Peated to 167ppm then matured for six years in French Mourvedre, Austrian sweet wine and French Sauternes casks, before being finished in Amarone casks, Octomore 08.2 is a proper Peat Monster, bottled cask strength at 58.7% ABV.United Kingdom
Colour Ruby red
Nose Peat smoke first. Smoke weaves between red fruit, aniseed, barley sugar, stewed apple, raspberry, blackcurrant, dried apricots and chocolate. Orange, mince pies and Turkish delight then cherry wafers and coconut open to floral notes.
Palate Warming and sweet, deep fruit and satin-like smoke. The oak feels a little dry then lifts to become toasted bread, bubble-gum sweetness and strawberry Jam. Adding a drop or two of water opens up the Islay DNA of salt spray, ozone and citrus. As it opens you find rose petal, Turkish delight, praline and more strawberry jam, all the while the smoke is in the background holding everything together.
Finish Typical Octomore. Smoke comes through, a dry peat smoke, with malted barley and cherry, then goes out on its own...
So how did the Octomore story all start? When Bruichladdich was purchased by Mark Rainer (of wine fame) in 2000 he managed to convince revered Master Distiller Jim McEwan to join him, and then let him loose on the influence of what Bruichladdich was going to become.
Jim quickly set out to establish a heavily peated line as Bruichladdich was well known for being predominantly an unpeated whisky. Unfortunately, the local Port Ellen maltings was already running at capacity, so he had to go across to mainland Scotland to find a malting house to produce his peated whisky. He ended teaming up with Bairds Maltings in Inverness.
While most malting houses will add peat influence after the drying process by lighting a peat fire in a kiln under the barley and imparting the smoke for a few hours, Bairds had a special malting facility which included Saladin boxes. This enabled them to use peat as part the drying process, which lasts 2 days. The peat levels would get so high that they would cut the super heavily peated barley back with unpeated barley to achieve the correct specs of PPM (parts per million) that the distillery would require. It was during this process that Jim McEwan questioned how high they could get the peat levels?
Always willing to experiment, Bairds cranked the peat fires up and imparted maximum smoke influence on the barley. In doing so, each run of barley through the Saladin boxes will be slightly different in ppm. This gives each release a different level of smokiness imparted in the barley.
The result is what you see in the sleek black bottles today. Every year, Bruichladdich only distil super heavily peated barley for less than two weeks to put aside for the Octomore range.
They say it’s the impossible equation… that it shouldn’t work. And yet it does. Every year, Bruichladdich challenges preconceived notions of what quality whisky should be and how it should be made, while at the same time polarising opinions and exposing itself to criticism. And we’re all the better for it.
The annual Octomore series usually consists of four - though sometimes more, sometimes less - experimental, relatively young, and super heavily peated releases. Known for super high levels of peat, Octomore 08.3 set the record for the peatiest whisky produced in Scotland in 2017, coming in at 309.1PPM. By comparison, Bruichladdich’s own Port Charlotte, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, Laphroaig and many other well-known heavily peated malts range from 35 to 50PPM. PPM (parts per million) refers to the number of phenols imparted into the barley during the kilning stage of the malting process, as opposed to a measure of the smokiness of the finished product, but still, you get the picture.
In an effort to keep the whisky bold and brazen, and to maximise the peat levels before they diminish over time in the cask, Octomore whiskies are bottled relatively young of age, indeed as young as 3 years old. Bottled at cask strength, every Octomore delivers an unforgettable whisky experience.
As an annual release, the bottles follow a numerical naming scheme. It’s easy to decode when you know how. The first number is the number of the series, with each variant indicated by a decimal. So as a quick guide:
x.1 bottles are the benchmark release, offering context and easy comparison across the different editions, showing how each vintage is different. Clean and fresh, they’re matured in American oak ex-Bourbon casks, and are usually 5 years old.
x.2 are all about experimentation with wine cask maturations. The distillers are let loose to discover the influence from different spirit, types of oak, cask types and of course the previous occupants of the casks.
x.3 releases are all about Islay terroir. Always made with Islay barley, from the Octomore farm in the hills above the distillery, this Octomore has the truest Islay provenance.
x.4 bottles are always matured in virgin oak, however there’s always plenty of experimentation with different species of oak, as well as the toasting and sizes of the casks.
Sometimes there’s also a 10 Year Old release, which offers a chance to see how age is affecting spirit. The peat phenols soften as the years go by, and more time in the cask affects the overall balance of flavour in the whisky.
Originally a Travel Retail exclusive release, Australia's airports’ loss is our gain, as we’ve managed to snare some of the last remaining stocks Octomore 08.2 in the country.
