Sad fact of life – there is a lot of ugliness in the world.
From Hitler’s Nazi Germany to 9/11 and Bin Laden to that girl I met online all of those years ago that had a hump on her back, bad breath and broccoli in her teeth, the world can be an ugly place.
However, there is a lot of beauty as well.
From a young boy helping an elderly woman across the road to the wonders of new life and happy parents to One Day at a Time’s Valerie Bertinelli (she’s the young one in the middle, if you’ve never seen the show):
Boy, did I have a crush on her back in the day!!
Yes, the world can be beautiful and have gorgeous things in it. Today’s pageant winner is the new Octomore Comus 4.2.
Bottled at 61%ABV, this 5yo was matured in French Oak/Sauternes casks and apparently peated to 167ppm. Sweet Yoheved, mother of Moshe! That is a heavy peating level!
Let’s see what happens when you take *heavily* peated spirit and mature it in French Oak/Sauternes casks for five years:
On the nose – The canister and bottle say so. Bruichladdich’s website and marketing materials echo it. Various webshops concur. The barley for this here Octomore was peated to 167ppm prior to distilling.
Well, heck if I can smell 167ppm worth of peating here.
It’s no doubt a peaty/smoky beast but, my face did not catch fire when sniffing at this whisky…
There’s smoke in here for sure but I’m also taken by crushed almonds and buttered biscuits.
A very briny nose as well – salted porridge.
Hard red plum minus the tartness.
Wow, the toasted biscuits with slightly darker edges really captures my attention.
There’s a spiciness here that flirts with cigarette smoke and a touch of salted black licorice in the background…
On the mouth – Like drinking one of Marc Bolan’s powder blue velvet suits – the mouth is incredibly soft and silky. Almost honey like. I’m reminded a bit of the mouthfeel on Glenmorangie’s Pride (another Sauternes casked whisky). Remarkable mouthfeel.
A good deal of smoke upfront however this relents to waves of golden raisin, coconut, chocolate…. hermit bars.
Pears and apple are here too but not the tell tale pear and apple from a young whisky – this seems cask driven as it’s not spirity, if you catch my meaning.
Slightly buttery (maybe it’s just a mouthfeel thing…)
A bit spicy, more nutty notes (walnuts this time) and cooked and candied lemons.
Finish – Shortish with fruity & smoky notes. There is brine and spice that stays on the back of the tongue.
In sum – This Octomore offers up balance and beauty like none before it. Yes, the other Octomores I’ve had are/were very nice and well constructed but the Comus is above and beyond… a cut above, the big cheese, the head honcho, numero uno (sorry, I let my inner love for Airplane come out there).
One would never know this is 61%ABV. Wonderful at cask strength. Celebrate with this.
If you have nothing to celebrate – make something up… It could be national “That’s what she said” day for all I care.
This whisky is so worth your time.
Truthfully, one of the best whiskies I’ve had year to date.
Special thanks to PJ, DF & EC of Bruichladdich for their tremendous hard work to get me the sample!!
*Special-Special* thanks goes out to ParcelForce for getting me the package in record time! The sample was sent from the UK on Friday afternoon and arrive at my house on Monday afternoon. THAT’S service!!
I had a “sit” and a “think” the other day and wondered if I could explain Islay distilleries and their whiskies, specifically to people that are new to whisky, by way of Rock and Roll; which is a universal language. Right?
Sure, scientists will say that math is the universal language. If that’s so, why did we send a Rolling Stones tune into outer space? Answer me that. It’s not Freakonomics, it’s Jaggernomics is what it is!
So, let’s see if this works out. I’ll go over the eight existing distilleries and make my comparisons… First the whisky review then the Rock Band comparison. Cool? Cool.
On the nose – Whoa. Huh. Interesting. This is huge. We’re talking huge.
I’m not sure what has the most influence – the levels of phenol (peated to 140ppm) or the wine finish (Petrus). Lots of root vegetables with parsnip seeming to win that battle.
Fresh soil and port wine spice. Grape jam, sweetened overly so.
No smoke whatsoever, this is peat. Peat and a bit herbaceous, briny capers too.
Currently, I’m sitting outside and with the sun on me and the cool breeze… I could nose this forever. The day is perfect and this is shining even more so because of the day.
With water, there are some fantastic coastal elements that come to the fore. Salty sand castles, browning apples, ocean stones. I am LOVING this with water!
On the mouth – A numbing quality upfront that forces the focus on the finish rather than the flavors upfront. I need to give this some time and a second go… An elusive whisky, aren’t you??
Very ashy for sure after the 3rd sip, and once it’s noticed it’s a bit of an affront. *However*, there are these fine wine influenced notes that offer up some tanniny grape skins (think dark Rose where they use a better part of the skins in production).
