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 – very 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.

Octomore 07.2

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015
Age: 5 years old
ABV: 58.5%
Cask: American oak, finished in Rhône Syrah Wine Casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s this year’s cask-finish Octomore, the travel retail exclusive 07.2 finished in French red wine casks which previously held wine made with those famously peppery Syrah grapes.

I’ve been wanting to try this for a while! These TREs from Bruichladdich can go for silly money so it took a while to source one at a sane price.

Nose: Opens with salty dark chocolate, orange wine gums, blackberries. Damp earthy peat bog leading to herbaceous lavender and dry basil. A faint sulphurous edge which, combined with the salt, reminds me of the smell you get when opening a pack of vacuum packed wafer ham.

Palate: Like someone peat-smoked a strawberry cheesecake! Viscous, golden barley syrup leads only to be t-boned by the Octomore signature peat juggernaut. As the peat fades you get the soft red fruit – strawberries and raspberries, with some kirsch cherry-chocolates

Finish: Long, lipsmacking oily peat with salt and pepper, and a touch of citrus. The peat’s very sticky – you can almost chew it. Slightly ashy, like the mouthfeel after a cigar.

Clean fruit meets dirty peat! I don’t like it as much as the 06.3 Islay Barley but it’s got a certain appeal for sure. That intense muddy peated chocolate character that runs through Octomore acts as a good backdrop for those red fruit high notes.

Another worthy experiment, Mr. McEwan.

I picked this up for about £88 on WhiskySite.nl – they’ve sold out now, but they do still have the 06.2 version for the same price.

Terroir: Tasting the Port Charlotte/Octomore Islay Barley

I was wandering around the local Booths the other day, and what should I see on the shelves but the Islay Barley releases of Port Charlotte and Octomore! In a bloody supermarket, no less. Well played, Booths, well-played.

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And, as if I need any more excuse to taste a pair of whiskies from those progressive folks on the shores of Loch Indaal…

Terroir

Bruichladdich have made a big deal of “terroir” for a number of years, and have already had several Islay barley releases of their unpeated spirit on the market for some time. There’s already a Scottish Barley release for Port Charlotte and Octomore, but now we finally have versions of each using only barley grown on Islay itself.

Terroir is a French word with no direct English translation. Essentially, it means “from the earth” and describes the unique character that a place imparts on a wine, a cheese, a whisky, or any other organic creation.

The now retired Duncan McGillivray “in the field”

The Port Charlotte is a vatting of spirit produced with barley from several farms on the island; the Octomore is the ultimate expression in terroir, having been grown in a single field (“Lorgba”, if you must know) on Farmer James Brown’s farm, Octomore (after which the whisky itself is named).

At this point, I have to mention that in-spite of being made with 100% Islay barley that was mashed, distilled, matured and bottled on Islay – the barley did make a brief trip to the mainland to be malted and smoked. I expected it to have been done at the Port Ellen maltings, but apparently not. So, the accolade for the whisky that’s 100% made (from seed to bottle) on Islay still sits with Kilchoman for their 100% Islay bottlings.

Oh well, as I’m sure NASA like to remind people: being first isn’t everything. I’m pretty sure nobody else has ever released a whisky that can trace its origins back to a single field!

Port Charlotte Islay Barley

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2008
ABV: 50%
More Info: WhiskyBase

This is a 6-year-old Port Charlotte, though it’s not officially age-statemented on the bottle.

Like other distilleries of late, the marketing department seeks to make the packaging as attractive to new drinkers as possible so the age isn’t in evidence (perceived as a bit alienating and old-man-ish). Bruichladdich are usually very forthcoming on the details for their whiskies*, though, so there’s no secret about when it was distilled or when it was bottled – you just have to do the maths yourself.

Seems a fair compromise to me. And, let’s be honest, the tin and bottle do look fantastic. Time to drink!

Nose: A walk on the clifftops. Muddy boots, beeswax, lavender, wet flowers, with dusty icing sugar, barley sugar, salty sand, pear skin and a little tropical papaya.

Palate: Sweet and salty, with a rich and buttery maltiness. Grassy notes with honey and lemon throat sweets, ripe pears and a rising crisp dry peat smoke.

Finish: Toasted oak, black tea.

I really like this. This is a tasty PC bottling with enough going on with the nose and palate to contend with the flavour of bottlings that are twice its age. No fancy wine finishes, either, just straight-up ex-Bourbon barrels for that clean, maritime, peaty profile around a buttery, slightly-citrus core spirit.

Very well priced, this. £48 in Booths, Media City. Similar prices online from the usual suspects.

Octomore 06.3 Islay Barley

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2009
Age: 5 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 64%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Quite dark in the glass for a five-year-old. Thick line of oil sticks on swirling. At 64%, this is serious stuff!

Octomore releases always push the limit when it comes to peating levels but this is a whopper even compared to others in the range. Typical peating levels are 167 parts of phenol per million – this release weighs in at 258PPPM!