Peated to 167ppm, Octomore 08.2 spent the first six years of its life in three different styles of wine cask. French Mourvedre, Austrian sweet wines, and French Sauternes before spending a further 2 years in Italian Amarone casks. Bottled at 58.7% ABV, you can expect to encounter waves of peat smoke mingling with red fruit, barley sugar, stewed apple, raspberry, blackcurrant, cherry wafers and coconut and a bubble-gum sweetness.
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Age: 8 Years Old
Maturation: Six years in French Mourvedre, Austrian sweet wine and French Sauternes casks, then finished in fresh Amarone casks for an additional two years.
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Bruichladdich (pronounced “brook-laddie”) distillery was established in 1881 by brothers William, John and Robert Harvey. The distillery is located on the shore of Loch Indaal on the Rinns of Islay and was Scotland’s and Islay’s westernmost distillery for many years before the recent establishment of Abhainn Dearg and Kilchoman.
The brothers came from a whisky dynasty of sorts, their family running two Glasgow distilleries since the 1770s. Using an inheritance and a bit of common sense, they combined their skills to establish Bruichladdich, which at the time was considered radically avant-garde on Islay. Robert, then a 23-year-old engineer, created a state of the art facility built around a large courtyard employing gravity to feed the mash to the spirit house, a stark contrast to the other distilleries on Islay which had grown out of farmyard operations.
While the distillery was designed and built by Robert, he never actually had the pleasure of running it. The brothers had a falling out before the build was even completed and it was William who ran it until his death in 1936. Since then Bruichladdich saw a revolving door of ownerships through to 1994 when Jim Beam acquired it and to the dismay of the locals mothballed it only a year later.
Bruichladdich’s and the local community’s fortunes were to change for the better however when it was bought in 2000 by a consortium led by Mark Reynier from independent bottler Murray McDavid. Mark employed local legend Jim McEwan, who had worked at nearby Bowmore since he was 15, as master distiller and production director and together they set about reviving Bruichladdich, and in so doing set the benchmark for successful distillery revivals. One of the first tasks was to dismantle and reassemble the entire distillery, retaining the Victorian décor and equipment. Remarkably Bruichladdich had somehow escaped modernisation over the years and is very much a living museum. Even today no computers or modern instruments are used in the distillery and most of the original Harvey equipment from 1881 is still very much in use.
2006 saw the release of the first bottling of malt made by the new owners and in 2012 French giant Remy Cointreau bought the distillery for £58m. The takeover provided the necessary funding to expand production and by 2013 Bruichladdich was running at full production. Today it’s the largest private employer on Islay, providing opportunity and a livelihood for some 80 islanders plus a host of allied contractors and local farmers.
While elements of Bruichladdich’s history may be familiar (established in late 19th century, multiple owners, expansion in ’70s, mothballing in ’90s, revival in ’00s), the distillery’s philosophy is singular throughout Scotland. Striking a fine balance between respect for traditional methods, faithfully using Victorian era equipment and an enquiring attitude, the self-styled ‘Progressive Hebridean Distillers’ introduced the concept of terroir to whisky making and are the only major distillery to distil, mature and bottle all of its stock on Islay, all of the time.
Terroir is well understood and applied in wine and cognac making but is largely ignored in whisky despite an obvious equal relevance. Terroir refers to the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop’s phenotype, factors such as growing environment, climate, timing and farming practices. Collectively these contextual characteristics are said to have a character referred to as terroir.
At Bruichladdich the team conduct a fascinating and ongoing exploration of the influence of terroir on finished spirit, using whiskies from various barley varieties, grown in different years on different farms to create excellent whiskies reflective of their provenance. To this end the team made commitments to Islay farmers who now grow barley exclusively for them (farms, farmers and even the fields in which the grain is grown are identified on the packaging where possible) enabling a single malt from 100% Islay barley for perhaps the first time in the island’s history.
Also very noteworthy is the distillery equipment and production method employed at Bruichladdich. As mentioned earlier there are no computers or modern instruments used in the production system, everything is done by hand and taste and much of the core equipment is the original from 1881, including the original seven tonne mashtun and two stills, believed to be the oldest in Scotland. Bruichladdich uses very tall and thin stills which produce a light, floral spirit, as much at odds with the rest of island’s stills today as they were in 1881.
All the distillery’s whiskies are sold as single malt under three distinct labels; Bruichladdich (unpeated), Port Charlotte (heavily peated) and Octomore (super-heavily peated – actually considered to be the most heavily peated single malt whisky in the world).
Origin: Bruichladdich PA49 7UN, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water Source: Octomore Farm spring
Washbacks: 6, Oregon pine (Douglas fir)
Stills: 2 wash and 2 spirit
Capacity: 1,500,000 litres of alcohol per annum