Mention peat to a whisky drinker and no doubt the topic of Bruichladdich’s Octomore range will soon be brought up. Regarded as the whisky of choice for ‘peat freaks’ the Octomore releases certainly do post some very high figures in terms of its Phenolic PPM (parts per million – a basic measure of how peated the barley used to produce the whisky is) PPM however isn’t always the best or most accurate measurement of how ‘peaty’ a whisky is due to several production variables. Despite it’s perceived faults it is still an industry wide measurement that at least gives a little idea of what to expect.
The Octomore brand has been around for a number of years (since 2002) and takes it’s name from a nearby farm which did in fact have a distillery on site for a number of years in the early 1800’s.
This year sees the release of the Octomore 11 range .
It must be said that Bruichladdich have arguably been the most transparent whisky company in terms of barley variety, cask types, ages and component spirit – in fact pretty much every detail you could wish for.
I will include details of each release but I would strongly recommend taking a look at the Bruichladdich website for the more intricate details.
Octomore 11.1 (OB), 5y.o, 59.4%abv, press sample.
This expression is distilled from 100% Scottish barley (Concerto & Propino varieties), is non chill filtered, natural colour and was matured in ex bourbon casks from Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Heaven Hill. The stated PPM is 139.6.
The nose is full of sweet peat smoke but seems tempered with layers of vanilla ice cream, custard cream biscuits. There is a undercurrent of charred lemons, gooseberries and a somewhat malty background.
The palate begins to showcase the peat, is ashy, minerally, tannic and mouthwatering. There is a slight coastal feel here but it is fleeting.
The peat really pops out on the long, lingering finish. The higher abv and the younger spirit making for a lively and punchy ending.
Seems more distillate driven, and initially quite restrained in terms of peat with more of a malty backbone than I remember previous expressions having.
Octomore 11.2, (OB) 5 y.o, 58.6%abv, press sample
This expression is distilled from 100% Scottish barley (Concerto & Propino varieties), is non chill filtered, natural colour and was matured in a combination of 25% Paulliac ex wine casks and 75% ex Bourbon casks before being finished in St Julien ex wine casks for 18 months. The PPM is 139.6.
Gentle peat on the nose with redcurrants, cedar, a faint see breeze and an extinguished fire close by.
The palate has a fair whack of wood here with a solid oaky influence. The red fruits of the palate are here, giving a light tart touch, alongside a little bacon and pastrami. A faint rubberiness lingers.
The finish is rather peppery with a large coastal presence.
Definite cask influence shown here with the classic Octomore taste profile integrated with fruity counterbalance.
The Octomore 11.2 is available exclusively from The Bruichladdich website for £140.
Octomore 11.3, (OB), 5 y.o, 61.7% abv, press sample
This expression was distilled from 100% Islay barley (Concerto variety), is non chill filtered, natural colour and was matured in a combination of ex bourbon casks from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace. The PPM is 194. This is a single field, single vintage single malt.
The massive abv is really apparent here, giving for a huge nose prickle. Underneath the soft peat there’s a slight estery element, touches of tropical fruits and a faint metallic tang.
The palate is similar to the 11.1 with its malty element, quite soft really. Touches of honeysuckle and mild florality burst through before the peat really becomes prominent.
The finish is when the peat really arrives, and there’s a dollop of faint honey underpinning it all.
Interesting to try a single farm, single vintage, single malt. The bourbon casks giving a chance for the distillate to shine.
Octomore 10 y.o, (OB) 54.3%abv, press sample
This 10 year old expression was the product of 77 casks – 15 casks of 2009 Scottish barley distilled spirit; matured in first fill ex-American whiskey casks from 2009 to 2015 before being transferred into second fill ex-American whiskey casks. 46 casks of 2009 Scottish barley distilled spirit, filled into first fill ex-American whiskey casks. 16 casks of American and Virgin Oak matured single malt; 20% first fill Virgin Oak – aged for 8 years – combined with 80% first fill ex-American whiskey casks finished in second fill Virgin Oak. This was then transferred to second fill ex-American whiskey casks.
It is natural colour and non-chill filtered. The PPM is stated as 208.
The palate starts with strong yet tempered wafts of peat smoke. It is damp and a little earthy with some touches of wet stone, a little burnt sugar and an oaky cheeseboard.
The palate is tiny with hints of drying wood, perhaps even a little balsa and some charred vanilla pods. There is an undertone of faint charcuterie and a little peaty water.
The finish is full of lingering smoke, cask charr and is deliciously peppery and drying.
Despite the dominant flavours it is remarkably balanced, the extra time in cask mellowing and integrating the flavours.
The Octomore 10 year old is available from The Bruichladdich website for £160.
I’ve always found the Octomore range to be comprised both of good quality spirit and innovative ideas, the only downside? I’d suggest that they are a touch expensive.
Best of the peated bunch?
I really enjoyed the subtlety and refinement of The Octmore 10 year old, with an honourable mention to the 11.2 which balances both the cask and distillate characters incredibly well.
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You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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