Showing posts with label Bruichladdich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bruichladdich. Show all posts

Friday, November 19, 2021

Octomore 12 is Here!

 


Octomore 12 is here! Not since Octomore 4.2 “Comus” has the x.2 expression been available at traditional retail outlets. However, 12.2 is hitting store shelves now. If you’re not familiar with 12.2, it is a wine-cask finished expression of this super-heavily peated Islay Scotch.

 

It has been a true honor to be part of such a great team – known as “The Octomore 12” as we put together this year’s Insider’s Guide for Bruichladdich. Four of us, including me, The Scotch NoobWhisky Monster, and Barrel Raised, put together the chapter on Octomore 12.2. The rest of the team, consisting of The Scotch GirlMarvel at WhiskyWhiskey LoreThe Whiskey JugDram DudeThe ScotchtressThe Charred Cask, and Whisky A Go Girl, handled their own respective chapters, and you can read all about this year’s Octomore on its website. Cheers!

 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.  Must be 21+ to enjoy. This was sponsored content.

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Port Charlotte OLC:01 2010 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


Experimental whiskies are something I find exciting. It really doesn't matter if it turns out good or bad, because I love it when a distiller does something outside the box. Obviously, my hope is that things would turn out good (or great). But I'll try any experimental whisky to see what was done.


The fun happens when a distillery is fully transparent about what it tried. That's something Bruichladdich is known for. If you visit its website, they'll tell you pretty much everything you'd want to know, to the point where even a whisky geek will, if you'll excuse the pun, geek out


Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's heavily-peated brand (with Bruichladdich as its unpeated lineup, and Octomore as its super-peated brand).  I've reviewed some from each of the expressions, and for me to be truly transparent, I'm a fan of Port Charlotte. As such, when Bruichladdich sent me a sample of OLC:01 2010 to review, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of it, and had no idea what to expect.


What I learned is OLC:01 is part of Port Charlotte's Cask Exploration Series, which is an experimental line of single malt Scotches. It starts with a 2009 harvest of 100% Invernesshire malted barley. Once distilled, it was then aged from 2010 to 2018 in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon barrels, first-fill Vin Doux Naturel barrels, and second-fill Syrah wine barrels. Once that's done, it was then transferred to first-fill Fernando de Castilla Olorosso sherry hogsheads where it rested for another 18 months. 


"These Olorosso hogsheads are superb casks. They're smaller than your average butts. So they've quickly left a lasting impression on this complex single malt." - Adam Hannett, Master Distiller


It is non-chill-filtered, naturally colored, and has a 40ppm phenol rating, which is something you'd expect with Port Charlotte. Bottled at 55.1% ABV (110.2°), it carries a nine-year age statement and you can expect to pay around $124.99 for a 750ml.


The big question, of course, is, How did this experiment turn out? That's answered by a simple tasting, and I'd like to thank Bruichladdich for sending me the sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, OLC:01 presented as a soft mahogany color with an amber tinge. It formed a medium ring that created slow, medium-thick legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This was an extremely fragrant Scotch. As I allowed it to breathe, the aroma of barbeque filled the room. When I went to nose it, I smelled peat, plum, cherry, apricot, apple, honey, and chocolate. Yes, it seemed like I was in an orchard with a bit of smoke in the air. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out honey and milk chocolate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and very oily. My first sip consisted of a peat bomb - more than anything I've had from either Port Charlotte or Octomore. Once I got past the palate shock, the second sip had amazingly muted the peat. Orange, apricot, and peach were at the front. The middle offered flavors of honey, date, and vanilla. On the back, I tasted tobacco leaf, clove, and citrus.


Finish:  A medium-long finish started with citrus, smoked salt, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. One thing to note is this Scotch drinks at its stated proof, and that was eye-opening.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was happy when I smelled the typical Port Charlotte barbeque but it was missing from the palate. I was shocked with how heavy the punch of peat was and how quickly it dissipated. I expected fruit, yet not the entire orchard on the palate. Finally, this may have been the "hottest" Scotch I've ever had, and I've tried plenty of cask-strength offerings. All of this makes for a unique drinking experience, and I believe that makes OLC:01 well worth the price tag. Obviously, this one earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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



Monday, January 25, 2021

Do You Love Barbeque? You'll Fall in Love With Port Charlotte!