Very creamy, ooey. Yummy. Me likey. Reminds me a bit of an heavily peated Black Arts (that Bruichladdich spirit quality shines through).
The addition of water brings out notes of chocolates and spent welding flux. The mouthfeel becomes massive with a dash water.
Finish – Heavy wine influence, good wine influence. Not very long though…
In sum – Don’t let the high ABV and 140ppm peating level scare you off (if those do in fact tend to scare you off). All it takes is a dash of water to subdue this baby and s/he will be yours. Big, powerful and full of character. If you can find some, grab some and enjoy sparingly. A dram will go a long way. I envision many wonderful conversations being had over a dram of this whisky!
Special thanks to Ronnie R for the sample!!
Gal of Whisky Israel reviewed this one quite a while back as a head-to-head review with Octomore 2.1 and it’s well worth a read!
Bruichladdich – the band! — Man, this is an easy one for me. Sex Pistols. Simple. Easy. Let’s move on.
Wait, you need more explanation? Ok, ok…
Back in 1976/77 few major bands had the look or (raw) impact on the music like the Sex Pistols. Rock was stagnating and Disco was becoming more popular. But the Sex Pistols burst upon the scene like a lion on new kill.
Compare this to Bruichladdich, look at their kick-a$$ packaging or their all-over-the-place releases of yesteryear (and by yesteryear, I mean the past 8-10 years and up until the newest Laddie Ten). From the moment they released their amazing new “Laddie Ten“, it takes people from a scratch-your-head, “what are these guys doing?!” position to a more, “Ah, NOW I get it!” position.
And then, like Springbank, they’re making three different whiskies in the same place. An unpeated one (Bruichladdich), a heavily Peated one (Port Charlotte) and the world’s most peated whisky (Octomore).
What’s more is they have a still (called Ugly Betty, by the way), they they installed a short while back that now makes what I feel is one of THE best gins on the market – The Botinist. Seriously, A-MAZ-ING gin!
My point? They are doing what they want to do and not what people might expect from them. They don’t give a $#!?. Solid.
“We are Bruichladdich – love us or leave us.”
To me, that’s punk rock and that’s why the are the Sex Pistols of whisky.
If you’re not a member of the SMWS(A) then the Extravaganza would be the only place you’d get to try their Single Cask, Cask Strength whiskies (they always 5 of their bottlings to sample from at these shows). And while that’s all fine and dandy, not being a member means you are excluded from access to their 60 or so whiskies they release on a yearly basis (about 5 per month).
Being upfront, I am not an employee of the SMWS and do not receive any compensation to tout their goodness. I’m just a proud, card carrying member of the society and have been wowwed enough times by the whiskies they release (and I buy) that I feel comfortable in saying that you should consider becoming a member.
Again, with being upfront, I will tell you that not all of their whiskies are winners. I’ve have had a few bottlings, here and there, that were just not up my alley. We all have different palates so it makes sense that I’m going to find one that the society loved and I just did not.
Last disclaimer – the whiskies being reviewed below were samples given to me by the SMWS – special thanks goes out to Gabby for the samples!
On the nose – A sweet, yet light nose. Fresh honey crisp apples, cotton candy and cola barrels (those brown hard candies). Unbaked sweet buns; heavy on the sweet unbaked doughy notes. Not a super complex nose but very warming/inviting. With water, those buns start to bake a bit but that apple sweetness goes away. Milk chocolate fudge.
On the mouth – Very hot, alcoholic and sweet. More apples and honey. I think it needs water. Celery and salt (but not celery salt – I’ve gotten this mix before from other whiskies). Cinnamon and cinnamon red hot hearts (with that added sugar from the candy). Water calms it down a bit and brings out more of the honeyed quality.
Finish – Medium in length, some slight drying and an apple sweetness comes through.
“Chutney on hot wood” – 71.33 – 20yo – Refill sherry butt – 57.4% – Glenburgie –$140/bottle
On the nose – I think the SMWS notes provided on the bottle (which I read afterwards) hit it on the head with the French onion soup note – beef stock, onions and sharp cheese all wrapped into one. Cooked ginger and heavy sweet rum cakes. Spiced & cooked nuts and dirty socks – reminds me (a bit) of the SMWS Macallan 24.111. I think it’s the type of sherry cask (Amontillado perhaps?).
On the mouth – Very sweet and savory with combined notes of liver and onions and hoisin sauce. This is an odd duck that shouldn’t work but does; and in a very cool way. No water needed here. The attack is welcome and the flavors are aggressive. Nice drying effect toward the end.
Finish – Warming, savory and woody yet not overly so. Long.
“Old Fashioned Tea Chests and Maple Candy” – 125.48 – 12yo – Dechar/rechar ex-bourbon hogshead – 52.1% – Glenmorangie – As of Dec 14, 2011, this is yet to be released.
