DIALOGOS: The Great Debate

IN

We often say Islay people are stubborn, resolute, practical. One step over from mainland civilisation, we pride ourselves on having a certain degree of logic and reasoning. But despite the pillars of our business being built on an Islay product, people and process, there’s little logic applied to our Octomore series. From the numbering system to how the characteristics translate to flavour, it is obtuse, enigmatic, even challenging.

.1, .2, .3, .4, 167ppm, 308ppm, 60.3%abv, 5yo, 8yo, 10yo, these alone are enough to isolate the novice from the world’s most heavily peated single malt series. You could argue that only those who have pushed beyond and joined the cult following of these beguiling products have earned the satisfaction of ‘knowing’.

On paper, the characteristics should not work. A youthful edge, super-heavy peat, upwards of 59% alcohol, there’s a huge risk of these whiskies being one dimensional, of them only being about the phenol level. And yet, after years of taming this spirit, we hope upon hope that this is not the case, that even followers themselves no longer rest their opinion solely on the PPM.

As the creators, we believe Octomore stimulates debate. It challenges the established preconceptions of single malt Scotch. It polarises opinion. Whether you’re for or against it, it’s surprising and has the ability to teach you something, even if that is what you don’t like. It’s an experience, beyond just a spirit in a glass.

We’ve taken a stab at explaining our take on Octomore. A three part series will be revealed in due course. But don’t just take our biased word for it. We want your take. We’re theoretically flinging open the floodgates, ready for your pure uncensored, honest opinion. It is equal parts thrilling and terrifying!

Tell us your favourite. Your worst. But more interestingly, tell us your take on the ideal age, the ideal peating level, with water or without, wood type, occasion. This conversation in itself is what keeps an otherwise dusty industry ALIVE.

Comment below, on social (use #octomoredialogos) or send a note on a postcard – we’ll curate the good, the bad and the ugly onto our debate ‘wall’ for the world to see.

Article comments

19 replies
  1. William Marshall
    William Marshall says:

    All I can add to the debate is that 3 years ago I didn’t like peaty whisky at all. I preferred the more easy drinking variety, but after gradually getting a taste for the peaty stuff (starting with Lagavulin) I began to crave more and more smokiness and more intense flavours. This journey can end only with Octomore. My ‘stock’ whisky I always have in the cupboard is a Port Charlotte 10, but when I really want to treat myself it is always an Octomore. I’m lucky enough to have a 7.3 at the moment, which is simply the best whisky I’ve ever had. I tasted it at a bar in London a few months ago and suspected this may be the case, but now I have my own bottle I’m sure of it. I’ve also previously owned a 6.1, which had very different characteristics, but for different reasons is the second best whisky I’ve ever had. I’ve also tasted the 9.3 on a recent trip to Edinburgh. I’d love to try and buy more of them (especially the 309 ppm 8.3), but for now I’ll cherish and make last for as long as I can my 7.3. For my tastes, this is as close to perfect as it gets.

  2. Athila Roos
    Athila Roos says:

    LESS IS OCTO-MORE

    Having been part of the drinks industry for a decent 14 years (most of which with a heavy wine focus), I believe that my palate has been challenged enough and tasted plenty to be at least a “fair judge” when it comes to tastings. My 7 years of “Sommelier-ing” when, on average, I would have tasted 4k+ wines on a single year, plus a few hundred spirits, have helped massively on fine tuning my somewhat survived tasted buds.
    It was back in 2012 if I recall when one of the best friends, back then our first encounter, who introduced me to the madness and wonders of Octomore. It was then the 6.1, Scottish Barley. We had agreed, many months after our first business meeting, to gather over the smoke of a cigar and the coat of a warming wee dram, to discuss life, whisky and the odd wine conversation. The beauty of the gathering started with the fact that my friend is a Scotsman from the Borders, and I’m a Brazilian with a love and curiosity for all things drinks. When we finally managed to put a date that would be suitable for both, we decided to invite a few other wine/whisky heads and ended up with a group of 6 fanatics, all of whom brought their own bottle of malt to be tasted blind, following a long wine dinner and of course a delicious and much needed cigar smoke.
    It must have been around February back then, because it was as cold as the Highland wind outside, yet we were braving the elements branding tobacco clubs in one hand, and whisky dram shields on the other. There were beautiful creatures jumping out of those glasses: some where floral and gentle (my 1st encounter with Laddie’s Bere Barley), others were peaty beasts with astronomic ambitions (Ardbeg Supernova 1999), but none had the utter compelling combination of muscle, youth & charm that this enigmatic black slender bottle unveiled. It was heady, perfumed, laced with buttery fudge & sweet peat. It had so much power, yet it remained so elegant. The alcohol spoke loudly of fruit and flowers, yet only whispered its burning soul. It was the first masterful concerto that had any peat-haters taking their clothes off and saying “I’m yours”. There was something so ethereal yet so palpable about that youthfulness that behaved like a wise old spirit. How could it be?
    The phenols of peat would normally start showing a lot more of the “smoke, tar & tobacco” notes after further ageing, so instead of waiting for that to end up covering all of the beauty of the young spirit, why not capture that moment in time and bottle it in its nearly untameable first few years? Well… that was, and still is, Octomore. To me, the essence of where “less is more”. You see, peat behaves like spice. There’s only so much of it that can or should be used. But under the masterful hands of the magicians working the pot still, they’ve understood that a very young and robust spirit will showcase it lush and sweet curves first, before unveiling the allure of peat. A vibrant and young beast of a whisky, covered in a single thick layer of peat-covered fur. No less, Octo-more.

