché it may be, but this is the refined and subtle Octomore of the group.

Overall: 8/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.2 in travel retail. Heinemann have an exclusive on this for a few months.


The Octomore 10.3

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2013
Age: 6 years old
PPM: 114
Bottles: 24,000
ABV: 61.3%
Cask: Bourbon Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Islay Barley for this year’s bottle comes, once again, from the man known on the island as “The Godfather of Soil”, Farmer James Brown. I’ll never get tired of that!

As well as a lower PPM, this year’s .3 bottling has no traces of wine cask, sticking to 100% Bourbon maturation.

Nose: Mineral rich, coastal, and vaguely rubbery. Damp hay.

Palate: Sweet vanilla and smoked honey. Very cereal rich and farm-yard-y with milk chocolate and cinnamon.

Finish: Quite short, with black pepper and more honeyed cereal.

By process of elimination, this should be the 10.3 Islay Barley. It’s a bit heavier flavourwise than the others, so I think it’s a good bet (and it was!).

I’ve loved previous Islay Barley releases (the 6.3 being one of my favourite whiskies of all time). This is more in keeping with what I’d expect from the 10.1 in terms of savoury peaty character.

It’s a good dram, but fell a little flat for me compared with the others. I prefer a touch more sweetness and fruit in an Octomore.

Overall: 7/10

You can pick up the Octomore 10.3 in the Bruichladdich Shop for £175.


The Octomore 10.4

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2019, Distilled: 2016
Age: 3 years old
PPM: 88
Bottles: 12,000
ABV: 63.5%
Cask: European Limousin Virgin Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I clocked this one straight away on the colour alone – it looks like a well aged sherry cask!

The .4 bottle has always been virgin oak, but typically American oak with its sweet, sunny character. European oak is a lot drier and harsher. An intriguing prospect, and I think a first for Octomore!

Nose:¬†Resin. Damp clay. Smoky red wine and redcurrants. Lovely cask funk, very nutty (chestnuts, I think). There’s also a distinctive coastal tang of salty minerals.

Palate: Quite jammy. More red wine. Dry rolling tobacco. Dry smoke. Cacao and black pepper.

Finish: Long with tobacco ash and tart cranberries. Really lip-smacking.

I like this a lot! It has pronounced wine characteristics and very dry mouthfeel.

Tasting this rather blew my mind, since the whisky has never actually seen any wine! It must be all the tannins from that virgin European oak – amazing to think how much flavour in red wine actually comes from the wood itself.

I think it was the right call to bottle this at three years old. Any more time in such active oak would’ve made the whisky too woody.

I think the three year age statement is going to put a lot of people off, particularly combined with the likely ¬£150+ price tag but they’d be missing out big time – this is the standout dram for me.

To sip it is very redolent of drinking a dry red while smoking a cigar. It’s totally bonkers and I absolutely love it.

Overall: 9/10

You’ll be able to pick up the Octomore 10.4 January 2020 in the Bruichladdich Shop.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 (2nd Edition)

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-16-29-11Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016, Distilled: 2006
Age: 10 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 57.3%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, Grenache Blanc
More Info: WhiskyBase

Towards the end of 2016, Bruichladdich released a “Troika of Tens” – three exciting ten year old releases in limited quantities. One for the unpeated Bruichladdich, one for the heavily peated Port Charlotte, and one for the super heavily peated Octomore.

The last round had Jim McEwan’s signature on them; this one is adorned with the autograph of Mr Adam Hannett. I love Jim’s Laddies but Adam’s have¬†consistently exceeded all expectations.

At ¬£150, it’s definitely not an every day dram¬†but I’d just paid off my student loan¬†so that seemed a good enough cause for celebration…

Nose: This takes me straight to the Atlantic! Very mineral-rich and coastal: salt-crusted seashells, damp driftwood, and dark green seaweed. It smells like rain (the proper word for this is “petrichor”, according to Jake) and there’s a great chalky/waxy quality in there, too. I love Octomore, it always paints a picture – this is a walk on a beach on a typical¬†Summer’s day in Scotland. With time, some fruit appears¬†in the form of orange and lemon peel.

Body: Viscous and mouth-coating but not cloying. That slow-drip distillation combined with the cask strength really works wonders.

