If you thought the Bruichladdich Black Art was an unusual whisky, then wait till you read about the Octomore in this Bruichladdich Octomore review. With the Bruichladdich Octomore, Bruichladdich has returned to their Islay heritage and created a peaty whisky that is young, brash, and highly experimental.
Because of a closure in 1994, Bruichladdich has had to adapt to having lots of very old whiskies that were stored from decades ago, a big gap in production, and a demand to create a young and enticing Islay malt. The Bruichladdich Octomore is the resulting product. But is it any good?
Table of Contents
Bruichladdich Octomore Review
About the Bruichladdich Distillery
Bruichladdich (pronounced Bru-ick Ladd-ick) is the English equivalent of the Gaelic Bruthach a’Chladaich which means the wide part of the shore. It was in keeping with its name that three brothers in 1881 set up the Bruichladdich distillery on the western coast of Islay.
Before the dream of Bruichladdich had even been realized though, sibling rivalry and a bitter family quarrel had forced two of the brothers out of the joint venture, leaving William Harvey as the sole remaining brother.
He successfully managed the distillery in its early years and because of its up to date technology (at the time Bruichladdich was about 50 years more up to date than other Islay distilleries) output was cost-effective and in abundance.
Bruichladdich thrived during the Victorian years and into the early twentieth century, that is until a fire in 1934 and the death of William Harvey in 1936, who had injected decades of passion into the project. Then things took a decidedly big turn for the worst and during the war, production at Bruichladdich was hampered by rationing.
This wasn’t uncommon and most Islay distilleries either stopped production during the Second World War or significantly reduced it, but after rationing ended, some fared better than others with resuming production. Bruichladdich was a struggling distillery because it didn’t have the clout and reputation of other Islay distilleries and it didn’t have healthy finances to tide it over.
This led to many sales of the distillery between investors and companies all trying to make a profit from Bruichladdich and all selling after realizing there was very little money to be made. Then in 1994, there was no money to balance the books and the distillery closed and stopped production. All that was left at Bruichladdich were warehouses filled with years of whisky produce that nobody wanted to buy.
That is until 2000 when a small group of investors bought the distillery and then pumped money into restoring the Victorian equipment to its former working glory. They also bought all the reserves that were stored in the warehouses which allowed them to hit the ground running and create a new aged whisky. The Bruichladdich Black Art.
These reserves would only last a set time though and it was up to Bruichladdich to come up with a younger and more accessible whisky to put out to Islay fans. That is where Bruichladdich Octomore comes into the picture.
Bruichladdich Octomore Review
As is typical with Bruichladdich, the Bruichladdich Octomore is a whisky that comes in many iterations and flavor profiles, and it all comes down to the year, version and bottling, plus what kind of dram you’re going to get.
Consistency isn’t the strong point of Bruichladdich and many of their whiskies are wildly inconsistent despite featuring the same name. Bruichladdich Octomore is no different, and you will have a different experience with each version.
One of the criticisms of the Bruichladdich Black Art whisky is that it isn’t representative of the Islay island. Bruichladdich decided to take this criticism and run with it, creating an extreme version of the Islay whisky, the Bruichladdich Octomore.
The Bruichladdich Octomore is a heavily peat-smoked whisky and while most Islay whiskeys sit at around 40-50 phenol ppm, the Bruichladdich Octomore averages double that.
That makes Bruichladdich Octomore one of the heaviest smoked peat whiskies and it isn’t something for the faint-hearted. It also isn’t something for those looking to get into smoky whiskies as Bruichladdich Octomore is not an easy drink for an unaccustomed palate.
Bruichladdich made a brave choice with the Bruichladdich Octomore as they put a young age on the bottle. Unlike the Ardbeg no age statement whiskies, which are also presumably young, Bruichladdich decided to embrace the young age and market it. This helped them gain fans as it was transparent and while everyone knows Ardbegs are likely very young whiskies, they refuse to confirm or deny it.
