Bruichladdich Octomore14/167 62.5%
With 2011 disappearing faster than Harumafuji’s chance at Yokozuna, Bertrum and I decided we need to finish this year with a bang (and a good whisky to boot). And what better whisky to do it with than the newest release of Bruichladdich’s Octomore – the “Iron fist in a velvet glove”.
Some of you may have heard of Octomore since it has been making headlines as the newly-crowned peatiest whisky in the world. With phenol levels of 167 ppm (as compared to 54 ppm in the ultra-peaty Ardbeg 10 y.o.) this was a dream dram for peat-heads such as us.
After removing it from its steel sleeve, we find that the bottle is in no small supply of sexiness. Pure black all the way down to the lettering on the bottle lets you know this kitten likes to play – and the stakes are high! After uncorking, we were surprised to find that the only nose that we were getting from the bottle was a sweetness similar to chocolate or a liqueur. After pouring out two drams it became even clearer why they chose a dark color for their packaging; this whisky was as clear as any we had ever seen before, with a color similar to the lightest straw – or as Bertrum so carefully put it, “like piss”. After reading the blurb on the tin, we learn that to preserve the high phenol levels, which go down over time, the Octomore had to be taken from its cask at a relatively early stage in its development, which didn’t allow much time for the cask to give any real color to the spirit.
Side note: because the average whisky consumer has been led to believe that the darker the whisky is the more flavor it will have, some companies tend to load their product with e150 caramel. The caramel does give an impression of a deeper color, but often pollutes the taste of an otherwise enjoyable dram with an overly sweet blanket of mediocrity. Cheers to Bruichladdich for being willing to put out their craft ahead of their marketing.
As customary upon testing new whiskies, we aim to see what form brings out the flavo(u)rs and strength. We decide to drink these bad boys neat first, to really appreciate all that this “iron fist” has to offer. On first sip, we were not disappointed; both of us felt this cat bite our tongue, with Montana commenting that ” I’m pretty sure this is what Jaws biting off your tongue would feel like. In a good way of course.” No doubt this was more a product of the ridiculously high alcohol content than the peat. But sure enough, after a few seconds the peat came out of the background in full force to deliver a swift delicious creamy kick to the throat.
A few drops of water is highly recommended to fully experience the ocean sea taste that is present, but even a bit too much rapidly breaks the flavors apart. The cream gave way to a definite saltiness that was certainly not unwelcome. However both of us agreed that a single rock is probably the best way to enjoy this as it really opens it up, and allows a lot of the sweeter notes to come to the forefront. And yes, there was peat. How could we have failed to mention this thus far? Waves and waves of peat in the finish, but surprisingly very little smoke, if any. Truth be told, although it was slightly peatier than an Ardbeg, it was by no means the 3x that its advertising made it out to be, but certainly a shock to the old system!
After two glasses we decided to consult some professional reviews to see just how our opinions compared with the experts’. There was unanimous consent amongst the pros about how this was an oily spirit, and we both agreed; after two glasses of 126 proof whisky, so Bertrum recalls we were starting to feel, “well oiled”. This naturally led into a discussion of when would be a good time to down this dram. As our once crystal clear minds went murky, leaving us in a “cat’s eye” stasis, Montana imagined sitting around a bonfire on a rainy night, while Betrum envisioned waking up in the morning and seeing the first frost across the acres of a farm…
At around 120 US dollars this is a not a dram that can be enjoyed daily, but is definitely worth the experience. If you love peat and have a few extra bucks lying around, the Octomore is right up your alley.
L. Bertrum, D. Montana