 




While barbequing is done all over the world, it is a genuine American pastime. A rite of passage, even. Americans will dig a path through waist-high snowdrifts to use their grills and smokers. On any holiday weekend, folks pack parks and backyards for fun and to enjoy outdoor cooking. The summer air is full of delicious aromas. 


Some of the very best barbeques I’ve experienced are from run-down, roadside shacks in Kentucky. The smoky smell of grilled meats of every kind makes my mouth water.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the meat is hot smoked over fire or smoke cooked. I love it all.

 

The wood used is at least as important as the choice of the meat itself. Some woods impart a smokier flavor. Others create a sweeter taste. And, then, there are the rubs, marinades, and sauces. Anything can be done with these additives, giving the meat its own, distinct flavor.

 

The point is barbeque is awesome.  We love barbeque.

 

Today I’m here to let you in on a little secret:  If you love barbeque, you’re going to love Port Charlotte Scotch whisky.

 

Wait a second there, Mr. Whiskeyfellow… Bourbon and Rye are paired with barbeque. Heck, we use those in our sauces and marinades. And, we drink them with our grilled meat. What’s this Scotch stuff you’re trying to foist on us?


I've never led you down the wrong path yet... stay with me. 


First of all, I must offer you transparency. One thing I admire about any brand is transparency. I hold myself to that same standard. I was approached by Bruichladdich, the distillery behind the Port Charlotte brand, to publish sponsored content about the brand. A majority of this piece fits that bill. What is not sponsored will be my tasting notes and review.

 

Port Charlotte is a small village on the island of Islay. The village used to be home to the Port Charlotte Distillery (soon renamed Lochindaal Distillery) from 1829 to 1929 before it was shuttered and abandoned.

 

Two miles away from Port Charlotte is the village of Bruichladdich, home of the Bruichladdich Distillery. Bruichladdich acquired the defunct Lochindaal Distillery in 2007, but has, to date, not resurrected it.  However, it has brought the name of the town back to life as Port Charlotte for its heavily-peated whisky brand.

 

You might be thinking that you've tasted Islay Scotches and I am off my rocker. Trust me here, please.

 

The term appellation is one we hear a lot in wines and brandies:  champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, otherwise, it is sparkling wine. Cognac and Armagnac must come from their respective regions.  It works for spirits, too.

 

Port Charlotte versus Pretty Much Every Other Islay Whisky

 

Port Charlotte is different from every other Scotch that comes from Islay. Did you know that to be legally called an Islay whisky, all that has to happen is the malt has to be distilled on Islay? The barley itself doesn’t have to come from Islay. The malting doesn’t have to occur on Islay. The whisky doesn’t need to age on Islay. The water source doesn’t have to be from Islay. And, finally, it doesn’t have to even be bottled in Islay. In fact, most Islay whisky fits the minimum requirement of being distilled on the island.

 

Islay is an unforgiving place to cultivate barley. Until very recently, barley hadn't been grown on the island since World War II! Most distilleries get all of their barley from the mainland. The two that don’t are Kilchoman and Bruichladdich. The Port Charlotte brand uses 42% of its barley grown locally. In fact, Port Charlotte is the only heavily-peated brand to claim 100% Scottish barley content. While the barley isn’t currently malted on Islay, that will change in 2023. Once barreled, Port Charlotte spends its entire life aging on Islay. Again, that’s not something most other distilleries do. Instead, they spend a short time on Islay and then are sent to the mainland for the duration of the aging process. The water used is sourced from Islay natural springs. Finally, the whisky is all bottled on Islay.