Nose: Savoury, cooked meats, sweet Summer hay, sea spray, thyme and lavender. Quite grassy, and nowhere near as phenolic as you’d expect for such an intensely peated malt.

Palate: Very malty to start. Intense medicinal rush, calms down to reveal a little barbecued banana. Lots of deep, earthy, vegetal and herby notes among the peat. There are sweeter, raisiny, chocolatey, coffee notes in there too – odd since I don’t think the spirit’s seen the inside of a sherry barrel.

Finish: Salty butter on toast, liquorice root, smoked cheese. Long – very long. Lip-smacking ages after it’s gone.

Phwoar. This is going down beautifully… It’s comforting, but fierce. Earthy, but sweet too. So many outdoor notes of herbal vegetation – you can nose it for hours and still find more character appearing.

Love the frosted glass on the bottle, too. It harks back to Octomore 04.2, “Comus”, and looks… well, sexy as all hell.

Not cheap at £130 in Booths, though online retailers seem to be pitching it at £145-£155 so it’s a decent saving and not exactly an order of magnitude more expensive than the Scottish Barley Octomore.

In Closing

As usual, Laddie have made a a couple of honest, charming, thought-provoking drams that are a true snapshot of the place in which they’re created. I like the Port Charlotte more than the Scottish Barley release, and it’s definitely good value if you want an interesting peated dram.

The Octomore, though, is utterly glorious. So much going on in the glass, and devastatingly easy to drink even at full cask strength and with all that peat. Velvety, sweet, savoury, herbal, earthy and lip-smacking on the long finish.

I poured a glass for myself and my folks recently. My dad’s a huge peat freak so I knew he’d be intrigued, but my mother typically only goes for a nip of something mild and sweet. To my great surprise, she loved it, and asked for another dram! If that isn’t a rousing success, I don’t know what is…

I often wax lyrical about Bruichladdich but I have to say, hand on heart, the Islay Barley Octomore is the best Octomore I’ve ever tasted. Bravo!

 * Except perhaps when it comes to what Jim puts in the Black Art

Octomore Rivesaltes Cask 2008 (RABT)

Distillery: Octomore (Bruichladdich)
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 2008
Age: 6 years old
Bottles: 302
Bottler: Rest And Be Thankful
ABV: 64.1%
Cask: French Oak (Rivesaltes Wine Cask)
More Info: WhiskyBase

Oh, hello, Octomore. You smooth, sweet, delicately-caged tiger of a whisky.

For the uninitiated – Octomore is the super-heavily peated line of whiskies produced by Bruichladdich. They tend to have a complex character, with a lot of really interesting flavours coming out in spite of the very high ABV and PPPM.

It’s weird, but I find the Port Charlotte releases more in-your-face-peat-smoky than the Octomore – with a typical phenol level of between 160 and 260, this is a big surprise (PC is nearer 40, about the same as Ardbeg).

I’ve had the pleasure of several official bottlings, last year’s Feis Ile bottling, and even a generous measure of a Château d’Yquem matured 10-year-old at the distillery warehouse*.

This stuff is always an adventure to taste, so an independent bottling is very exciting news indeed. Aged six years entirely in a Rivesaltes French wine cask. I don’t know much about Rivesaltes as a wine, but I understand it’s aged for a long time so I’m hoping for some dry, tart, rich character to come through to the whisky.

Let’s dive in…

Nose: Salted butter, Hollandaise sauce, cured meats, icing sugar, wax, damp dusty wood, fresh leather, sherbet, pear skin, refreshers and fragrant resin.

Palate: Sweet and oily with pine resin, basil and honeydew melon. It develops into formidably drying earthy peat smoke, alongside toasted oak, sea salt, lime juice, ginger and vanilla cream.

Finish: The sweetness dies down to leave salty and savoury cheese crackers, with earthy peat. After a few minutes, it feels like you could pick it out of your teeth!

Wow! Like being at an old wooden amusement park at night, eating eggs-Benedict, while the children enjoy sweet candy floss and salty popcorn. Honestly, it’s like a three-course-meal of a dram. Loads of unusual savoury notes amidst the expected peat smoke and sweet, buttery fruit notes.**

My gosh, I loved this. At £185 it’s more expensive than the standard Octomores (usually somewhere between £90 and £150 on the primary market), but that Rivesaltes cask really works for me and it takes the spirit in a new direction – I mean, how often do you nose a peaty whisky and get Hollandaise sauce??

Quoth the Rivesaltes, “Octomore!”.

Bottles and samples on Master of Malt are £185 and £13.57, respectively. Rest-And-Be-Thankful are a mystery to me as a bottler, and I can’t find any information about them. If anyone knows anything, do give me a shout on Twitter!

* Yes, it was sublime.
**I didn’t add water – this really doesn’t need it, at all.