A quick brief: this is the 7.3 edition of Bruichladdich’s Octomore. For those wondering, the decimal places go as follows – .1 is Bourbon cask matured, .2 is the travel retail exclusive “Cask Evolution” range, and .3 is the Islay barley range. On Distillness.com, The 7.1 edition received my lowest rating, yet still high evaluation of ‘par’. Its predecessor, the 6.3 edition, received my highest rating of ‘superlative’, and easily ranked among one of my favourite whiskies of 2015. So. The realm of expectations is wide open.
For the people who care about numbers, this release of Octomore is bottled at 63% abv, and comes from barley peated to 169 ppm of phenol content. But, as Octomore continues to teach us, there’s more to this thing than numbers.
The bottle itself still bears Mr. McEwan’s signature. And it gives me pause. What is a signature anyway? Hmm…
And alas, here I sit, doing one of my favorite things – unwrapping a bubble envelope, containing a twice bubble wrapped, sharpie’d sample of whisky. Hallelujah. And an Octomore, no less. Well, here we go.
Usually I don’t bother to wax poetical about whisky colour, but this is a rather dark Octomore. We know of Bruichladdich’s outspoken disavowal of E150a, also known as caramel colouring, or bullshit, if you like. So we can trust that at least in appearance, this thing is the real deal. The deeper colour is probably due to the influence of the Spanish Ribera del Duero casks that are included alongside bourbon casks in the vatting of this release. Gorgeous, really. But maybe I’m just thirsty.
Ho mama. This is a big one, and you can tell right away. Maple walnut clusters and crushed pistachios, vanilla ice cream on a waffle cone, sitting thick and heavy, melting onto a core of eastern spices – coriander, fennel, white pepper. A spit of savory sage and thyme. Closer inspection brings the aromatics of a morning cafe to mind: a shot of espresso being pulled, the grind of fresh beans, light daubs of cappuccino foam, all happening at the same time. With patience, damp cellar and honey come up through the floorboards.
Upon adding water, the coastal, salty/sandy note that has been making appearances in Bruichladdich’s peated Islay Barley whiskies, jumps out of the glass. Honeydew and fruity sheesha smoke makes its way to the top note.
It’s difficult to analyze this whisky. It’s quite bracing, and prickly if you get too close. But, I’ll make a deal with that devil any day, as long as I can get this aroma in return. It isn’t overtly vinuous, for those who are wary of wine casked whiskies. This thing is punchy and massive.
A molten, flaming Werther’s Original with a need for speed. Dies decisively like the final pinched toke of a Gauloises, then flicked sizzling into the Mediterranean sea.
I won’t lie – this thing is an assault on the palate, and will make a punching bag out of your uvula. Comes onto the tongue like a blob of lava, singing the throat and exploding in the chest. Reminiscent of the hardiness of older Octomore releases (5 and earlier). But, should we be surprised? Perhaps not. After all is said & done, the weight of the spirit comes off lightly. One of those skinny guys who can throw a devastating jab. Like other young, full strength Bruichladdich whiskies, you’ll have no choice — you will smack your lips, and you will reel.
Not overly clingy. Brief and businesslike. French ennui.
This whisky is strange, lovely, and frankly a bit of a basket case. It’s a style I like. The wine casks worked in an unexpected way, such that I can’t say that their influence was obvious, yet it was clear that the mid-palate was fuller and more rounded. This version of Octomore has that little ‘something extra’.
Alright, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. Bruichladdich’s Octomore continues to be one of the most fascinating and enigmatic product lines in the Scotch whisky industry. Just when you’ve come to expect Octomore to be a pale, angry tongue spanking, it comes through with new, previously unthinkable subtleties and traits. It’s scary to see changes come to your true love, but at the same time, it’s a bit thrilling, and, slightly flushed, I’ll cross my legs as I finish the last few drops.
What do you think? Leave a comment below. Feel free to give your opinion and correct me on any facts I’ve bungled. Cheers.