A Few Words on Octomore

A Few Words on Octomore

Last night I went on the hunt for the recently released Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4. After reading such good things about the super heavily peated monster, I wanted to try it for myself. The Octomore series thus far had come in three varieties: x.1 being Scottish barley, matured in American oak casks; x.2 being partly matured in ex-wine cask; and x.3 being made from Islay barley - the farm being the inspiration for the series in fact, James Brown's Octomore farm.

They are all known for their ludicrously high peat level (measured in parts per million, or ppm), with the lowest being 167ppm (6.1, 6.2, and 7.4), and the highest being an insane 258ppm (6.3). For comparisons sake, two of the whiskies most commonly thought of as being peaty, Laphroaig and Ardbeg1, come in at approximately 40ppm and 55ppm respectively. Or in other words, a different league all together.

Sadly, I hadn't realised that it's not made it's way to bars/retail yet - it only seems to be available from Bruichladdich's site. I didn't let that deter me, however, and had a pour of the 7.1 instead - I had only tried the 6.x releases previously.

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1 Scottish Barley, 5 years old, American oak, 59.5%, 208ppm

One would expect to nose this whisky and be hit by peat smoke immediately. And at 208ppm, that would make sense. However, the first thing I got from the glass was vanilla, and lots of it. Caramel came next, combining with the vanilla to create an almost sweet fudge scent. Bringing up the rear was that peat smoke I was waiting for, with some of that salty brine that the Islay is known to balance things out.

Given the ABV and peat levels, I was once again (perhaps surprisingly) surprised when on the first sip I wasn't immediately hit by peat. A smooth sweetness was first, vanilla and caramel, followed up by the peat and saltiness. I was left with a slight bitter tinge on the tip of my tongue, but ultimately the sweet smokiness carried through the whole way. Amazing.

The sweetness sits at the back of your mouth, while the peat just resonates gently. I think Ben Cops said it best by calling this balanced on a very fine line. It truly shows the skill of the master blender (and this was the last bottling by industry legend Jim McEwan before his retirement) to create such a smooth whisky with the characteristics this does. Well done Bruichladdich. 93/100

Some Untimely Thoughts on the SMWS January Outturn

Just in time for February's outturn, I thought it would be about time to post my thoughts on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society's outturn of month. Titled January Summer Daydreaming, the release hopes to inspire glowing, golden memories of warmer times (something not too difficult for us Southern Hemisphere born), with a good combination of young, spritely drams to an absolutely stunning 28 year old Mortlach.

I was only able to try a handful of the outturn sadly, but I tried to make it as broad a selection as possible.

5.48 - Stave New World Auchentoshan, 14 years old, second fill sherry-butt. 59.6%

An unusual release for Auchentoshan, being sherried, although something that the distillery seems to be experimenting with more. Auchentoshan was one of the first distilleries I visited after arriving in Scotland, and at the time I absolutely loved it. The tour there was one of the most comprehensive and enjoyable tours I've been on, and I tired some truly amazing whiskies. Fast forwarding to now, I find their standard line to be a little lacking, with the triple distillation process seemingly removing a little body from the spirit. That said, I had previously had a beautiful distillery release (8 year old, bordeaux finished single cask), which was quite something. So, I came into this whisky not entirely knowing where I would stand.

The result was somewhere in between. The nose was very woody (my notes from the evening say "wood workshop"), and quite sharp initially, with a bit of sugary sweetness mixing around in there too. The palate was a mix of over brewed tea, fruity (although not quite christmasy) cake, and a few more of those wood shavings. It didn't stick around long - it was quite thin and tight on the finish.

For the money, this is not a bad buy. At £53.70, it was a reasonable complex, solid whisky that makes sure you're aware you're drinking it. 87/100

76.124 - A Symphony of Oak Mortlach, 28 years old, refill ex-bourbon hog. 55.9%

My only experience with Mortlach (that I remember at least), is the bottle that all of the Diageo owned distilleries were pedalling for a while last year. It was always on sale (down to £80 or there about), and was a no age statement release for the 2013 Spirit of Speyside festival. From what I recall, it was pleasant, but not so memorable that I needed to take a bottle home. I am very happy to say that that was not the case for this bottling.

Straight away you can tell this is an old whisky. Beautiful and deep, the scent of oak is there right off the bat. It smelt like being in an old established building - all that was needed was a fireplace and a big leather chair. It was thick, coating your mouth, a perfectly balanced ratio of rich oak, fruit zest, and a light bit of spice. That spice lingers in your mouth for some time afterwards, a beautiful reminder of what you just enjoyed. I conclude my notes on this one with "Stunning." - I think that sums it up nicely.

Admittedly, it is not a cheap dram. At £155, you're certainly paying for the time it's spent in oak, but if you have the means it's certainly money well spent. Even if you don't have the means, I would consider finding them to get a bottle of this. 96/100

31.32 - Piri-Piri and Teriyaki Chicken Jura, 26 years old, refill ex-bourbon hog. 52.7%

I've not really ever had much to do with Jura. Short of their standard releases (Origin and Superstition), there's not be an occasion to try the product of everyones favourite close-to-Islay island.

Another oldie, this Jura seemed to take on a lot of character from the bourbon that previously graced to the barrel staves. The nose held lots of sweet vanilla, with a bit of sugar, like a good solid bourbon would. The taste was quite the departure, with a thin oily texture and almost spicy initial tasting. The sweetness came through once that initial spice had passed, but was a sweetness reminiscent of a sweet curry. I guess they hit the nail on the head with the name on this one. It finished off quite dry, with that sweetness continuing on through the whole way.

