Octomore Eights – a Masterclass


The spirit of Octomore has been defying logic for over fifteen years. The “what if” moment that once seemed almost absurd has progressively morphed into something endlessly alluring. It begat liquid like no other, an elusive collection, the stuff of legend.

Now, suddenly, there are eight. Led by the structural brilliance of 08.1, we can pause at this symbolic moment to enjoy a single malt masterclass. The experimental ethos, the muscular quality, is still very much to the fore, but there is enlightenment now, a sure-footed confidence. 08.1 is the necessary benchmark, the launch pad from which others can only follow. Here is our first encounter with the colossal numbers, and the epiphany that follows the cork being lifted. Are the numbers a distraction? For it appears there is to be no ordeal by fire, no unbearable assault on the senses. 08.1 reveals the astonishing subtlety of our phenolic universe, leading us along a pathway into a world like no other.

Initiation brings provocation. All of the opulent spirit in 08.2 spent the first six years of its life in one of three different styles of wine cask. French Mourvedre – a red wine grape that has a reputation for producing intense red fruit, and strong, earthy, even gamey flavours. Austrian sweet wines – full bodied and charming with an ability to challenge convention with innovative techniques. French Sauternes – casks from the Graves section in Bordeaux that previously held some of the most revered and exclusive dessert wines the world has ever seen. All the above were second fill casks which had calmed the wood perfectly in preparation for a longer maturation with the mighty Octomore before being aced into fresh Amarone casks for a period of two years before bottling.

Octomore Edition 08.2

Initiation and provocation is followed by challenge. Growing barley on Islay is always difficult and yields are low.

The autumn of 2010 was wet and windy. A late harvest saw Octomore farmer James Brown facing heavy losses from greylag geese and herds of wild red deer. All of which meant that there was very little of his precious barley available. But something phenomenal was to happen. Malting the 2010 Octomore grain produced results that were unprecedented. Using HPLC (high-performance-liquid-chromatography) the readings came back at 309.1ppm. The nature and variety of Octomore depends on far more than simply numbers, but these were staggering. Off the scale. Following a carefully controlled trickle distillation, the wood used to mature this extraordinary spirit was 56% first-fill bourbon with the balance being made up of ex-Pauillac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy casks. It is released at five years old because important though these casks are, in 08.3 it is the barley and the immense power of peat that are flexing the muscles of youth.

08.4 is a gamechanger. The effect of virgin oak on spirit can be dramatic. How do you control the immense sensory forces in play while retaining the subtle complexity which built the reputation of Octomore?
The solution demands a complex cask management system. Although all the spirit in 08.4 is eight years old, just 20% has been held full-term in virgin oak. 80% was originally introduced to American oak, first-fill ex bourbon casks, before being transferred into the european virgin oak that had previously held Octomore 07.4. The cooperage (“tonnellerie”) used to build these casks is based in Jonzac, France. Tonnellerie Radoux is a company that takes immense pride in its work, from the provenance and traceability of the timber used, to its seasoning and final selection. Developed by some of the world’s most highly skilled oenologists, the specific toast profile, or ‘bousinage’, is also vital to the creation of these great casks.

More details of the Octomore Eights:

Octomore 08.1 

Octomore 08.2

Octomore 08.3

Octomore 08.4

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