Bow down, mortals! Octomore – the dark, sinister god of Islay – has arisen. The very name instills dread in the non-believers, and blissful rapture in the disciples. Octomore. Octomore. Octomore.
It was summoned into our world by none other than Bruichladdich, the distillery on Islay with the Coolest Bottle Designs and some insanely good whisky. The third in essentially their core range (together with the Classic Laddie and my sweet, perfect Port Charlotte), Octomore receives a new release every so often with a different recipe, age statement and core cask maturation. There’s something for the whole family!
I’ve been lucky enough to sample many of the releases, and finally got my hands on a decent glug of the 7.1 at the Wade Bales Whisky Affair this year. Bottled at 59.5% (yebo), aged for an ancient 5 years in traditional ex-bourbon casks and peated to ludicrous levels. Hell yeah:
Aaaaaaah. Octomore is beautifully uncomplicated. The aromas are powerful, clean, crisp and very identifiable. In the case of the 7.1, we have vanilla, salt, honey and stone fruits, together with plenty of mossy, grassy and floral smells carried by a strong alcohol kick.
This is refreshing in an industry where so many flagship products are drowned in first-fill casks of increasingly exotic origins, forcing whatever good malt was present to just bob pale and bloated to the surface. Instead, there’s a big, brutal simplicity about the nose that is absolutely intoxicating. This is Scotch whisky goddamnit!
Oh yeah, and there’s some peat. Despite the barley being slow roasted over heaps of rotting Scottish shrubbery and animal feces to the tune of 208ppm, Octomore 7.1 doesn’t hit with nearly the same perceived level of peat stank as your average Laphroaig.
And also unlike Laphroaig, the peat isn’t all Octomore has to offer: we’ve got some masterful, complimentary blending going on here, which speaks volumes about Bruichladdich’s cask cultivation and selection.
Woah, salty. Slap some of this on a chunk of steak and you’ll have instant biltong. I love it. Reminds me of sneaking a quick lick of the margarita glass.
Thereafter the nose and tastes are bang on – you get a powerful, but restrained peat tying together all those traditionally bourbon qualities of caramel and vanilla, with rich, potent malt whisky in the form of smoky floral flavours. And very, very drinkable – despite its dark and stoic reputation, the liquid inside the ominous black bottle is a secret softy.
Endless, peaty and delicious. No force on earth can wash the Octomore from your palette once you’ve spent an evening applying a few coats.
Octomore might scare you. Its strength might intimidate you. You may be tempted to send it back to the depths from which it came. But at least try it neat – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. Thereafter, it can take a serious beating from water, developing more fruity and floral notes at the cost of some of the “wow” factor.
That being said, it handles ice like a champ (heresy!), and doesn’t suffer from the same flavour numbing effect that
lesser gentler whiskies have to deal with.
Octomore is both deserving of its accolades, while undeserving of its harsh, unforgiving reputation. Nobody I’ve given some Octomore to could believe that it was peatier than say, Ardbeg 10. And most insist that it’s a fairly clean, easy drink, particularly when compared to other cask strength whiskies.
This is brilliant stuff. Every release I’ve tried so far has impressed me, and the 7.1 is one of those I consider the best. While perhaps not quite attaining the heights of the virgin oak matured 7.4, this is still an absolute must try, must-own whisky for any serious peated whisky lover. You owe it to yourself to worship at the altar of Octomore at least once in your life – and that bottle looks pretty badass on your shelf!