Bruichladdich Octomore 9 Dialogos

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Octomore. No other word strikes as much fear into the heart of a peat-o-phobe as much as this one. Bruichladdich’s super heavy-peated spirit has been run through the stills since 2002, and we’re now on to the ninth series of the range. As with previous batches, Bruichladdich are all about transparency and detail to the point of obsession, and for this I cannot commend them highly enough.

Like many other whisky lovers, I’m sick to the back teeth of not being told cask type, number of fills, age, ppm, and all the other little details which geeks like me love to pore over. What’s the harm in disclosing the ppm of your barley, or the cask make up of your core range expressions, or the quantity and range of ages in your NAS release? It’s 2018, guys, and even though 99% of the public who drink your product won’t give a shit about these nuances, the 1% who do, will shout about your whisky and laud your honesty. You’re reading what one of those 1 percent-ers is shouting about (via my keyboard) right now; Bruichladdich Octomore 9 Dialogos.

This series of Octomores consists of four expressions – three have already been released with the fourth, a 10 year old, due to be bottled in the New Year and released shortly thereafter. Octomore 9.1 and 9.2 have both been produced using Scottish barley peated to 156ppm before being matured as follows:

9.1: full maturation in 1st fill ex-American whiskey casks
9.2: four years in 1st fill ex-American whiskey casks then one year in 2nd fill ex-Bordeaux red wine casks

Octomore 9.3 has been produced using just 52 tonnes of barley (giving rise to 134 casks of spirit) solely grown in Irene’s field at Octomore Farm, which is located just along the road from Bruichladdich towards the village of Port Charlotte, to create a ‘single field’ Octomore. Talk about provenance and traceability. The maturation regime for this whisky is a combination of 1st fill ex-American whiskey (25%), 2nd fill ex-bourbon (10%), 3rd fill virgin oak (25%), 2nd fill Rivesaltes (20%) and 2nd fill Syrah casks (20%). Like I said, obsessively transparent.

Commenting on this final expression in particular, Adam Hannett, Head Distiller, said: “This is the closest we will come to tasting the effects of a low yielding barley that was grown in difficult conditions, from one single field. The individual conditions that come together to create each vintage may never by the same. Part intuition, part natural conditions, the joy of working as we do allows fate to play a hand in the construction and evolution of each release. We express what nature has given us, rather than fighting against it to maintain a level of homogenisation. The lower PPM and the different styles of casks allow the grain to take its rightful place at the centre-point of this release.”

I cannot wait to get tucked in to this lot.

Bruichladdich Octomore 9.1
5 years old
100% Scottish Barley – 156ppm
59.1% ABV
£125 here

Nose: Intense peat smoke (duh), smouldering driftwood, ferns, mulchy forest floor, charred prawns, and salted crisps. There’s a clean, minty, mentholic element too. Under the smoky things there’s roasted chestnuts, toasted coconut and almond, and some floral honey.

Palate: Quite ashy peat smoke, with BBQ embers, charred sticks, Arbroath Smokies, and smoked lemon. The sweetness is there, with molten caramel, more floral honey, hard toffee, toasted vanilla pods and apple core.

Finish: Freshly sawn oak, a black pepper spice, charred cask stave and slightly burnt golden syrup provide a lingering sweet and spicy ending.

Bruichladdich Octomore 9.2
5 years old
100% Scottish Barley – 156ppm
58.2% ABV
Global Travel Retail exclusive

Nose: The wine influence is immediately apparent, with red currants, Morello cherries, blackberries, caramelised onion, spiced mango chutney, soy sauce and chilli chocolate. There’s some earthy woodsmoke and a touch of smoky bacon crisps too.

Palate: Chewy oak, grippy tannins, leather, clove and cinnamon stick straight away. Then the fruit; red berries, cherry loaf, blackberries and blackcurrant. There’s a striking liquorice and star anise element too, with some bark and sweet compost.

Finish: Stickier fruits appear – prunes and dates – with some espresso.

Bruichladdich Octomore 9.3
5 years old
100% Islay Octomore Farm Barley – 133ppm
62.9% ABV
£175 here

Nose: Quite medicinal to begin; elastoplasts, ointment, Tiger Balm and some eucalyptus. The malt is plentiful, with muesli and honey on porridge. There’s apple and pear skins, charred sandalwood and cedarwood and a bit of unlit cigar too.

Palate: Big peat hearth notes, with burnt heather, smoked limes, lapsang souchong, singed lemongrass and hedgerow. Rather farmyard-y too (in a good way!), with wet straw and conifers. Some citrus; charred pineapple and kiwi fruit. Thick oak and cracked black pepper at the end.

Finish: Drying peat smoke, those medicinal notes return and there’s some brine too.

Overall: Three fantastic, intense, complex, and markedly different whiskies. Aside from the obvious smokiness, 9.1 is quite focussed on the lighter, sweet, floral, side of things, the 9.2 is much richer, chewier and tannic, whereas the 9.3 dials down the peat and allows the fruity, herbal, malty elements to shine. I tried these alongside The Drinks Lady and she was torn between 9.1 and 9.2 as her favourites, whereas I was really taken by the complexity of 9.3. And that’s exactly what Bruichladdich want, I think. Yes, Octomore’s party piece is having super heavily-peated malt, but there’s a lot more to it than just big ppm numbers, and these three expressions demonstrate exactly that. And to think, there’s still a 10 year old to join the family. Oft.

 

 

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