 

All of the above contributes to Port Charlotte's very unique barbeque flavor.  Not traditional peat smokiness. Not ash. What helps enhance that special flavor comes from its very narrow-necked stills and its heavily-charred ex-Bourbon casks the whisky is aged in. 


Port Charlotte expressions are peated at 40ppm, the same as Ardnahoe and Laphroaig. That's higher than most, falling short only of ArdbegLaphroaig, and, of course, Bruichladdich's super-peated Octomore.


Bruichladdich's Vision


Bruichladdich's vision across its entire product line is to distill for flavor and not for consistency. Things change from batch to batch, and that's how they like doing things. The distillery maintains an inventory of over 200 different types of cooperage to add whatever variety is desired.  Everything they produce is non-chill filtered and retains its natural color. 


The final thing I want to tell you about Port Charlotte before I get to the reviews is Bruichladdich's B-Corp Certification. It is something they're very proud to be a part of. To be considered, a business must use itself as "a force for good."  A business is required to maintain the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and must remain accountable. There are currently 3327 companies in 78 nations that hold B-Corp status.


That Barbeque Thing...


Taste is king and is how the whole barbeque experience comes into play. As I stated earlier, what never changes, sponsored or not, are my reviews and tasting notes.




The first review is for Port Charlotte 10.  This Single Malt spent a decade in oak.  The largest portion, 65%, was in first-fill ex-Bourbon, 10% in second-fill ex-Bourbon, and the remaining 25% in French wine casks. It is bottled at 50% ABV (or 100°) and you can expect to shell out about $70.00 for 750ml.  The 10-year is the flagship release and is widely available.



Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, PC-10 presented as the color of dull gold, almost like a pale ale. While it created a thinner rim, it released thick, fat, watery legs that fell like a curtain back to the pool of whisky. 


Nose:  The first thing I smelled was smoky and the aroma was sweet and briny with grapefruit, ginger root, peach, and milk chocolate. It also offered floral notes. When I breathed the vapor through my lips, vanilla and toasted oak danced across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was medium-bodied, and the whole smoky/sweet combination got things moving. At the front, I tasted smoked oak, toasted coconut, vanilla, and merengue. As it moved to the middle, pear, dark chocolate, ancho chiles, honey barbeque, and sweet tobacco leaf took over. Think of it almost as molé sauce. Then, on the back, a marriage of orange, lemon, and crème brûlée.


Finish:  It stuck around in my mouth and the back of my throat for several minutes, providing me flavors of smoked oak, brine, clove, orange peel, and honey. Before everything fell off, a brush of stewed peaches made itself known.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There was no astringent quality, there was no earthiness to the peat. Sip to sip, it made my mouth water for more. I love traditional peated whiskies and this one was so different I was wowed. Port Charlotte 10 earns a Bottle rating. 





The second review is of Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2012 Vintage. This Single Malt is aged a mere six years in 75% first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and 25% second-fill wine casks. Eight Islay farms came together in 2011 to harvest four varieties of barley:  Oxbridge, Publican, Propino, and Concerto. The 2011 harvest was particularly rough due to adverse weather conditions. Like the PC-10, Islay Barley is packaged at 50% ABV. This expression is more limited, and you should expect to pay about $90.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Islay Barley proffered a pale gold color that was reminiscent of Chardonnay. Fat, sticky droplets turned into long, slow legs that dropped from a medium-thick rim on the wall. 


Nose:  Smoky peat began the experience, which led to pear, citrus, peach, and brine. Beneath those, I found honeysuckle, vanilla, and golden raisin. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I tasted coconut, vanilla, and barbeque smoke.


Palate:  I found Islay Barley to be surprisingly light-bodied and sweet. Honey, vanilla, and mocha were on the front. Flavors of apricot, peach, and pineapple were at the middle, and chocolate, clove, honey-molasses barbeque, and smoky oak fell on the back.


