Malt Mongers Israel Octomore Evening

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This is an evening I’ve been looking forward to for some time. Our whisky club, Malt Mongers Israel (MMI), decided some months ago to get hold of some Octomore bottles and do an evening, but we put it off until the weather was suitable. Then finally the cold nights of December arrived and it was time.

For those who aren’t familiar with Octomore, it’s one of three labels bottled by Bruichladdich distillery on Islay. Octomore is the result of an experiment where they tried to see just how heavily they could peat the barley used for whisky making, beginning at around 80ppm and as of the current release they’ve gotten up to over 200ppm.

There are varying opinions about this whole thing though. The stated ppm level is measured from the malted barley before distillation, and the levels after distillation can vary greatly. That aside the higher the ppm levels, at least in my opinion and that of several other whisky anoraks I’ve spoken to about it, the less one can taste the difference.

That said, this is still very much a whisky geek’s whisky. The very nature of it exudes experimentation. Aside from the ever increasing ppm levels, each release has  versions, designated by a decimal number. The digit before the point signifies the release number, and after the digit signifies the version.

  • x.1 is traditional bourbon finished whisky.
  • x.2 is finished in a wine cask of some sort.
  • x.3 is made exclusively using barley grown on Islay
  • x.4 is matured in virgin oak casks.

With all these variables one can compare it’s easy to see why this whisky has caught the interest of whisky geeks the world over. In the spirit of that I’ll do a comparative summary after writing all my notes rather than a conclusion for each whisky.

This evening we were tasting:

  • 6.1 – Peated to 167 ppm, matured in American Oak
  • 7.1 – Peated to 208 ppm, matured in American Oak
  • 7.2 – Peated to 208 ppm, matured in American Oak & Rhône Syrah Wine Casks
  • 7.3 – Peated to 169 ppm, made using Islay grown barley, matured in Bourbon Barrels & Ribera del Duero Wine Casks

6.1, 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3. I have previously tasted the 7.2 so I did not take notes for that.


Octomore 6.1

Aged 5 years. 57% ABV. Matured in American Oak casks. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength. 

Nose: Farmy peat. Creamy Malt. Oil smoke. Cumin. Brown glue. Molasses. White rum. Burned thatch. Slight lactic caramel note. Toasted coconut. Smokey. Vanilla. Slight jasmine.

Palate: Salty. Wood smoke. Dirt. Boiled sweets. Vanilla cake. Dry wood tannins. Tar. Molasses. Seville orange.

Finish: Dry. Wood smoke. Sandalwood. Vanilla. Bitter spices.

Would I buy this: No

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5


Octomore 7.1

Aged 5 years. 59.5% ABV. Matured in American Oak casks. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength. 

Nose: Burned thatch. Wood smoke. Iodine. Mercurochrome. Phenols, chemical phenols. Burned meat. Leather.

Palate: Oil smoke. Grease. Medicinal peat. Salt. Caramel.

Finish: Long. Cut stone. Dry grass. Tarred thatch. Leather. Fruit peels. Molasses.

Would I buy this: Yes

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5


Octomore 7.3 

Aged 5 years. 63% ABV. Matured in Bourbon Barrels & Ribera del Duero Wine Casks. No colourant added, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength. 

Nose: Tar. Medicinal peat. Wood spice. Iodine. Germolene. Grass. Very aggressive nose, but in a good way. Lactic caramel and honey throat lozenges on the end.

Palate: Aggressive here too, in the same way as the nose. Germolene. Burned fruits. Wood spice. Cinnamon.  Marzipan.

Finish: Long. Bitter. Medicinal peat. Dry wood tannins. Salt. Plain toast.

Would I buy this: Yes

Would I order this in a bar: Yes

Would I drink this if someone gave me a glass: Yes

VFM: 2/5


These were all very interesting whiskies. At 5 years of age it goes to show how much more important quality is in whisky making than age. That said I still think they’re overpriced. I really liked being able to compare these. I must say I did not feel the peat more here than I did in some ‘regular’ peated whiskies I’ve tried, and while it may detract from their marketing campaign it in no way detracts from the complexity and quality of the spirit.

The 6.1 was a little closed for me and took some work to really get it’s flavours out. Bruichladdich’s character was quite evident here and I found it quite creamy. The 7.1 was quite the opposite, big and bold, immediately assaulting the senses with a wave of medicinal, meaty flavours. After some time it calmed down a bit and revealed some more fruity, leathery notes. It was my favourite of the evening. The 7.2 I’d tried before. It also took some time to open up, but the wine cask adds an extra dimension of spice to the mixture. Finally the 7.3, this one was for me the most aggressive of the lot. I found a very dominating note of germolene ointment all the through as well as an interesting mix of herbal and fruit notes.

The octomore range definitely has something to it, aside from the allure for the whisky geeks which I mentioned above, these whiskies are well made, complex and delicious.

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