Review: Bruichladdich Octomore 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3
Octomore — the self-proclaimed world’s peatiest whisky — is back for round 12, this time with a twist. While the “x.2” release is usually a duty-free release, Octomore 12.2 is available for the first time in general retail. Details from the distillery:
This twelfth series of Octomore returns to explore a delicately balanced, soft smoke in this ‘world’s most heavily peated whisky series’. The .1 in the series acts as our base and our control, a springboard for new domains of discovery. Our .2 offers an alternative maturation, this time with a sublimely balanced ex-Sauternes profile. Finally, the .3 completes the release of the 12’s, where the terroir of our Islay grown barley meets sherry maturation for the first time in history.
We’ll get into the weeds of production a bit further into the review. Meanwhile, know that Octomore also makes a great barbecue sauce ingredient!
Bruichladdich Octomore 12.1 – 5 years in bourbon barrels, as was the case with 11.1, and a rather low 130.8ppm of phenols. As promised by the distillery, this is indeed a very soft expression for Octomore, amply peaty but distant, the peat fire burning miles away rather than right under your nose. The mellow whisky smolders on the nose, offering an Octo-classic note of lemon curd, then vanilla and cream soda. The palate is similar, a creamy, almost buttery concoction that is lightly briny, moderately smoky, and enduringly fruity, again with lemon — smoky lemon — lingering on the finish. Those looking for an in-your-face peat experience won’t gravitate to 12.1, but for those wishing a more subtle evening with Octomore, it’s worth a look. 118.8 proof. B / $250
Bruichladdich Octomore 12.2 – 3 1/2 years in bourbon barrels, then 18 months in Sauternes casks. 129.7ppm. 18 months in sweet dessert wine casks on top of Octomore? How can it miss? Well, with the 12.x series, the base spirit may have presented a challenge: A soft, sweet base, finished with a soft, sweet wine gives us… well, a little more of the same. 12.2 is somewhat juicier and more honeyed on both nose and palate, with a slight herbal kick emerging with time on the tongue, but the overall construction feels remarkably familiar. Layers of smoke waft back in as the finish arrives, though here things feel a bit unbalanced and slightly saccharine, almost gummy as the whisky’s tenacious grip on the tongue endures. 114.6 proof. B+ / $350
Bruichladdich Octomore 12.3 – Distilled in 2015 from the 2014 harvest of 100% Octomore Farm-grown Concerto barley, then 5 years in bourbon barrels — again a reprise of 11.3. An extremely low 118.1 ppm. This expression has a much lower ppm than the similarly aged 12.1, yet on the palate it comes across much more like a “classic” Octomore, with a dense peatiness that weighs the whisky down a bit — though not inappropriately, by the by. Notes of mixed flowers and barbecued beef give the smoky nose a more conventional, “big peat” character, with much of the same enduring on the palate. Ashy and dense, stone fruit and baked apples lingering under a classic beach bonfire, this arrives with a much different impact than 12.1, though it’s nothing I’d describe as particularly nuanced. Lightly salty with distinct notes of iodine on the chewy, smoky — and rather hot — finish, it’s a classic palate-killer of a whisky that showcases what Islay is really made of. 124.2 proof. B+ / $362
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