I quite adore the Octomore line up from Bruichladdich. As one who considers himself as a peathead, having a unique extremely highly peated whisky line is nothing less than a blessing. I tasted and reviewed a few Octomores and I always look forward for new expressions to see what else do they have in their tricks bag.
The latest Octomore release was in late 2015; the Octomore 7.4. It’s the first time that Bruichladdich has reached the x.4 number for an Octomore release. Here’s a quick primer for you: the x.1 represents the ‘natural’ (bourbon casks) release, x.2 represents the wine finish, x.3 which is a relatively recent addition is the Islay (local) barley variant and now we have x.4 – the Virgin Oak variant.
This time it’s not a simple and straightforward case of putting an Octomore spirit (at 167 ppm) into Virgin Oak casks and bottling them 7 years later, oh no. Instead, it’s a a combination of 25% full-term maturation in virgin oak casks and 75% that were matured for 3 year in first fill ex-bourbon casks, transferred for 2 years in virgin oak casks and then finished for another 2 year in first fill bourbon. So Octomore 7.4 is 7 years old instead of the customary 5 years old we are used to see and should boast a fruity and sweet profile.
Why the change? what made Adam Hannett and the Bruichladdich team change the formula?
Fortunately, we do have some insight into the process here as some casks of 7yo Octomore fully matured in Virgin Oak casks were on public tasting in the months leading to the official release. Thanks to the Bruichladdich team and a friend, I managed to taste such a cask that was showcased in Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2015 event:
Bruichladdich Octomore 2008 single cask #1202 from Feis Ile 2015 (64.4%)
Nose: Very closed and muted at first due to the high ABv but slowly heavy sweetness develops along with heavy flowered meadow, apricots and peaches grove, burnt toffee, a bit over-burnt caramel, coals and wood smoke, late night bonfire remnants, almost not peated after the active cask robbed the phenols for 7 years.
Palate: Oh, here’s the peat! Very sweet and fruity with the apricots and peaches in full force, a bit of wood smoke, salt and bubble gum.
Finish: Medium-long length with lingering sweetness, sweet peat in the background and smoke (mostly wood smoke).
As you can see it’s a bit funny (or weird if you wish to call it so) Octomore and definitely not in line with the previous Octomore releases. But how does it compares to the official release?
Nose: Sweet fruit but comparing to the single cask it’s one level down, still full of apricots and peaches but this time with more sweet peat, more in line with previous Octomores with peat smoke compared to the wood smoke of the single cask, toffee, overall still intense but it’s more gentle and harmonic.
Palate: Balance of sweet fruit and sweet peat with a heap of cured meat on top which was sorely missed from the single cask.
Finish: Very long finish with cured meat, coffee, sweet peat smoke and big time fruitiness.
Thoughts: Oh wow, the official Octomore 7.4 is nothing short of a brilliant whisky. The combination of the intense whisky with heaps of peat and fruits works so well here. No wonder Adam Hannett went this route with a different formula as bottling fully virgin oak casks matured Octomore would lead to a different beast unlike any previous Octomore. I love the final result and it’s highly recommended if you can stand the price tag.
(Official sample from Bruichladdich Distillery)