Whisky Review Round Up: Bruichladdich Octomore 09.1, 09.3

Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by Bruichladdich. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

When I seek out buying a bottle of scotch, Bruichladdich ranks in my top three distilleries. I have been labeled as a “bog witch,” and most recently a “peat princess,” and the Bruichladdich Octomore editions are right up my alley. The last time I had the Octomore 09.3 was accidentally in a Rob Roy, the most expensive cocktail I have ever purchased, so I am happy to revisit it unadulterated.

Bruichladdich offers Scotches ranging from unpeated (Bruichladdich label) to peated (Port Charlotte) to very peated (Octomore).  Octomore is actually a farm that once housed a distillery of its own, but now it supplies all the barley used for the Bruichladdich Octomore editions.  What makes this barley different is that Bruichladdich asked that it be smoked with as much peat as possible. For comparison, the Port Charlotte labels are 40 PPM, but the Octomore can be upwards of 300 PPM. 

PPM on a scotch label is similar to IBU on a beer label. However, instead of measuring bitterness, the PPM is phenol parts per million. While PPM is a measurement of smokiness, it actually doesn’t refer to how smoky the whisky in the bottle is, but rather the smoke in the barley. So if you are a peat lover, or know someone who is, look for a bottle with an extremely high PPM like the Octomore Edition 09.1 or 09.3.

The Octomore 09.x line up (image via Bruichladdich)

Tasting Notes: Bruichladdich Octomore Edition 09.1

Vital Stats: 59.1% ABV. 133 PPM. Aged 5 years in ex-American whiskey casks. 750mL ~$175.

Appearance: Pale straw/golden wheat field.

Nose: The nose is pretty light despite the smokiness. I get a heavy cereal note mixed with honey. Lots of orange blossom hits the nose. Really musky with deep earth and soil notes.

Palate: Warm oily mouthfeel is noticeable right of the bat. Malt is forward on the tongue, with quite a bit of brown sugared oatmeal or granola bar. There is some subdued toffee notes. A little floral bouquet peeks through with peony, chrysanthemum, and dandelion. For the finish, I get dry coffee bean. 

Final Thoughts: It doesn’t drink as hot as I thought it would given the high ABV. I love the complexity of the Octomore 09.1 with the subtle sweetness and malted cereal notes. The smoke keeps to a minimum, but this Islay slays. The point of Octomore was to experiment and create a dialogue about the craft of making scotch, and the finesse the 09.1 displays is worth a conversation. 

Score: 4.5/5

Tasting Notes: Bruichladdich Octomore Edition 09.3

Vital Stats: 62.9% ABV. 156 PPM. Aged 5 years in a combination of ex-American whiskey casks and French wine casks. 750mL ~$230.

Appearance: 18k gold.

Nose: Low smoke and peat compared to the 09.1. The nose on this one is so complex and layered. It starts with honey nut Cheerios, and then weaves in and out of earthy umami tones. It’s musty and reminds me of old books in a library. I get mushroom and subdued honey that is mixed with orange peel. On the end, I pick up fresh whipped cream made with Madagascar vanilla.

Palate: Hot and oily mouthfeel, which is definitely more high-octane than the 09.1, but is nice and warming rather than a straight up burn. It’s smoky and rich with vanilla. While it isn’t viscous, I get a sense of simple syrup. A little citrus peel pops up at the beginning, but then it dissipates. Some baking spices surface among the middle, which adds extra heat in the middle. You can taste the influence of the French wine casks.

Final Thoughts: Comparing both the Bruichladdich Octomore Edition 09.1 and 09.3 is like comparing apples to oranges. They are very different from one another, and the higher octane 09.3 is hot but chock-full of flavor. I do like this one a little more because of the higher smoke, and the terroir and earthiness. 

Score: 5/5