Review: Bruichladdich Octomore 13.1, 13.2, and 13.3

Review: Bruichladdich Octomore 13.1, 13.2, and 13.3

It’s lucky round 13 for Octomore — the undisputed most heavily peated whisky in regular production — with again three varieties in release. Like 12.2, the sherry-aged Octomore 13.2 will be in general retail instead of duty free only, so feel free to hop down to your local merchant to ask for an allocation.

We tried all three bottles on a lively Zoom tasting with head distiller Adam Hannett, and a collection of Scottish and U.S.-born snacks designed to suss out which paired best with each of the three whiskies. I won’t delve in depth into the pairings — spoiler: they’re all wonderful — but will tell you what I thought about the spirits. Let’s go.

Bruichladdich Octomore 13.1 – 5 years old (as usual), bourbon-barreled, and peated to 137.8ppm of phenols. Distilled in 2016 from a 2015 harvest of Scottish barley. No surprises here, as this release hits as very sharp and ashy on the nose, punchy with the notes of a big bonfire that’s been piled high with evergreen branches. The palate tempers the smoke a bit with notes of fruit, lemon and apple, oily and mashed into oblivion, then moving into a very briny finish that evokes smoked kippers and iodine, lingering just about forever. All told, there’s no shortage of smoke in the experience from start to finish, making for a fairly typical and traditional expression of this classic whisky, for better or worse. Water’s a plus here. 118.4 proof. B+ / $220 

Bruichladdich Octomore 13.2 – No finishing here, this whisky spends its full life in first fill oloroso sherry butts, five years in total. 137.3 ppm, also distilled in 2016 from Scottish barley. Octomore x.2 releases are always finished in wine casks, but this one’s fully aged in sherry, changing the program a bit. The color is darker and much more opulent, and the difference is immediately apparent on the nose. Here, smoke and intense notes of orange peel meld with leather, spice, and bacon fat to create an immersive aromatic experience. Citrus-heavy sweetness strikes the palate first, followed by a salty, iodine-laced character, plus some sharper hints of lime leaf.  Chocolatey and toasty on the finish, ringing with cigar tobacco — smoking and otherwise. The sherry changes the story here completely, with delightful impact. 116.6 proof. A- / $260

Bruichladdich Octomore 13.3 – Distilled in 2016 from the 2015 harvest of 100% Octomore Farm-grown Concerto barley, then matured for 5 years in a combination of first fill bourbon and second fill European oak barrels — a slight shift on the usual formula, which is typically bourbon only. 129.3 ppm. Much hotter than the 13.1, but surprisingly much more well-rounded, with less overt smoke and ash and a much stronger fruit character on the nose, showcasing lemon and orange peel, but not nearly as sharply as the 13.2 bottling. Fruit moves into nutty nougat on the palate, informed by a moderated seaside bonfire character — smoke and salt and seaweed all in a swirl. The overall composition is more iconic Octomore than either of the other two releases in this series and a classic representation of Islay turned up to 11. I like 13.2 for its uniqueness, but those looking for something right in line with tradition will find this on point. 122.2 proof. A- / $300

Bruichladdich Octomore 13.1




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