On the nose – Very very sweet. Scents of ice wine and Halls cough drops – menthol and all. Under ripe stone fruits. Danish butter cookies (I love butter cookies!) and an old shalalee. White berries (gooseberry mostly). With time, the Glenmorangie character really comes through. Like and intense and spicy Glenmorangie Original.
On the mouth – Woody (as expected with a dechar/rechar cask). I’m getting notes that I’d usually associate with a sherried whisky like dried fruit and leather yet there’s also flavors I’d normally find in an ex-bourbon barrel like vanilla, pencil shavings and cinnamon.
On the nose – Smoldering beach fire with wet drift wood (think of thick salty smoke here). Not unlike and ashtray. Peppery as well. Excuse me while I sneeze. Hidden, way in the background is something sweet… Pixie stix?
On the mouth – Sweet and smokey and sooty and burnt and doused fires and burnt sugar on creme brule and motor oily with a side of brazil nuts.
Finish – Insanely long – imagine enjoying this at a construction site while a parking lot is being laid while you are eating bit-o-honeys.
“Desperate Dan whisky” – 127.9 – 9yo – Refill ex-bourbon Barrel – 56.9% – Port Charlotte – $90/bottle
On the nose – A bit of a shy nose but unmistakably peaty – not smokey, peaty. Also, extremely medicinal and… sterile and things that should remain sterile like old folks homes and hospital beds. Also some dried cardboard in here (perhaps more of the tails cut in the original spirit run?). Dried pineapples.
On the mouth – Tropical fruits all around – pineapples, star fruits and ever a floral quality to it. Spicy too. Burnt microwave popcorn. Did I mention that the mouthfeel was big, oily and lush? Very nice.
Finish – Long and hot and drying.
In sum – This was a wild ride. Five completely different whiskies from the same bottler. While I’d not reach out for every bottle here, as one who loves to explore whisky, I could do this again and again. In the end, was there a winner (other than me or you, should you try something like this)? It’s got to be the 71.33 – Glenburgie. I loved the mix of flavors, balance and complexity.
The complaint, if there ever was one, with Bruichladdich was that there were WAY too many releases coming out of the distillery which made it difficult for people to keep track of or understand the distillery; myself included.
This is not to say that many of the releases were bad releases. Quite the contrary! I think the vast majority of whisky reviewers/bloggers would agree with me in saying that the bottles being churned out of the Bruichladdich distillery were, for the most part, top notch releases. Heck, I gave the Bruichladdich Blacker Still an award last year (brill-i-ant whisky!)
So why did our friends at Bruichladdich release so many whisky expressions over that past 10 years? My guess is that they needed to generate funds to help create and launch this whisky we will be reviewing today.
Bruichladdich does not sell their whisky to blenders. All of their 750,000 liters (per year, when run at full capacity) goes to their single malt – no blends. So, if they can’t make money by selling malt whisky for blends, they had to sell of old stock from the previous distillery owners. Hence, the many many releases from Bruichladdich.
We are told, however, that the frequency of these machine gun fire releases will come down now that a new 10yo expression has been released. For Bruichladdich, the “Laddie Ten” 10yo expression is all about fresh starts and new beginnings. New beginnings are something that I am very familiar with (*especially* as of late). New beginnings can be good things (great things) and for Bruichladdich, they sure are.
On the nose – A nice, delicate nose overflowing with scents of chamomile and other teas, dandelion jam with a touch of honey.
Before this, however, there was some spice right upfront and coastal notes that are almost reminiscent of a young Springbank whisky with notes of flinty soil, ozone, coastal long grasses.
A bit herbal as well but very sweet smelling overall.
On the mouth – Like a flavor punch to the mouth this whisky is… with a fantastic mouthfeel!
The flavor is very similar to what I got on the nose but there is an addition of sharp cheese in here which, combined with the sweet of the jam and honey really helps to balance it all out. The roundness comes from a mixture of ex-bourbon & ex-oloroso sherry casks (however, the majority of the whisky in here is from ex-bourbon barrels)
Coming back after a couple of minutes and there is a huge creme brulee quality to this whisky (I’m guessing this comes from some top quality ex-bourbon casks).
Finish – Long in length with a spicy/sweet note that rides the center of my tongue like Jim Morrison’s seven mile long snake…
In sum – A solid whisky that is aggressive yet delicate. It has a way of saying: “Hey guys – here I am. I AM BRUICHLADDICH!” Brilliant stuff that will have a permanent spot on my whisky shelf. I could easily sip on this most any day. Great job Mr. McEwan and the rest of the Bruichladdich team!!
Special thanks goes out to Shane H for the sample!!