There’s always excitement around the arrival of a new Octomore. In 2002 the folks at Bruichladdich set out to create a monster, and it seems that they may well have succeeded!
The first expressions hit the shelves back in 2008, boasting peat levels up to 2 times that of fellow Islay Heavyweights. Salivating peat worshipers around the world gravitated toward the tall, dark and slender bottlings, imagining that Lucifer himself had lit the peat fire that led to the whisky of their most innermost cravings!
I’m a huge proponent of Bruichladdich’s progressive and experimental approach, especially when it comes to the barley. Naturally, with encouraging any innovation, in this case monumentally high peating levels, occasional quadruple distillation along with multiple styles of maturation vessels, one must expect that the road to success will not always be an easy one.
And now we have not one, but four new Octomores! The “10” incarnations are here, and they promise to explore a different realm of “softer smoke”. “Forget about the Octomore you thought you knew. This series will destabilise even the most devout aficionado. Complex, layered, and endlessly alluring… with instinct over obsession.”
Let’s see what this is all about…
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon, American oak
Wispy smoky malt, some gauze with a slow evolution of creaminess and slight flexes of grated lemon skin in the background. (maybe some macerated brambles in there at the end too…). Water thickens the smoke develops a chewy medicinal note.
Thin feel at first but the flavour takes over, sharp sourness from grapefruit and peppery heat before the dry smoke takes over. Additional water softens and allows gentle grapefruit compote cremes to coat.
Prickly Germolene and bandages, needs water to round off the fruits from earlier and allow the creamy texture to come through.
Maturation: 1st Fill Bourbon barrels & 3rd Fill Sauternes, French oak barrels.
Sugared Almonds and sharp smoke. Lemon Sherbet and embers from the spice cupboard. Water exaggerates the smoke and unveils a “gummy” lime chewiness.
Tropical fruits, mango and pineapple give way to a medicinal smoke mist, Christmas Spices and currents. The bigger phenols are back in check with added water, the sweeter juicer elements from the tropics are highlighted.
Long, warm and fuzzy, with sweet black treacle and a return to said spice cupboard. Again, the addition of water promotes juiciness of lime, mango and pineapples.
Maturation: Ex-Bourbon, American oak
Musty old library books are pierced with red hot coal smoke. Still citrus occasionally spikes. Water acts as a graphic equaliser and conects the journey, with all together more “middle” frequencies.
Without water slightly milder than the all on assault I was expecting, chewy lemon gums and out friends from the tropics initially give way to the onslaught of dry spikey smoke and pepper heat. (Okay, okay, I’ll put some water in!)
That’s the stuff! Key-lime pie – texture and flavour – the heat slowly lets you know you’re still on Islay, a touch of white pepper then a softer fade.
Minus agua the coal fire lingers for a looooong time, some chewy citrus returns to gladly aid the recovery. With water the coal dust is damp the lemon and lime dry the palate nicely and oddly enough, ready you for another!
Maturation: Virgin Limousin, French Oak
Raisins rehydrated with golden rum and proving sweet loaves. Coastal iodine and pebble beaches under a misty smoky sea fret. The (now traditional) addition of council pop, brings the smoke to the fore and takes you all the way back to those raisins via some lemon curd!
Sticky caramelised cinnamon buns slight sour cream, then another smoke attack! Cracked black pepper (freshly ground in situ) and jerk seasoning with lime oil phenols (not sure if lime oil phenols are a thing but I’m going with it!).
Now, with water. Sweeter and cooler, candied oranges, with the pepper heat slightly simmering in the background, it’s taken the chilli out of the jerk seasoning, and now were talking!
Another long decline from the “Jerk” smoke into a mellow mulled spice fade. With water sea above re-heat, and start the finish (errr, does that make sense) with dial at 7 instead of 10.
Wow, it’s still Octomore folks! Not shy or retiring in any way shape or form! However, lets analyze their claim of this series being able to –
“destabilise even the most devout aficionado. Complex, layered, and endlessly alluring… with instinct over obsession.”
I would say that (not that I consider myself to be a “devout aficionado”), with water these drams come as close as you like, to doing just that. Personally, I don’t think that Octomore has ever been a one trick pony, enticing some sort of “Hell fire and Brimstone” – “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” challenge. There has always be scope for change and innovation, and that is the point.
Maybe my confusion in the past is that I was expecting a more uniform approach to what Octomore MUST be, rather than viewing it as a constantly evolving entity. I think I might be starting to get it now… Even if I need water to appreciate it!
One thing is ALWAYS certain, whatever the Laddie Team bring out…
It won’t be boring!
As ever, GO AND TRY SOME! There’s nothing better than a differing opinion in the whisky world!