Let’s do a five year old Bruichladdich today. In honour of the ongoing Feis Ile (Islay Festival) and all.
By now I’m sure most whisky cognoscenti are familiar with Octomore, Bruichladdich’s heavily peated variant. The term ‘heavily peated’ is actually selling Octomore short, believe it or not. This brand is unquestionably the most heavily peated single malt in the world. The 6.3 edition from last year came in at a whopping 258 parts per million of phenols. When you stop to consider that Ardbeg’s typical peating level is somewhere around 50-55 ppm, that is a staggering number indeed.
I think we’ve touched on this before, but let me briefly do so again for anyone who may just be tuning in: It would be a mistake to assume that this phenol count is directly proportionate to the smokiness of the dram. It’s not. I can guarantee you that there are Laphroaig and Ardbeg releases out there that will seem to pack more of a peaty punch than some of the Octomore expressions. In fact, even Bruichladdich’s moderately peated range under the Port Charlotte moniker often seem bigger than Octomore, despite their peating levels only weighing in at about 40 ppm.
Alright…elementary ‘soft science’ aside, make no mistake about it, this is not a whisky for the faint of heart. Comus weighs in at 167 ppm and has been bottled at 61% abv. It is bigger than big.
Team Laddie is still obviously having fun with their cask exploration, as what we have here in the 4.2 edition is the razor sharp Octomore distillate matured in bourbon barrels, before being ACE’d (read: finished) in Sauternes casks. The result is a sweeter and more elegant presentation than the straight bourbon-matured releases (those that end in “.1”). In short, it’s a balance of soft and sharp. Like getting hit in the face with a pillow…filled with peat bricks and swung by Barry Bonds.
Nose: Sweet smoke and chocolate. Tar, licorice, lime and cola. Earthy and farmy peat behind an elegant creamy haze. Some soft overripe pear, berry and vanilla ice cream. A touch of rubber. A splash of salt water. Sauternes is obviously a wonderful softening influence, as I’m getting similar notes here as on the Glenmorangie Nectar D’or. Obviously very different drams otherwise.
Palate: A moment of sublime sweet smokiness, then…WHAM! Monstrous. More smoke now. Some hot rubber too. Tart and tangy-er than the nose would belie. That would be the wine at work, I’d venture. Bittersweet chocolate, tannic fruit skins, espresso. Anise. Burnt pineapple. And somehow…still rather gentle. Strange and oxymoronic.
Thoughts: Another example of how malleable this Octomore stuff is. Great whisky that you’ll be tasting for hours after the glass is empty. No bad thing, that.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt