What we drink: Octomore 12.1, 12.2 and 12.3
Where is that from : A limited edition annual edition from Bruichladdich, a distillery relaunched in 2001 and located at the southern end of the Hebrides archipelago in Scotland. Octomore was once considered “the world’s peatiest single malt”, but it goes beyond those claims.
The Islay Distillery focuses on the local terroir, the use of over 200 different types of casks and the use of traditional methods to achieve their goals. In addition, they aim to reach more than 100 PPM (parts per million, a number corresponding to the phenol content of the alcohol), because even if the smoke is not the all reason to exist, it is still an important part of the MO of Octomore.
Why do we drink these: Octomore started out as “How can you make peaty whiskey?” How to push the limits? as master distiller Adam Hannett reminds us during a Zoom tasting.
But that was in 2002, when it was first distilled (and released in 2008). For the twelfth edition, and through each edition since this first release, Octomore has become much more than a simple smoke bomb. Although the way he achieves this annual result is not always traditional. “We have a lack of consistency between the versions,” explains Hannett. “It’s a bit unusual in the whiskey industry.”
It’s kind of a fun way of saying that Octomore from year to year, and even in expressions of a single year of release, will show some drastic differences at times. As usual, these are relatively young whiskeys (5 years and over) bottled by force of the cask. While Octomore had a PPM in the 300 range, this year’s range is 118-130.
The key question here is, can we find new flavors behind the smoke?
How they taste:
12.1: Elegant and almost dessert, with notes of caramel, fruit, lemon and candied orange, with a little salinity. Aged in old American oak barrels, it’s a peaty scotch that a bourbon fan will treasure.
12.2: Aged for 3.5 years in ex-American oak barrels then another 18 months in ex-Sauternes barrels. The extra time that has mixed with the wood that has retained a mellow dessert wine offers a smoother profile at the start, at least on the nose. There is a sweet, almost juicy side here, with notes of honey, melon, vanilla, coconut and butterscotch. Complex and ever-changing, and also a little oily – and even a tiny drop of water adds new layers – this is the Octomore you’ll want to explore the most.
12.3: Using barley grown in Islay a few miles away, this whiskey is 75% filled in old American oak barrels and 25% fully aged in old Pedro Ximenez solera barrels. Given where the barley was grown and the warehouse located, the maritime notes (read: salty, brackish) here are not surprising, nor are the dried fruit and raisin notes from the old casks of sherry. A drought comes at the end, and the smoke is a bit more subtle (at 118.1, this is the lowest PPM of the three versions, although conversely it has the highest ABV). Certainly interesting, this one depends almost entirely on your love of the influence of sherry.
Fun fact: Barley for 12.3 is grown on Church Field at Octomore Farm by a farmer named James Brown.
Where to buy them: 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3 are available for $ 199, $ 234, and $ 259, respectively, from select retail.
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