A Peaty Scotch that Pushes the Limits
There is a lot of peat in this trio of Islay whiskies.
While Bruichladdich claims that terroir affects whisky, the distillery also crafts some of the most heavily peated single malts in the world. There is, however, a balancing act here because, even after distillation, the terroir of barley and soil can differentiate whiskey, but if a lot of smoke is imparted, any nuance of field, season, and even cask type may be lost. However, this Islay distillery has done an outstanding job bringing this philosophy to life and pushing peat to an extreme, particularly when it comes to its Octomore whisky. An indelibly smoky trio of whiskies, Edition 12 maintains nuance and subtlety in its flavors.
The Classic Laddie, one of Bruichladdich's core expressions, is entirely unpeated and is an excellent example of a light, fruity whiskey, despite its smoky reputation. Port Charlotte, and especially Octomore, are liquid campfires, and while they have a lot of champions, they also have a lot of detractors. After all, whiskey that is smoky can be very divisive. As a statement of confidence in the quality of this relatively young whiskey, the new series consists of whiskey aged for five years, half the time most single malts do. All three of them have a PPM (parts per million) above 100, which means they are extremely, super, intensely smoked. Bruichladdich Octomore is non-chill-filtered and has no color added, like Ardbeg, which is considered to be a well peated malt.
A distillery describes the whiskeys as follows: 12.1 is a base whiskey, 12.2 is a study of terroir, and 12.3 is a study of maturation. Among the five bottles, 12.1 is the smokeiest—with a PPM of 130.8—and was aged entirely in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels. Although it has a strong peat character, this is a wonderful whiskey with notes of vanilla, citrus, and butterscotch pudding intermingles beneath its smoggy palate. 59.9 percent ABV is the average ABV for all of these whiskies. Despite spending 3.5 years in first-and second-fill bourbon barrels for 3.5 years, 12.2's color is slightly darker amber-reddish due to the fact that it spent the last 18 months maturing in Sauternes wine casks. It has a slightly lower PPM of 129.7, as well as a 57.3 percent ABV. The finishing period has layered cherry syrup, dried mandarins, and ripe fig flavors on the palate. I also find this to be a lovely whiskey, with a hint of tropical fruit sweetness.
As a final step, 12.3 lowers the PPM to 118.1, but raises the ABV to 62.1 percent. The distillery has a longstanding relationship with James Brown, who grows barley on his Octomore Farm. In addition to maturing 75 percent of this whiskey in ex-bourbon barrels and 25 percent in Pedro Ximinez sherry casks for five years, it then was married together. In spite of the fact that the sherry influence is a small portion of this blend, it is immediately evident, with a warm spice and fruit note dominating the citrus and vanilla notes that are derived from the bourbon barrels. As I mentioned earlier, we are not talking anything close to Macallan levels here, but just a nice splash of flavor to finish it off.
A new series of whiskies from Bruichladdich dubbed Octomore 12 has been produced by head distiller Adam Hannett and his team at Bruichladdich. There is no denying that you have to be a fan of smoky scotch if you want to enjoy these bottles, but each one of them has a distinct, unrestrained character that brings a welcome balance of flavors, which are not limited to tire fire and iodine. I would recommend that you try them side by side, but whichever of these would be a welcome addition to your collection.