Thursday, October 1, 2020

Octomore 11.3 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

This is two of a three-part review series of the Octomore 11 release from Bruichladdich. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Octomore is an annual release of whiskies. But, it isn't just another whisky - Octomore boasts to be the heaviest-peated Scotches around.

Yesterday, I reviewed Octomore 11.1, and I also explained what peat was.  Feel free to swing back to that review for a detailed explanation, as well as what makes Octomore truly different in terms of Scotch. 

Today's review is Octomore 11.3What's the difference, you may ask?  Well, both are made with 100% Scotland-grown barley grown in 2013 and harvested in 2014. Octomore 11.1 was aged in first-fill American oak from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, and Jack Daniel's. Octomore 11.3 uses first fill barrels from the same sources, except without Wild Turkey. Both are naturally-colored, and both are non-chill filtered.  Octomore 11.3 uses barley grown on the Octomore Farm, the other expressions use 100% Scottish-grown barley. 

At five years old, 11.3 comes out of the barrel at 61.7% ABV compared to 11.1, which was 59.4% ABV. That's not a huge difference but a few points can differ enough. Octomore 11.1 had a yield of 30,000 bottles compared to Octomore 11.3's 18,000 bottles. But, where things get really crazy is 11.1 has 139.6 PPM of phenols... compare that to 11.3 with a monstrous 194 PPM!

Just as I did in my 11.1 review, I want to offer some transparency: I was provided samples of Octomore 11.1, 11.3, and 10-Year in exchange for reviews. I've been recruited as part of a group of US-based whiskey writers dubbed The Octomore Eleven. We were selected to assist with the launch of Octomore 11. However, my review is 100% mine, it is as always my true tasting notes and experience. As you know, my reputation is everything.

I want to make one other thing clear. It would be a huge mistake to pour Octomore into a glass and drink it without letting it breathe. Bruichladdich recommends eight minutes. I recommend between ten and fifteen.

And, with all that out of the way, it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this peat-bomb has to offer.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Octomore 11.3 presented as the color of straw. It created a thin rim with heavy, fat legs that slowly crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  The aroma of peat is overly obvious. However, with almost 39% more phenols than 11.1, the peat was somehow softer. Underneath the peat, I found an orchard full of citrus, pear, and apple combined with vanilla, honey, caramel, malt, and milk chocolate. When I inhaled through my lips, flavors of peat and honey rolled over my palate.

Palate:  As the whiskey passed my lips, it offered a thin body and was almost watery. It also was less peaty than I expected, although that may have been psyching myself up for it.  Joining the peat on the front was mild iodine.  Mid-palate, there was a very fruity mix of pear and apple. They were accompanied by cocoa powder. Then, on the back, I tasted clove, nutmeg, and smoked oak.

Finish:  A medium-to-long, creamy finish of toffee, chocolate, and clove skidded into white pepper before finally falling off.  

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The 194 PPM phenol count was less intense than I assumed it would be. Like 11.1, this whisky was well-balanced and so much more than smoke. The nose and palate were complex and interesting.

The unknown factor for me is the price. I have not been provided with suggested retail prices, but I have seen Octomore previous releases in the low-to-mid-$100 range, and I'm willing to go out on a limb and suggest it is in that neighborhood.  

Let's get serious here - peat is not for everyone. Something super-heavily peated will to fall into more of a niche market. I really enjoy peated whiskies and I enjoyed this.  Despite the fact I prefer 11.1 over 11.3, this still earns my Bottle rating. Feel the peat, but don't fear it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try it
  • Bust = Leave It

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