For this review, we will be focusing on the Bruichladdich Octomore 07.2 which is a 5-year matured whisky with a staggering 208 phenol ppm of smoke. Compared to Islay malts across the board, this puts the Bruichladdich Octomore at over 5 times more than the average Islay whisky for phenol ppm.
Lastly, before we get to the tasting, the Bruichladdich Octomore is named after a lost Islay distillery called the Octomore. No one knows exactly where this distillery stood, but it was famed for being the highest peated whisky on Islay, and in no small part, Bruichladdich Octomore aims to carry on that tradition.
Bruichladdich Octomore is an uncolored and non-chill-filtered whisky. Its appearance is pale and straw-like but that is to be expected from such a young whisky. Bruichladdich used Syrah (red grape) casks from California to get a bit more color into the whisky.
- Spoilt smoke smell like an abandoned ashtray
- Heavy peated flavor with a sweet lining
- Finish is short and smoky
Flavors: Heavy smoke, red grapes, summer berries, vanilla, oak
On the nose, it is all smoke. There isn’t any way of piercing the smoke really and even after a while in the glass the smoke persists heavily.
You imagine there are other smells in the background, some fruity berries, a bit of sea air. But because it is so densely smoky, you couldn’t ever say for sure that they are anything more than your imagination playing tricks on you.
Unlike a Laphroaig, the Bruichladdich Octomore doesn’t grab you and strangle you with its smokiness. It is more of a cold smokiness and doesn’t have the same aggressive warmth of Laphroaig 10.
Diluted, the smoky nose begins to fall back like curtains parting. It never leaves the stage though and you are still unsure of exactly what lies behind. Red grapes seem to jump out which is probably a characteristic imparted by the Syrah casks.
To taste, you should dilute the Bruichladdich Octomore to around 50% ABV as undiluted you are likely going to have a rough time, even if you are confident you can cope with the smoke. The smoke will be a hugely dominant flavor when drinking the Bruichladdich Octomore. There are small part players to the overall flavor: red grapes, lemon, and a bit of oaky bitterness.
The finish is short and like a final kick of smoke before the flavor leaves your tongue completely.
Pros and Cons of Bruichladdich Octomore
If you count yourself as a whisky drinker that loves really heavily peated whiskies, then you will no doubt fall in love with the Bruichladdich Octomore. For the rest of the whisky-drinking world, the Bruichladdich Octomore is going to be a drink you likely detest. Here are the pros and cons of Bruichladdich Octomore.
Pros of Bruichladdich Octomore
- Heavily peated and smoky which appeals to some.
- Nice heritage with a thoughtful whisky-making process.
- Attractive modern packaging and bottling.
Cons of Bruichladdich Octomore
- Most will instantly be put off by the smokiness.
- Really, really expensive for what it is.
- If you like one version, you might not like subsequent versions.
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Bruichladdich Octomore is unusual because it is classed as a super heavily peated whisky. When you compare that to Laphroaig it almost seems insane that Bruichladdich has gone further and put in over 200 phenol ppm to the dram. It is not easy to get that much into a whisky either as the process needs to be streamlined to achieve it.
But, smoke in whisky is just that, smoke in whisky. And most people won’t be able to tell one peat smoke flavor from the next, which means if you like Bruichladdich Octomore you will like:
Laphroaig 10 – A much better smoky experience for a fraction of the cost.
Lagavulin 16 – A wonderful whisky that has plenty of smoke but also has a full orchestra of additional flavors.
Caol Ila 12 – Is moderately smoky, has a better price point, and has additional flavors to get you exploring other whisky flavor notes.
The Bruichladdich Octomore Verdict
If you like smoky whiskies, you will have no doubt already come across Bruichladdich Octomore. If you are reading this review to find out about Bruichladdich Octomore, chances are that you’re not really inclined to drink the really peated stuff, because if you were, you would have found it already. But, on the off chance you haven’t, then this is great if you love really smoke-filled drams.
If not, give this a miss because it will put you off other less peated whiskies that have smoky components.