I am so incredibly grateful that I didn’t get a chance to taste this until now, I would have liked it for reasons I’d be ashamed of now.
There is so much to say about this whisky and distillery that it’s hard to start. When I started my whisky journey, like most newbs I went for the distinctly unique single malt whiskies. If it was bold, I probably liked it. Then, as with most enthusiasts, the more I sampled, the more I started listening out for the whisper, not the roar. What I learnt is that peat for peats sake is a bit pointless, and probably ruins good whisky.
The Octomore 6.1 (Scottish Barley), is the heaviest peated whisky in the world.
To give you some idea, Laphroaig uses around 40-43ppm of phenols* (click here to read below quick) in their whiskies, and they’re know to be quite peaty. The Octomore has 167ppm. This doesn’t mean it’s double, or triple the smoke, it doesn’t work like that, but it does mean there is more smoke.
Miraculously, it doesn’t beat you to the ground with a burning brick of peat. Yes, they probably made it 167ppm so it would be the a world’s most heavily peated whisky – that’s just good PR. However, they somehow concocted it in such a way that you would think they almost did it by accident. It’s as if they kept building it and building it, layer after layer, using the smokiness to give it structure, and then filling it with vanilla, ginger, and fruit. The smoke is there for a reason beyond itself.
To me it’s a well mixed album where you can hear everything clearly, with the smoke being a solid drummer that holds the band together, and gives the rest the space to showcase their talents. Some of my best friends are solid drummers. I like this whisky.
The Octomore 06.1 is only 5 years old. I really thought it was older, and got me thinking about Bruichladdich – I might be wrong about this, but they seem to shy away from allowing age to be used as a stamp of status. In a way, and I might be wrong for a 2nd time in this paragraph, but people that drink Bruichladdich tend to be a little like Subaru drivers. Never was a Subaru bought because it looked pretty. Who seriously would, honestly now? They are bought by engineers with a mad streak, who love cars and their possibilities – they are incredibly passionate about them. That being said I definitely think Bruichladdich’s design is porn for most creatives (especially the Classic Laddie.) The shape of the Octomore bottle gives me chills. The design makes me want to do things. I will leave it at that.
The Octomore deserves more attention than just being the most heavily peated. I’ve had whiskies that felt smokier, and left me dry-mouthed, and disheartened. This is not one of those whiskies. The underlying feeling I keep getting is that this is a new wave of whisky, clear of the clutter of old status symbols, asking to be judged on it’s merits alone and not how old it is. The more I learn about the distillery the more I get the impression that they are respecting a very old practice (they have way more workers than they need, just to do it the old way), while passionately exploring what’s possible. Jim McEwan (the Master Distiller) is a mad scientist, and I can not wait to see what he does next.
[Note: I was given a bottle of the Octomore 6.1 but all thoughts and sentiments are my own. A massively huge thanks to Phil Voget – I will name my first child Phil, even if it’s a girl! ]
I hope you try this out and let me know what you think – as always comments are welcomed and encouraged.
*Phenols are aromatic compounds that are created when Peat is burnt. Then during the drying process, the barley will absorb these phenols. The longer the malted barley is exposed to the smoke, the more infusion takes place. (click here to carry on ready above)