Earlier this year, the progressive distillers of Bruichladdich have released their Octomore Eights series, 4 heavily-peated whiskies following the path of their smoky predecessors but one of them took peat to a whole new level… Let’s have a look at Octomore 8.3, said to be the most peated whisky in the world with 309 PPM on the label !
(New to whisky and want to know what the fuck is peat exactly and how it adds those delicious smoky notes to your whisky? Check my #BackToWhiskyBasics lesson!)
“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.” (read more)
So, Octomore 8.3 : ultimate Islay whisky or overwhelming ashtray?
Nose: Oh well… Hello Mister Peaty McPeat. Once past the smoky cloud, strong notes of oak start appearing along with sticky toffee pudding, treacle, vanilla, brown sugar, driftwood and herbal honey. There’s also something rather vegetal, with heather and pine resin. The last aromas I’ll get from this nose are some underlying hints of tropical fruits and cooked peaches.
Palate: Surprising. Again, the peat influence is definitely showing, stronger than ever, and it would take me a few sips before deciphering other aromas. That’s when I started getting red berries, quickly followed by hot and sweet spices, oak, golden syrup and a whole coastal field of wind-swept heather. The palate is herbal, smoky and coastal but also kinda sweet with chocolatey notes and crème brûlée.
Finish: beauty and the peat.
I’m glad to say this 309 ppm on the label isn’t just there as a record statement in some sort of marketing bait, this expression is definitely heavily peated but you can still get a wealth of aromas in the background. The maturation in different types of casks has probably a lot to do with this, aging it only in a classical bourbon barrel for the same amount of time would have been completely different in the mouth – the Bruichladdich guys know their craft ma’am ! (Oh and yes, I’m a fangirl #SorryNotSorry).
Also, as you may or may not know, “ppm” refers to the concentration of peat in the barley and not in the final product you’re sipping. And a lot happens after distillation and within the cask, do not pay too much attention to those “ppm”, a 50ppm can for instance feel smokier than a 100+ ppm if aged differently 😉
Pssst! PUT YOUR HANDS ON IT TOO WHILE IT’S STILL AVAILABLE !