I’m glad I was able to try the Octomore expression, as part of the charity dram set to benefit Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance, and part of “A Last Chat with Jim McEwan” where he was able to have a nice online chat with everyone who watched the screening of “The Water of Life” documentary film. Seeing Jim McEwan’s verve and love of whisky making, his passion for Islay and whisky, it’s infectious and it’s very fitting that Octomore would be an extreme peated expression that he developed with his team at Bruichladdich Distillery years ago.
I appreciate that for such a young whisky (aged just 5 years), the Octomore Edition 11.1 had an approachable, interesting nose (and it wasn’t just a peat bomb). But then getting into the palate, the monstrous 136.9 ppm phenol levels smack you in the face. This is truly the peatiest whisky I’ve ever tried in my life. I do appreciate the notes underneath the peat and smoke, but as someone who doesn’t like smoky, peated whiskies, I’d rather explore Bruichladdich’s character and malt with their unpeated expressions. But I have plenty of friends who are die-hard Octomore lovers, and that’s great as well. :)
Smoke is present, but surprisingly, it wasn’t a massive “blast furnace to the face” (as I was fixating on the 136.9 ppm rating). Similar to Port Charlotte (which Jim McEwan also oversaw during his tenure at Bruichladdich), the peat is approachable. It’s not medicinal, nor herbal.
Nosing past the peat and smoke, there’s fresh orchard fruit. Apples, distant citrus fruits, some vanilla / honey sweetness. I’m really surprised that the peat is so manageable, but still very present of course.
Boom! OK, here’s the monster peat levels appearing. Wow, a huge explosion of smokiness, like you’re standing right in front of a huge beach bonfire. Smoke, ocean waves.
For an unpeated whisky fan like myself, this is totally overwhelming at first. The high ABV (59.4%) combined with the massive smoke bomb and potent, distinct peat levels and notes is challenging for my first try of Octomore.
I take a slight break, and come back to it, and am now able to detect the Bruichladdich malt and character in the background. Bright, sweet apples, pears, vanilla, light caramel. The ABV is apparent showing up as prickly black pepper and ginger heat. The fantastic cereal notes that I appreciate in pure Bruichladdich bottles are buried underneath the peat, unfortunately.
Long, due to the lingering smoke. I can still taste ash and smoke minutes after my sip each time. Fading vanilla, apples, a touch of honey, and dark chocolate bitterness to balance the sweetness.