Finish:  Long and sweet, the finish was fruity with apricot, pineapple, and spicy with ginger and smoke. There was also a briny quality to it. This was a sweeter finish than the PC-10.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  For $90.00, I expect much more out of a whisky, and Islay Barley didn't disappoint. I loved how flavorful this was, how it reminded me of a few types of barbeque sauce blended together. The peat is subtle and offers a near-perfect balance of smoke, spice, and sweetness. This easily takes a Bottle rating from me.


Bottom Line:  While both were stunning, it wasn't much of a contest for me as to the better bottle, and that was the Islay Barley. While I'm not the grillmaster, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow knows what she's doing, and these paired fantastically with ribeye steaks and grilled asparagus. With food, they added a touch of caramel and molasses. If you want to taste something that will appeal to the barbeque fan, Port Charlotte is the Scotch that's going to make that happen. Finally, don't let heavily-peated scare you away. Even a newbie to peat can enjoy and appreciate these expressions. 


If you're interested in getting a bottle of either for yourself and you don't want to leave the comfort of your home, follow this link (note: I do not receive any sort of compensation for the click or purchase). Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Bruichladdich The Classic Laddie Guided Tasting and Review

 


One of the things I respect is transparency. I'm as transparent as possible with my reviews. When a distillery matches that level of transparency, I'm impressed.  Good, bad, or ugly, there is something to be said about not holding anything back.


Back in July, I reviewed The Classic Laddie from Bruichladdich. That batch was 14/009, which means it was the ninth batch bottled in 2014.  I enjoyed it immensely and awarded it my Bottle rating.


The Classic Laddie is an unpeated Islay Scotch. Yes, unpeated whisky from Islay does exist!  This flagship Scotch is meant to compete with Highland and Speyside malts. Every batch of The Classic Laddie is different. Unlike many distilleries, Bruichladdich isn't going for batch-to-batch consistency. Instead, Head Distiller Adam Hannett's goal is to have The Classic Laddie be light, floral, fruity, and unpeated.


Bruichladdich is about as transparent as a distillery can be about any aspect, including divulging what's inside a batch. As a point of demonstration, if you head to The Classic Laddie website, you can enter your batch number to quickly decode it and see everything that was used to create what's in your bottle. A screenshot of that page is shown below. 



When you click Reveal, a new page opens.  In this case, I've entered Batch 20/109, which is the batch I'm reviewing today. You can find your Batch Code on the side of the bottle.




I'm not going to screenshot the entire thing, but as you can see, there are 74 casks, 4 vintages, 3 barley types, and 10 cask types. 



What you can see is almost anything you'd ever want to know about what's inside.  The only thing Bruichladdich redacts is under the Distillation Year, and that's everything except the youngest vintage. The only reason Bruichladdich redacts that is to remain compliant under regulations of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which is the governing body for the Scotch whisky trade. In the case of Batch 20/109, the youngest vintage is from 2012, making this an eight-year whisky, consisting of:


  • 1 cask distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in a Spanish sherry butt, then a 2nd-fill Bourbon barrel and virgin oak, then another 2nd-fill Bourbon barrel;
  • 5 casks distilled from Scottish mainland barley distilled in 2012, aged in 2nd-fill French Bordeaux Pessac Leognan (a Cabernet/Merlot blend) hogshead;
  • 2 casks distilled from Islay barley aged in 2nd-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 4 casks distilled from Islay barley aged in 3rd-fill Bourbon hogshead (segway:  I confirmed with Bruichladdich that this was correct. Apparently as they recooper the barrels, they don't always go back in neat, even sizes), then 1st-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 3 casks distilled from Scottish mainland organic barley aged in 1st-fill Bourbon barrels.
  • 3 casks distilled from Islay barley aged in 1st-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 12 casks distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in 1st-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 1 cask distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in a 2nd-fill Bourbon barrel;
  • 1 cask distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in a 2nd-fill French Bandol (Mourvedre) hogshead;
  • 30 casks distilled from Scottish mainland barley in 2012 aged in 1st-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 6 casks distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in 1st-fill Bourbon barrels;
  • 1 cask distilled from Scottish mainland barley aged in a 1st-fill French Vin Doux Naturel hogshead; and
  • 5 casks distilled from Islay barley aged in 1st-fill French Pomerol (a Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend) hogshead.


