The latest Octomore release is here, and our friends from Islay’s Bruichladdich, Head Distiller Adam Hannett and Production Director Allan Logan, recently took the time to walk us through the lineup — or, at least, 3/4 of it — in a Zoom-based “master class” exploration of the “the world’s most heavily peated whisky.” As usual, Octomore comprises a group of four different expressions, each with a unique focus, including a 10 year old expression of Octomore that doesn’t officially bear the 11.x nomenclature. (Note that Octomore 11.2 is missing from this roundup because it’s a distillery exclusive which can be ordered online; the other 3 releases are all available in U.S. retail starting now.)
Let’s dig into the trio.
Bruichladdich Octomore 11.1 – 5 years old — which is quite young for the series. Distilled in 2014 from a 2013 harvest of 100% Scottish barley, and fully matured in first-fill bourbon casks. Peated to 139.6ppm, which is fairly low for Octomore, and you can tell right away: Compared to previous bottlings of Octomore, 11.1 comes across as entirely approachable and really understated. The nose is a bit bready and doughy, but also quite fruity, with notes of banana and tangerine prominent. More fruit emerges quickly on the palate — peaches and apricots coming into the mix — alongside a punch of vanilla and some chocolate. The finish is where the peat really shows itself most clearly, leaving a lightly ashy tobacco note on the tongue, but also lots of sweet, fruity custard elements. Delightful stuff that any Islay fan should try. 118.8 proof. A / $200
Bruichladdich Octomore 11.3 – 5 years old, distilled from estate-grown barley from Octomore Farm and aged in bourbon casks. Essentially the primary difference here is the barley source, though here the peat hits 194ppm, and the abv is higher. There’s definitely more peat on the nose here, but the whisky remains fairly understated and subdued, with less of a bakery character and more earthiness. There’s just as much to love on the palate, and the fruit feels better integrated with the overall experience, with a significantly more oily body. The finish is also more pungent and aggressive with peat — a more classic maritime character emerging alongside a clearer iodine note as the whisky fades away. Octomore 11.3 cuts a more traditional, big-peat profile than the more elegant 11.1, and it stands as a compelling exemplar of the Octomore style. 123.4 proof. A- / $260
Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Years Old R2020 – And now for something completely different. Twice as old as the rest of the 11.x series, this 10 year old — the 4th edition of Octomore 10 — was distilled in 2009 from Scottish barley and matured in a combination of first- and second-fill bourbon casks as well as virgin oak, which Octomore has experimented with in the past. 208 ppm. This is lower in proof and higher in phenol ppm than the 11.x whiskies — and it’s the most pungent and powerful of the bunch, hands down. An aggressive exploration of peat, the whisky offers a massive nose of creosote and ruddy peat bogs, its fruit tamped down considerably. Things open up on the palate, if slowly. The fruit here is informed by notes of baked apples, lemon curd, and some spice — with a well-integrated salty-smokiness on the finish. Give this one time in glass to develop and showcase its brilliant charms. 108.6 proof. A- / $235