    Athila Roos

  3. Alexander Wilhelmsen
    Alexander Wilhelmsen says:

    I live in Norway, where we have restrictions on alcohol contents, effectively anything above 60% ABV is illegal and unavailable. I can taste the *.2s and *.3s abroad if I’m lucking enough to find them but here they’re a nono. I do wish the .3s were at 60% or below. With the *.2s being travel exclusive we’re left with the *.1s
    At least I am able to get my hands on the 10yo and the *.1s

    I like the *.1s and wish the others were more readily available here.
    I think some sherry wood in the mix would be nice for the *.1s.

  4. Hugh Stimpson
    Hugh Stimpson says:

    I have tried a few Octomore releases. Typically it is like being punched in the face by a burning anaesthetist. Amazing stuff, and my own personal favourite!

  5. Kris Ong
    Kris Ong says:

    Being heavily into whisky tasting and nosing for the past 4years, I don’t consider myself an “expert” in any sense of the word, but having the octomore 7.1 as my first entry into your fabulous product, I was instantly hooked… It’s never about the Peat level, to me, your product delivers an experience that you need to close your eyes and savor all the flavors that come forth after every sip… I have since then purchased a bunch of octomores(when I can, since they’re sold out EVERYWHERE) and glad to say, have NOT been dissapointed… I applaud you and the team at bruichladdich for thinking outside the norms, being bold and creative and not afraid to put up the company’s reputation W each series released. You continue to change the game, and we’re all waiting to try the next series that comes out….. Slainthe

  6. Laurent MINOT
    Laurent MINOT says:

    I am a fan of bruichladdich and your octomore since I bought a 06.1 (I have a few drops left but I can’t empty my bottle because it represents a lot).
    The series follow one another and remain very good. When we talk about octomore, we expect peat and we have peat. It must not change under any circumstances.
    One of the most beautiful memories of my visit to Islay took place at the distillery when I had the chance to taste an octomore version of cask strenght just out of a pauillac barrel. Powerful and soft with a beautiful orange colour.
    Another beautiful moment took place in the visitor centre when a host (with fire hair) made us taste a magnificent OBA. I have told about this experience on my blog https://www.peatdream.com/english-version/oba/.
    I think it is absolutely essential to continue along this path, which allows your magnificent distillery to touch the excellence and minds of peat fans.
    slainte !!!

  7. Heiner Heseding
    Heiner Heseding says:

    This summer I had the chance to visit Islay and my most favourite distillery stood to the expectations. Having tasted the Octomores from 2.0 to 5.2 excitement was high, for the warehouse tasting included a barrell of an Octomore, as well as a Port Charlotte and a Laddie of high age. What a surprise to find out, that this Octomore barrell was the one left over from the bottling of 5.2 Orpheus, the one my friend and I had tasted and emptied some while ago. To taste what further maturation has given to the liquid was extraordinary. A moment in time I will remember in years to come. Give us more peat, more aroma and more Octomore. The iron fist with the velvet glove striked gently again.

  8. Rombout Mastenbroek aka iLaddie
    Rombout Mastenbroek aka iLaddie says:

    I find the entire range of Octomore very educational. I have purposely bought the LaddieMP6 drams so I could learn from the different cask types. I used the enthusiasm of Carl to get answers to how Octomore get’s so peaty in the first place. This makes Octomore one of the most educational drams for me. This year I plan to educate myself about the terroir of Barley. I plan to again source the needed whisky in order to educate myself. If you have any information for me that would help me understand Terroir of Barley even better I would Highly appreciate the information.