The Classic Laddie is always non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and packaged at 50% ABV (or 100°). A 750ml bottle will set you back about $55.99.


Before I go any further, as I said earlier, transparency is a big deal for me.  Bruichladdich sent me a bottle of Batch 20/109 in exchange for hosting an online tasting with two non-whiskey influencers:  Saeed "Hawk" of Cocktails by Hawk and Sam of The Frosted Petticoat. The other part of the equation is that Bruichladdich sponsored me beyond providing the bottle to host this guided tasting.




Click here to view the guided tasting (it is the raw footage and runs 47 minutes).  I had a fun time with Sam and Hawk, they learned a lot and I discovered new things from them both. I led them to explore The Classic Laddie, they provided their notes and thoughts. It is well worth the time to watch.  But, if you don't have the time, there is a 10-minute condensed version that I published on IGTV.


What never changes, sponsored or not, is my review and tasting notes. As always, it is my honest assessment of the whiskey, based on my regular Bottle, Bar, or Bust rating system. I felt somewhat safe doing this due to my assessment Batch 14/009.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Classic Laddie presented as brassy gold in color. It left a thinnish rim but yielded fat legs that took their time sliding back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Aromas of chocolate and honey started things off. They were followed by orange blossom, pear, and raisin. When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, I tasted iodine, seaweed, and honey.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and oily, offering no problems coating my entire mouth. Full-bodied, the first flavors were cocoa, honeysuckle, and vanilla. At mid-palate, I tasted dry oak, raisin, and apple. On the back, things got sweet and spicy with cherry, plum, and black pepper.


Finish:  To suggest that this batch of The Classic Laddie has a long-lasting finish would be unfair to long-lasting finishes - it simply would not quit. There was a smoky quality that was absolutely not peat. Another aspect was there was no astringent (band-aid) quality that some folks find to be a turn-off. It was, however, very dry, likely from the influence of the wine casks, with white pepper, clove, and iodine.  Just when I thought things were finally over, raw honey and raisin closed things out.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is a $56.00 bottle of Scotch that was incredibly complex from the nose to the palate to the finish.  While the mouthfeel never really changed, each time I sipped I pulled out different flavors. That finish was crazy long. With Batch 14/009 I found a slightly astringent flavor but with Batch 20/109, it was non-existent. Forgetting the price, this was very enjoyable. Bring that back into the equation and nothing is holding back a Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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






Friday, October 2, 2020

Octomore Ten Years Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

 


This is the final chapter 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.


Two days ago, 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. Yesterday, I reviewed Octomore 11.3.


And that brings me to Octomore Ten Years. Octomore Ten Years is released every other year (it cycles with Octomore x.4 as a biannual release). Before we get there, I'll invite you to check out how to decode the Octomore numbering system, which was composed by Scotch Trooper and MarvelAtWhisky.


As a single malt, it starts with 100% Scottish-grown Optic Barley. It was then aged ten years using a combination of virgin oak, first- and second-fill American oak from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Jack Daniel's.  It is natural-colored, non-chill filtered, and cask strength at 54.3% ABV (108.6°). The yield was 12,000 bottles. 


And then, it becomes time to separate the adults from the kids. We're talking phenols, which is the technical term for peatiness and are measured in parts per million (PPM).  A few of the heaviest-peated Scotches out there top off at 55 PPM (think Ardbeg).  Most are well below that. Then you have the super-heavy peated Octomore collection:

  • Octomore 11.1 is 139.6 PPM
  • Octomore 11.3 is 194 PPM
  • Octomore Ten Years buries all of them at 208 PPM!

Just as I did in my 11.1 and 11.3 reviews, I want to pony up some transparency: I was provided samples of these three Octomore releases 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 tell you how this peat bomb holds up.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Octomore Ten Years presents as a dull gold. This is very likely from the virgin oak casks, as the 11.1 and 11.3 were very pale. It left a medium-thick rim that created a fat curtain (I couldn't even call them droplets) that crashed back to the pool.