All in all, a surprising and tasty whisky. At £116.90, it isn't quite an impulse buy, but if sweet curries are you thing then you're on to a winner. 85/100

3.255 - Genie in a Bottle Bowmore, 21 years old, refill ex-sherry butt, 56.6%

This bottling is what I was most looking forward to going in. With some of my favourite Society releases being from Bowmore previously (3.251 being a stunner in my eyes, also ex-sherry, but slightly younger), I had high hopes. Bowmore is also responsible for some of my favourite distillery releases - for my money the 15 year old is a great whisky.

This whisky had all the promise of being amazing. Sweet peat smoke on the nose, with a light bit of ginger as well. Tasting it continued these traits, with more smoke and light spice, with a bit of my all time favourite flavour (salted caramel) bringing up the rear. But there was something missing. I can't quite put my finger on it...it had all the right qualities of a whisky I would love - peat, sherried-sweetness, age - but it just seems to have not quite spent enough time in the cask. Or something. I don't know. I was quite confused about it as you may be able to tell! It just didn't carry itself like previously Bowmore's have for me.

That all being said, it wasn't a bad whisky. Just not a great whisky, as I was expecting it to be. Priced at £107.20 a bottle, I would sooner be going for two of the 5.48 bottling, but that's just me. 86/100

29.177 - Mind-Wandering Laphroig, 16 years old, refill ex-bourbon barrel, 57.8%

Laphroaig has had the marketing campaign "#opinionswelcome" running for some time now. I even have a jumper with that written on it (it was a branded christmas jumper, little did I know I would become a walking advert). It's quite easy to see why - very few whiskies attract such extreme, iOS vs Android level reactions from people. Personally, I love Laphroaig, although that love does not extend to the 10 year old, which is what I think most people base their opinion on.

This whisky is not Laphroaig 10 year old. The nose brings that traditional Islay peat, big strong and bold, holding no punches. But this whisky combines that with a creaminess, making it smell quite a like a well smoked cheddar cheese. Personally, smoked cheddar is one my all time favourites, so that won points with me immediately. This continued into the palate, with that typical peat smoke mixing with creamy sweetness. It was well rounded, mouth coating, and, well, Laphroaig. What more can we ask, really?

Sadly, it was only available as part of a parcel, otherwise I would have picked up a bottle. Even so, £119 will get you this and 77.40 (Glen Ord, 12 years old, refill ex-bourbon, 61.9%), which isn't a bad deal at all. 91/100

Quite a solid release, really. Not the biggest I've seen, but quite balanced and catering to every palate. Hopefully next month continues the strong start to the year for the Society!

A First Love

A recent tweet from Dave Worthington reminded me of my first (proper) experience with whisky, an almost identical story to Dave's.

Almost two years ago to the day (it was sometime the week before Christmas, that's all I really remember), I decided to buy a bottle of Laphroaig 10 year old, for no particular reason other than a few colleagues were singing it's praises.

Prior to then, my experience with whisk(e)y of any form had been the usual: Johnny Walker (Red and Black only, of course), usually mixed with Coke, and maybe some equally cheap bourbon mixed similarly. It was only ever as a tool - something to drink in a social situation, or a less filling alternative to beer. Drunk straight was only ever as shots. "Burniness", "petrol", "ugh" were all common adjectives. The taste just hadn't ever sat well with me.

With that in mind, I don't know that a 10 YO Laphroaig was the best first purchase. I wouldn't say that it holds a reputation for being easy to drink or even remotely smooth. But nonetheless, a bottle of this iconic, peated, slightly medicinal liquid found its way into my possession.

I opened it on Christmas Day as my family and I sat around the table outside after lunch. I'm not entirely sure if I actually liked it, or just told myself that I did, because even now, I wouldn't exactly say I'm a huge fan of that bottling. But regardless, it was the beginning of what has grown into a long lasting...well, obsession. One that has not only remained, but grown exponentially.

It continued to bourbon not long after that holiday season, which was largely inspired by a new found love of an old fashioned. That and that I think bourbon - at least, "normal" bourbon, i.e. not barrel proof - is a little more approachable that Scotch whisky. I made my way through most bourbon that was available in Australia, even ordering in some Antique Collection (believe it or not it isn't a standard order in most bottle shops) at an obscene price. I couldn't get enough.

After a while of this, I started to get a little...bored, with bourbon. So back to Scotch my obsession went.

Fast forward a year or so. Here I am, sitting in Glasgow, Scotland. For Christmas this year, I opened a bottle from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, bottling 29.171, which is a 20 year old single cask from Laphroaig. As you could expect, it was absolutely beautiful (proper review to follow - Christmas day wasn't the ideal time to sit and take notes!).

I can only imagine where the future will take me. Luckily, there is an ever growing amount of whisky out there, so we needn't worry about running out of things to try. Slàinte!

A New, New Beginning

So at the beginning of this year, I had the brilliant idea to reinvigorate this site. It clearly went well, with a grand total of zero posts to it since.

However, during that time, I've moved to the beautiful country of Scotland, and that has afforded me to further pursue another hobby of mine: whisky. This hobby has taken me down many avenues. Whisky bars, distilleries, special Societies, and like any good hobby, cost its fair share. I've learnt plenty, met some amazing people, and had a damn good time.

This sites new purpose will be to document this adventure: to keep track of things I've tried, places I visit. I might not be able to come up with notes like this guy, but who really needs that - I'll try to be light hearted and honest.

There will still be a few things about tech from time to time, because well, that's that I do. But for now, here's to a new beginning.