Q: When a whisky is aged in multiple casks, is it important how the spirit is transferred between casks?
A [AH]: No, it doesn’t really matter. It is quite robust.
Q: Is there a trade-off between the older Octomore and the PPM? Why don’t you go for older than a 12-year-old Octomore. Is it to keep the distinct character of the high PPM?
A [AH]:It’s mainly because we don’t have vast stocks of Octomore to be able to release it from, so we haven’t been able to do that. The idea with the 12s was that we would release the 12-year-olds but we didn’t have enough stocks to be able to do it. We can’t go back and make it, therefore it was a 10-year-old.
In terms of PPM, yes the PPM it will be different, the flavour will be different. Tasting this at 10 you get a lot more – because the spirit is in contact with the wood for longer – you are developing more flavours and drawing more from the wood so when you taste it the peat is not lost in there, but it has more flavour to contend with so the balance of flavours is different. I don’t think that’s a good or a bad thing, but it’s just the balance is what it is.
Q: What steps are taken throughout the production process to manipulate/mellow or lessen the high levels of peat in the grain used for Octomore?
Email, Simon Lawry
A[AH]: In the process we have for making whisky – whether Port Charlotte or Octomore – it’s about making the very best spirit. Over 140 years, when you think about what we do today, it isn’t really new. Back in 2001 when the distillery reopened, it was the same team, making the same whisky in the same way. So, you taste all Bruichladdichs, they have always been of the same purity, of the same quality.
We maybe have the freedom, or the ability to focus more on the quality of the barley and the quality of the casks than previously but in terms of distilling the spirit it’s always been done with quality in mind. So, you’ve got a long fermentation. That old mashtun is slow, it’s gentle, it’s extracting the sugar, nothing is forced. The distillation process again is slow, it’s about balance, it’s about contact with the copper, it’s about accentuating the high neck of the still. Bruichladdich has always been known as a very pure spirit.
With Octomore, what we’re trying to do is not get something peatier we’re actually trying to distill again that quality of spirit and see where the peat fits in that picture. If you start manipulating, for example, the distillation cuts to get more phenols through (the phenols come through towards the end of the distillation of spirit, so into the feints) you could get feint-ier whisky, that could be smokier or peatier, but won’t have that purity and that elegance. So for me, the most important thing is to retain that distillery character – that quality, that purity, that elegance – and where the peat smoke fits, is where the peat smoke fits.
That’s how we end up with Octomore and people will nose it, and taste it and the peat isn’t aggressive, it’s not dominant, it’s got balance. On the finish is where you get that tremendous length of peat smoke. It’s partly about the distillation – it’s about the natural oils, the level of phenols, the type of phenols that come through. There’s a subtle balance of, are we controlling the process or are we manipulating it to be something? The cuts are the same, we are not trying to do anything to get more peat.