Nose:  File this one under duh! because the first thing I smelled was the peat. Once my olfactory sense got used to that, it was easy to find citrus, pear, apple, vanilla, honey, and toasted oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, the air brought a rush of vanilla to race across my palate. It was a bomb of vanilla.


Palate:  My initial sip suggested a Scotch with a medium body. Subsequent tastings became creamier. And, as expected, the first flavors were very smoky with some ash. Once the palate shock subsided, I tasted an earthy malt along with vanilla on the front. As the whisky moved to mid-palate, cocoa powder and nutmeg quickly morphed to citrus and apricot. Then, on the back, a blend of toasted oak, brine, and white pepper.


Finish:  Of the three, I believe Ten Years had the longest, smokiest finish. That didn't surprise me considering the phenol difference. Very dry oak, likely from the virgin casks, led to clove, chocolate, pear, and finally malt.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Just as 11.1 and 11.3 were eye-opening for their balance despite the peat, Ten Years didn't disappoint. Unlike 11.1 and 11.3, I prepared myself for the blast and didn't let my brain get ahead of my palate. 


Similar to the other releases, I have no idea what MSRP is on this. But, I've seen Octomore 10.x on the shelf at stores and the prices were in the low-to-mid $100s range.  But, Ten Years wasn't part of the 10.x series (because it would have been an x.4 year). Being twice as old and less available, I'd safely assume higher. 


You absolutely, positively have to be a fan of peat if you're even going to consider any Octomore release. It is not a starting point. 


I do enjoy peated whiskies and I appreciated everything Octomore Ten Years had to offer. Without knowing the price, I'm giving this one a Bottle rating.


So, what's my final verdict on the Octomore series?  They're all bodacious, but I rate them in order as 11.1, Ten Years, and 11.3. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try it
  • Bust = Leave It




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





Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Octomore 11.1 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


This is one 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.


The fascinating thing about Octomore is the whole idea isn't supposed to work. But, before I explain why, the big question is, What is peat? In a nutshell, peat is the waste of plant material that is compressed in bogs and marshes. It is abundant around the world. Peat is typically harvested in bricks. The bricks are then burned for its heat in various gardening uses.


In terms of whisky, peat is used to dry barley and cease the germination process. Burning peat results in phenols, or smoky qualities, and phenols are measured in parts per million (PPM). Your heavily-peated Scotches, typically from the Islay region of Scotland, such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg for the most part ring in somewhere at 55 PPM or less. 


Now, let's cycle back. Why should the whole idea of Octomore be unworkable?  Firstly, the PPM is about 2.5 times that of those other Scotches. Secondly, it is a younger whiskey. Thirdly, it is bottled at cask strength. What that should translate to is a young, hot, batch of alcohol that stinks like burning tires.


Today I'm reviewing Octomore 11.1.  It starts with 100% Concerto and Prodino Scottish grown barley which was harvested in 2013. That barley was distilled in 2014 and then aged in first-fill American whiskey barrels from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, and Jack Daniel's. At five years old, it came out of the barrel at 59.4% ABV.  There was no chill-filtering done and it is naturally colored. The yield was 30,000 bottles.


What have I left out of that description? The 139.6 PPM of phenols!


Does that sound a bit scary? Will Octomore 11.1 have any quality aside from smoke and ash? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  However, before I do that, I need 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. 


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, 11.1 appeared as the color of sauvignon blanc wine. It was pale and clear. It left a medium rim that stuck to the wall like glue. Flat, slow legs eventually formed but even after they dropped, the rim remained.  


