Octomore super-heavily peated single malt whisky is a challenge for many whisky consumers, a right of passage for others, and a badge of honour for many more. It is a beast, no doubt about it, but there is a softer side to it, once you have the opportunity to really sit down with the range and think about it. And that’s exactly what I did recently.
The mighty Octomore super-heavily peated single malt whisky is named after Octomore Farm, based on a the hill above Port Charlotte and used to have its own distillery way back when. The Octomore experiment, according to Bruichladdich, started as a bit of a ‘what if?’ after a few drinks whereby the Bruichladdich distilling team wondered if they could use the existing stills to produce the most heavily-peated whisky in the world, and they did, creating what they call “iron fist in the velvet glove”.
When I first visited Islay, a present from my wife for a birthday a few years ago, I tried a lot of different whiskies, but one really stood out; Octomore. I had not tried this dark, demonic dram before although had admired its packaging from afar.
It was described to me as being like “chewing a peat brick” by Ewan of the Ballygrant Inn, where we were staying, and I could not wait to dive in, and I have to say, I rarely looked back; making the pilgrimage to the Bruichladdich distillery where it is produced the next next day, buying a bottle and finishing it relatively soon after it was opened upon my return home.
The packaging itself is a piece of art; matte finished in either black or frosted glass, lots of information that links nicely with their transparency drive and a healthy breakdown of age, PPM level, storytelling and brand information. A lot of brands in the industry should take note and use Octomore’s proud 5 year old statements as a template for consumers wanting information and paying for the privilege, not hiding behind impressively-named yet still youthful spirit.
I loved the stuff, but then, for a couple of years, I did not manage to try any more until now.
Thankfully the awesome guys at Bruichladdich took pity and sent samples of the range for me to compare and contrast, and here’s how I got on with the mighty Octomore super-heavily peated single malt whisky.
Octomore 7.1 59.5% ABV 208 PPM
Oooh what a way to kick off, a blast of smoke, a good dose of barley notes and a wedge of freshly toasted oak all wrapped in a phenomenally well balanced hug.
Octomore 7.3 63% ABV 169 PPM
A beautiful toffee note hits you first, followed by a sultry peaty, barley noted that is a superb butterscotch note shining through. That sweet toasted oak char from Octomore 7.1 has developed further in this release. Really impressive depth with flavour developing and evolving with more oxygen contact and with each sip.
Octomore 10 Year Old 2nd Edition 57.3% ABV 167 PPM
The peat has dissipated somewhat, with more juicy fruits shining through with vanilla oak influence and caramel notes that left me really impressed with how the older expressions can taste. Will they release 15, 20, 25 year olds in due course? I bloody hope so.
High PPMs can scare people off, and yes these all pack a punch but if you treat it with respect and invest time in sitting with the nose, getting used to it and then sampling sip by sip you’ll see that the PPM pimps the Octomore super-heavily peated single malt whisky, but casks and new make character has really impacted the flavour beyond the peat levels. Some feel really smooth and approachable; a range well worth exploring.
On the flip side, if you think you’re not into prayed Whiskies, go straight in with the Octomore super-heavily peated single malt whisky and see how you get on; master this and you’ll have mastered many of the challenging flavour profiles whisky has to offer.
Thanks to Bruichladdich for the samples; you’re awesome!