Palate: Ok, a lot happens here. Briefly sweet and tart like a crisp green apple. The thick mouthfeel cocoons the impending peat smoke briefly and then *whoosh* the smoke is released! It goes straight to your sinuses like a good blob of wasabi. The savoury/spicy food continues with salt and pepper beef in chilli oil Рvery drying and tingly. As the tingling subsides, lime chocolate creams, peppermint, liquorice, and a hint of soft fruit (think honeydew melons/kiwis)

Finish: Quite savoury with that trademark chewy, tooth-coating Octomore peat. Malty and peppery and very, very long.

Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they? I love Octomore at five years old, all kicking and feisty. This hasn’t lost any of its kick with the additional five years but it’s gained a wonderful structure and nuance that gets better with every sip.

There’s a lot to discover here. Well done, Adam – ¬†an absolute belter!

You can pick up the Octomore 10 2nd Edition in the Bruichladdich Shop for £150.

Bruichladdich Laddie Five-O

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-13-18Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 47.7%
Bottled For: Feis Ile 2013
More Info: WhiskyBase

If you’ve ever been on Islay in May, you’ll know all about the reputation and buzz surrounding the Feis Ile bottlings from each of the eight distilleries on the island.

This bottling here represents something special – this is Jim McEwan’s liquid celebration of his fifty years in the whisky industry. Jim handed over the Bruichladdich baton to Adam Hannett¬†in 2015 (and he’s doing a cracking job!)¬†so bottlings like these won’t come by any more.

And given that it’s Christmas, I decided it was time to appreciate Jim’s legendary whisky talents. This is somewhat frustratingly released without an age statement but I’m confident it’s got some interesting older casks from the depths of the Laddie warehouses rolling around inside it.

Nose: A good mix of things here. Gingerbread, Scottish tablet, dusty wooden furniture, hard cheese rind, cherry skin, raspberries.

Body: Syrupy! Nice and viscous.

Palate: Tangy and sweet. Clementines, stem ginger, dark honey, cloves and cinnamon.

Finish: A soft (and slightly soapy) coastal tang with oak and marzipan.

Unusually, for a Bruichladdich special bottling, there’s nothing outrageous going on here at all.

However, what is going on is a really good solid, honest and well rounded whisky. It has all the hallmarks and core character of the distillery and it’s an easy sipping and classy flavour with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

You can pick this one up at auction or buy it on Amazon for £275.

Bruichladdich Infinity 03.1

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 21.57.01Distillery: Bruichladdich
Age: NAS
ABV: 50%
Cask: Temperanillo and Sherry Casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another Laddie distillery bottling – this one was part of a plethora of small experimental releases in the noughties as the distillery found its feet again after revival by Mark Reynier and Co.

This one’s a lightly peated (20PPPM) “multi vintage” expression matured in refill sherry barrels and temperanillo wine casks.

Nose: Reminiscent of cognac, yet coastal and sandy. Dusty plum skin, pine resin, bramble jam, lime zest, and tinned fruit. A good whiff of rubber soles and josticks.

Palate: Syrupy sour plums. Malty shortbread and fruit syrup wraps up a rising and spicy peat tang. Slightly unripe red grapes and sour apples with soy and aromatic chow mein.

Finish: Chalky with Brazil nut skins, salty smoke, and more lime zest. Slightly soapy at the end.

This took a while to grow on me but I’m finding the complexity more appealing. Loads of funky sherry notes, the kind that you’ll love or hate. Pleasingly coastal and warming with great mouthfeel at that higher strength ABV.

The trouble for me with this dram is the lack of integration. The Bruichladdich distillery character is recognisable (malty, coastal, limey) but the wine/sherry influence feels very separate – like the two flavour profiles don’t get on with each other.

Overall: A flawed-yet-entertaining expression. Worth trying as a curiosity.

You can find this on auction sites for well under £100. Pretty tin and a good edition to a Laddie collection.

Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.16.22Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 57.8%
Cask: European Oak (Cognac Cask)
More Info: WhiskyBase

Hello, hello! A cask-strength Port Charlotte release…

The PC series proved immensely popular in travel retail and now we’re onto vintages: the 2007 Cognac Cask. Always complex, never boring, and a¬†very¬†tempting reason to book a holiday this year.

Nose:¬†Loving the dry, earthy Port Charlotte smoke here!¬†Drifting through the peat we get aromas of mango pulp, dried apricot, peach, kiwi, mandarin and lime skin. Great savoury notes too¬†– soft rubber soles, smoked cheese, roast potatoes, rosemary, and rock salt. I’ve been nosing for ten minutes and it’s still fascinating.