Nose:  While I was giving this my ten-minute wait, sitting outside on my deck, the smoky peat was evident. It made my mouth water. Yet, when I went to start the nosing process, the peat was much less than I prepared myself for.  The aroma of peat, of course, was there. But, I found brine, pear, citrus, apricot, and a sweet floral quality. When I inhaled through my lips, the smoke and pear teased my palate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel had a warming, medium body. It came as no surprise that smoky peat would be there. It took a sip or two to start identifying what lay beneath.  Smoke and black pepper were up on the front. Mid-palate became a very complex recipe of pear, apple, citrus, cocoa, and mace. Then, on the back, I ran into clove that I could almost chew and brine. 


Finish:  A very long and lasting finish of smoke, oak, and clove remained. The clove rolled on and on and suddenly fell off a cliff.  It did make my hard palate tingle. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Despite the explosive number of 139.6 PPM, this whisky was well-balanced and so much more than smoke. I almost psyched myself out and was a cautious taking that first sip. I prepared to have my palate wrecked, but that never happened. I was pleased with how much complexity existed and how flavorful this Scotch turned out. 


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. Octomore 11.1 is absolutely in a class by itself, and while it isn't the destroyer of palates that made me nervous, you absolutely must be a fan of peated whiskies, otherwise, this is not the dip-your-toe-in-the-pool opportunity. 


As for myself, I really enjoy peated whiskies and was very impressed. If that's your jam, too, then you'll also appreciate my Bottle rating for Octomore 11.1. Feel the peat, but don't fear it. Cheers!




Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Bruichladdich: The Octomore Eleven

 


  • Part One of The Octomore 11 Insider's Guide, "Background and History of Bruichladdich" has been released and can be found on ScotchNoob's blog
  • Part Three of The Octomore 11 Insider’s Guide, “The Numbering System and History of Releases,” is live on The Whiskey Jug's blog
  • Part Four of The Octomore 11 Insider's Guide, "Processes and Recipes," is live on Whisky Monster's blog
  • Part Five of the Octomore 11 Insider's Guide, "Tasting Advice and Notes" is live on Whisky Monster's blog as well
  • Part Six of the Octomore 11 Insider's Guide, "Food Pairings and Settings" is live on The Charred Cask's blog


Octomore.  Have you heard about it?  If that's new to you, it is a Scotch for folks who love peat. I don't mean just a little peat. I mean a mouthful of it! You see, Octomore, which is made by Bruichladdich, is hands-down the most heavily-peated Scotch around. More peat than Laphroig. More peat than Lagavulin. More peat than even Ardbeg. 


Octomore is a special release each Fall. Fans run to the store and snag their bottles as soon as it is released, they post all over social media photos of their trophies, just like what happens with many coveted whiskey releases. Well, here we are, it is Fall, and the 11th incarnation is about to hit the shelves on October 1st.


I've always been big on transparency. That's one of the things I point out when folks do things right, especially in the whiskey business. I also hold myself to that very rigorous standard - I am always transparent with my readers.



 The Octomore 11 consist of the following: 


We were paired together (which was an interesting challenge all by itself)  to each write a section of this handbook.  I was teamed up with Nathan to pen the Background and History of Bruichladdich, which is the first installment. Nathan is a great guy, and despite the fact we have very different writing styles, I believe we meshed well together.


So, yes, there is sponsored content that I am sharing today, and yes, that means I was paid for my contribution to The Octomore 11 Insider's Guide. But, Nathan and I did our own research and what we've put together is our own thoughts.


As far as how I'm approaching the tasting notes and my final recommendations, those are not sponsored content and you can expect from me what you have always expected from me: You're going to get my honest opinion on the Octomore 11 releases. This week I will also publish my reviews on Octomore 11.1, Octomore 11.3, and Octomore 10 Year


And now, it is time to release the first two sections of the Insider's Guide.  The first, as mentioned, was created by Nathan and me, and that chapter is being hosted on his ScotchNoob blog. The second installment is called The Origins of Octomore, composed by Scotch Trooper and Marvel at Whisky. As neither has a dedicated blog, I'm hosting it on mine. This is a fascinating read, and I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!

 

2. The Origins of Octomore

On the Origin of Octomore by Means of Masterful Selection, and the Preservation of Peated Malt in the Struggle for Whisky Perfection. (cite: Charles Darwin)


 

With a wee wry smile, he’d say “because no one else had the balls to do it”.

