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Water of Life – An Ode to Octomore

Victor Hugo quipped something along the lines of the ode living upon the ideal, the epic upon the grandiose, the drama upon the real.

If the aforementioned holds true, Octomore resides in the sublime.

We have covered the emissions of the progressive Hebridean distillers Bruichladdich before and shed light on both their peated and non-peated drops, all of which proved to be immensely enjoyable.

However, Bruichladdich’s Octomore is a category in itself. Yes, it might be touted as the “smokiest” drop on this earthround, but it does certainly not have to hide behind the phenolic novelty factor.

I fondly remember the first dram of Octomore I had, i.e. the 8.1 expression, which not only left me smacking my lips but changing the way I experienced peat and smoke.

See, a whiskey from Islay has yet to disappoint me. Sure, there might be ones that are overshadowed by others, but if a random pub has Islay whiskies on its shelves, I instantly feel like the respective etablissement has something to it.

Octomore plays in another league and it goes without saying that I was mildly excited when I received an invitation to sample its recently launched, exclusive 10 series.

I would not go as far that I was as excited as Jordan Belford when his companion surprised him with the last Lemmon 714 Quaaludes, but I guess the release of a new Octomore expression comes close to a wine aficionado getting to sample a vintage Chateau Margaux.

Giddy as kid on Christmas, Bruichladdich’s ambassadors framed the new and youngest release in their exquisite portfolio in an informative and engaging presentation on the merits of Octomore 10.1, Octomore 10.3 Islay Barley, and Octomore 10.4 Virgin Oak.

Eventually the time came to experience the 10.1: Aged at five years in first-fill American casks and peated to 107 parts per million, bottled at 59.8% ABV, and limited to 42,000 bottles, the experience was different to Octomore expressions I had previously sampled.

Different as in more subtle, more nuanced and with a mesmerizing fruitiness tickling the nostrils.

The briny smokiness is omnipresent; however, it is not overwhelming.

What hit the top of the roof was a wonderfully calibrated mélange of sugary nuances resting on a bed of spicy peatiness that leaves enough room for peachy and honey-esque highlights to shine through.

Just when I thought it had peaked, the elongated finished upped the ante with a fulminant salted caramel exit.

An experience.

Octomore 10.3 has been aged for one more year, peated to 114ppm, bottled at 61.3% ABV, and limited to 24,000 bottles.

Being introduced as a “single field, single vintage, single malt” release, expectations were high and not disappointed, however, overshadowed by the immense impression the 10.1 left.

The baby in the lineup was the Octomore 10.4.

The complexity of this drop is hard to fathom given that it has only been aged for three years.

The 10.4 took me on a flavor journey as despite its high alcohol content and Octomore’s trademark phenolic, sulfurous peat and iodine punch, it was by far the most refined dram that benefits from having been matured virgin Limousine French oak casks, with a high toast designed to lessen the wood’s naturally high tannin impact and its dry, fruity and at times floral character.

Summa summarum, the Octomore 10 series is another masterstroke of a distillery that not only banks on the tried and proven, but skillfully explores sophisticated nuances and consistently pushed the envelope with subtleties in an area where usually the only feature that counts is one dimensional charry, intense smoke.

A uniquely complex, intricate and harmonious release that soothes the peat gods and lingers sheer endlessly.


photo from company website


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