Palate: Campfire smoke, candied orange, more mango pulp, plums, raspberry then a whoosh of sea salt and the drying, mineral-rich peat steps in with juicy sweet malt, vanilla, and milky coffee. Wowser.

Finish: Ashy and savoury with salted cashews.

Excellent stuff, this. Reminds me of a PC valinch bottling I picked up on Islay – full of distillery character with fruit, smoke and malt beautifully interwoven and a complete bargain for the RRP.

I think Adam Hannett’s found a sweet spot here agewise for cask-strength Port Charlotte.

Can’t wait to see what¬†comes next…

The Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 is available from World Duty Free for £67.99.

Bruichladdich “The Laddie Eight”

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.16.06Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 50%
Cask: European and American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Laddie Ten was one of the first truly exceptional single malts I ever tried, way back in Edinburgh in 2012. A whisky tasting was thrown in as a fun round-off to a technical conference and one of the Bruichladdich reps talked us through three expressions from the pre-Remy core lineup.

With the¬†10-year-old¬†being pulled back to a distillery-only release recently it’s great to see another Laddie making its way onto the core lineup. With global demand still incredibly high for Scotch, an eight-year-old malt is a more sustainable age to meet the demand without resorting to multi-vintage bottlings.

Bruichladdich’s attitude to NAS bottlings is exemplary, though. They’ve always been open about the age of the whisky in the bottle (even if it’s not on the bottle, they make it known in the online literature) and their solidarity with¬†Compass Box regarding the SWA ruling on showing “too much information” is heartwarming to see.

Nose: Fresh barley grass! Very sweet and lively. Delicate straw, candy-floss, lemon drizzle cake, and butterscotch. A whiff of eucalyptus, pear skin and granny smith, then faint salty shells and sand.

Palate:¬†Luscious. That signature slow-distilled Laddie spirit, thick and buttery on the tongue. The flavour’s led by more fresh barley, sweet toffee, vanilla, and a touch of caramel biscuit then big waves of warming chai tea¬†spices roll in – ginger, clove, black pepper, cinnamon. As it breathes in the glass, wafts of raspberry and peach come through

Finish: Warming and spicy with buttery oak and a salty, foamy edge.

Ahhh – fruity, malty, salty and so buttery on the tongue.¬†Good stuff, Mr Hannett. I shall be keeping an eye out for this next time I’m at the airport!

The Bruichladdich Eight is available now from World Duty Free for £44.99.

Bruichladdich Ribera Del Duero (Micro Provenance)

105181-bigDistillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2004
Age: 10 years old
Cask: #007
Bottles: 303
ABV: 63.6%
Cask: Quercus Robur РRibera del Duero Wine Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

I’ve been looking forward to this one!

Now Bruichladdich have their core range pinned down, it seems their main avenue of creative weirdness has been channelled into their Micro Provenance series, a set of single cask whiskies produced with unique formulae.

The labels spell out every detail of their production and the series endeavours to do things that haven’t been widely done before in the industry.

The defining trait of this bottling is a full ten years in a Spanish red wine cask. It’s not unusual for a whisky to be finished (or *ACE’d, in Bruichladdich vernacular) in a wine cask after years in a Bourbon barrel, but full term maturation is a lot less common.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Menthol, sandalwood, crystal ginger, tequila with salted limes. Dusty icing sugar and sherbet. With water, still lots of salty citrus notes, but opening up to cake batter, red grapes, sour cherries and plum flesh.

Body: Very silky and buttery, even with a fair whack of water added.

Palate: Cranberries and hot cinnamon. Big, raw, chilli pepper burn. Yowzer. Needs water on the palate for sure.

At 40-50% ABV we get a lot more character. More salty citrus, but served in an egg custard tart. Nutmeg, raspberries, sour guava, and bitter green apple skin with developing white pepper.

Finish: Long and warm. Becomes malty, oaky, and dry, with baking spice and vanilla double cream.

This is a lovely dram. Really solid core character of the distillery (malty citrus, buttery palate, coastal saltiness) and the wine cask has imparted a notable but delicate influence on the whisky.

Really looking forward to tasting more in the series! They release more every now and then through online tasting packs on their online shop so do keep an eye out.

You can get this (and other) Micro Provenance bottling exclusively through the Bruichladdich online shop.

* Additional Cask Enhancement