 

When it comes to the origins of Octomore, it may have started with a singular experiment to see how peaty Jim McEwan could make a whisky, but that was just the beginning.

 

Bruichladdich has always been known as an experimental distillery, the “progressive Hebridean distillers”, yet in 2002, that state of mind took on a whole new meaning. With the production of a whisky peated to 80 parts per million (PPM) – the measurement used to determine the phenol content of the malted barley – a benchmark was set. In that moment, 80 PPM defined a brand identity and “Octo”, the Greek and Latin word for eight, became the root from which the name Octomore was born.

 

As with all pioneers, challenging the status quo is habitual, and once that dream had been conceived, retreat was simply not an option. In the world of Octomore, to dare is to do. Yet to defy the traditionalists and all that is accepted in the world of whisky, was thought a fruitless mission, an experiment that could not succeed. How could it?

 

A young, super heavily peated, cask strength whisky would go against the very grain of widely-adopted industry conventions, it was an impossible task, and solving it, an impossible equation. For Jim and his team however, what was to become the Octomore equation, was the evolution of much more than simply the pursuit of peat. Octomore presented Bruichladdich with the opportunity to consider whisky in its entirety, to explore the sum total of what can be created when you start with no preconceived notions.

 

And so, with only one constant – that the whisky should never be less than 80 PPM, the Octomore team set forth on a journey of discovery of the spirit, the peat, the cask and the process. With no knowing of what was to be realized and wild variations from batch by batch, that inconsistency became the very story of Octomore.

 

Therein lies the impossible equation: What if the sum total of all these unlikely parts, sewn together through a philosophy of intrigue, curiosity and innovation, meant that an improbable theory was actually solvable? A concept which should be unthinkable, let alone drinkable, was actually a revelation. 

 

Over the years that followed, Octomore has typically been released after a 5 year maturation period, peated up to a mind-bending 309 PPM and bottled at around 60% abv. The series has prevailed and become an accepted formula that proves nothing is impossible. When it comes to Octomore, there is simply nothing else like it.

 

Octomore is one of those whiskies, that if you know, well, you know. When you nose that glass, when that liquid touches your lips and you taste it, you can’t help but acknowledge the progressiveness of Octomore – a spirit of flawless integrity, a dram which respects the past, but does not live in its shadow. You realize the spirit is not too young, the cask and maturation process has been kind and imparted sweet, fruity and floral notes with a rich and mouth-coating profile. It is undeniably about the quality of the cask, not necessarily how long the spirit rests in there. You can taste the quality of distillation, the smoothness and balanced mouthfeel. This is a whisky that’s not driven by peat, what you think and what you taste are two different things. Rather, the peat binds the flavors together, not overbearing in any sense, complimenting and warming through the long finish.

 

Octomore is not a whisky for everyone, and that’s how we like it. For those that have risen to the challenge and spent time solving this impossible equation, they know, there is no other cult whisky that stands alongside it.

 

Part One of The Octomore 11 Insider's Guide, "Background and History of Bruichladdich" has been released and can be found on Scotch Noob's blog.

Part Three of The Octomore 11 Insider’s Guide, “The Numbering System and History of Releases,” will release tomorrow. Check back here for a link!


Rich a.k.a. @marvelatwhisky is a content creator widely recognised for this distinct visual identity of fusing spirits with animated characters. Whilst his public persona is designed to showcase his creative expression and technical skills, most of his work with brands is focused on graphic design and visual effects, rather than the superheroes for which he is renowned. Rich is an avid enthusiast of the golden spirits, be it Scotch, Whisk(e)y, Bourbon or Rye and advocates passionately for its use in resolving global conflict.





Brett is a whisky enthusiast with a Star Wars problem. He has worn many hats in the industry, but the one he enjoys most is sharing his whisky knowledge while playing with toys. Brett's mission has always been to show the light side of whisky by making it fun and approachable.