  9. David Ray
    David Ray says:

    Befor Octomore, i only occasionally drank whisky. After watching a Munchies Guide to Scotland, my father baught me a bottle of 6.1 for my birthday. I was totally unprepared for what lay inside that bottle. 167ppm, 57% ABV. I only had scotch but once before, of a much friendlier variety. But this, this was a monster. Billowing smoke, and alcohol. Like an old permanent marker left open inside a small, charred box. I had to step back, a month passed before my next pour, suddenly past the heavy smoke was a lightly-salted malty sweetness I didnt expect, each sip that followed was an adventure. It might ruin my sense of taste for the rest of the night, but I’ll always come back to it when nothing else will do.
    8.1 is truly amazing, how only 3 more years can tame such a beast, not in its intensity, but in its presentation.
    9.1 Is truely it’s own, and the surprising pepper & spice i get on its finish always surprises me.

    8.2 is currently stashed away for safe keeping till my next Birthday. Im truely excited to try something that’s so elusive.

    10 was ordered this morning, i have no idea what go to expect when i finally crack open the bottle, but I know it will be nothing short of spectacular.

  10. jmallios
    jmallios says:

    First of all, apologies for site content and tasting notes in Greek (still, some google translation will do), but we are a Greek Society and forum.
    From Orpheus to Feis Ile 2014 and independent bottlings, Octomore is (at least to say) different.
    This time, we are also proud to have a Greek word used in order to describe how the cask interacts with the spirit, how the “one night what if joke” became reality and – what I could possibly describe as – on of the most demanding malts around the globe.
    Time, respect, open mind and willing to take a different road is needed to actually appreciate Octomore. Looking forward to receive Octomore 10 διαλογος and get back to the debate wall to add tasting notes, this time also in English.
    Till my next time to Laddie,

    Slainte

  11. Gerrit Hoek
    Gerrit Hoek says:

    Always been a peat lover. A few year i had to taste the Octomore 1.1. It was perfection to me. A great whisky. You want peat , you get peat! Please stay with the basic and don’t make it a commercial hype. The whiskylovers know what to expect when they buy Octomore!

  12. Christian Greus
    Christian Greus says:

    2007 I took my first steps on Bruichladdich soil and thats were Its all started, and the steps Is still goes forward against the unsolved magic laddiefuture. From not even liked whisky, to take those steps, taste the golden magic drops and breathe that laddiespirit, that spirit Is nothing you just make, do or can buy, that Is something Bruichladdich are.
    The Octomore Is a part of just that.ä spirit. Those golden drops and scent not just fill your body with a warm feeling but fills the whole room with that Bruichladdich spirit… and the steps goes on…

  13. STEVEN JEPSON
    STEVEN JEPSON says:

    My ultimate joy celebrating my 60th Birthday with a pub crawl in Huddersfield finishing at The Grove and requesting “a really peaty” whisky only to be asked which of these two Octomore’s would I like!

  14. Frank Bormann
    Frank Bormann says:

    With dram of Octomore I clearely can see the shores of Loch Indaal with its waves and amazing views. Slainte Mhath.

  15. Pavel Amiridis
    Pavel Amiridis says:

    Although I have been aware of Octomore’s existence almost since the first edition launch, for a long time I have either considered it a bit out of my budget or, perhaps more accurately, I have been more of a wine person those days. Until one day in 2016, I assume, when I was sitting in a newly opened scottish/irish-themed pub in my hometown Brno, CZ, seeing Octomore 7.2 on the bar…. well, what the hell, let’s taste it at least (I bet you can guess the rest of the story;-) Since then, I have managed to taste a vast majority of the releases, bought a good amount of bottles, studied a vast load of s..t about Bruichladdich and Islay in general and have literally fallen in love. I whole-heartedly hope, that bloody brexit will not prevent me from at least visiting the marvellous place, not to mention get an adequate amount of interesting bottles back home. As this debate is dedicated to the peat monster, I will not elaborate on the other multi-layered treasures (such as Black Arts or Micro prov.). Many of the Octomore releases treated my taste buds miraculously, but if I had to choose one, that really stays in my heart and soul and, that one, that should last forever, I would never like to part with 8.2. Although a bit less peated to particularly please the tongues of the hardcore peatheads, it reveals so many wonders for me, that I could nose and taste it forever. Thank you and bless the hands and minds of all your staff, because they are my personal lightbringers.

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