This month our Scotch Whisky Editor at Large Joe Micallef tackled the huge task of reviewing the Octomore series of ultra-peaty whiskies from Bruichladdich. In part three of our three part series, he dives into the bottlings themselves in these Octomore whisky reviews, along with thoughts on how to drink this whisky for yourself. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.
In general, Bruichladdie’s Octomore range features whiskies that are intensely smoky, with the concentrated, phenolic, and medicinal quality long characteristic of Islay whiskies. Octomore, however, is more than just your typical Islay whisky on steroids. To appreciate it fully requires both concentration and discipline.
First of all, resist the temptation to treat it as an exercise in a Jägermeister-inspired shot frenzy. This is not the highest and best use of Octomore, and will deprive you of its subtlety and nuance. Yes, a super heavily peated whisky can have subtlety and nuance, but only if you know how to drink it.
Also, forgo the ice. Chilling Octomore will suppress the lighter floral and fruitier elements and emphasize the smoke and phenol. This will reduce the nuance and complexity the whisky offers and make it a one-dimensional smoke and phenol bomb.
Begin by putting a small quantity, say a tablespoon, of Octomore in a standard Glencairn whisky glass. A brandy snifter will also work particularly well in this case. Rotate the glass so a thin film of whisky is spread along the inside. There should be little or no whisky left at the bottom of the glass. Nose the glass. Initially you will be overwhelmed by smoke, bordering on char, and the medicinal phenolic aroma of classic Islay whisky.
That initial rush, while it never entirely disappears, is replaced in succession by a long progression of aromas. Depending on the particular Octomore expression, these will range from red, green and stone fruits to a broad range of floral and herbal aromas followed by notes of wood spice and vanilla, not to mention a few other somewhat bizarre aromas that don’t quite fit the usual whisky aroma lexicon.
This is what the Octomore connoisseurs can look forward to as they enjoy, slowly, their dram of Octomore. If there is ever a Scotch whisky to drink slowly, it is the Octomore. Its complexity and subtlety will introduce you to a hitherto unknown sophistication in Islay whisky.
And with all of this, I now give you my capsule reviews of the Octomore whisky bottlings. You can click on any of the below to begin and then use the navigation arrows to move between reviews. Within each review box you can scroll the text of the review up and down. Should you want to buy the whisky which you’ve just read about, we’ve also provided a link to an affiliate partner at the end of each review to help get your search started.
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Joseph V. Micallef is a historian, best-selling author, keynote speaker and commentator on wine and spirits. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and has also appeared on a variety of broadcast venues including, CNN, Fox News and Fox News Radio. He has frequently spoken on the history...