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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Single Malt Report: Octomore 10 year old (First release)

On Tuesday, the 3.1.
On Wednesday, the 5.1.
Today, the first release of the Octomore 10 year old.  Many thank yous go out to reader Eric S. for his generosity and yet another awesome sample bottle:

Five years ago, Bruichladdich released an Octomore Futures bottle, sort of an Octomore-before-1.1 edition.  It was from their first batch of very heavily peated malt.  Its ppm levels (80.5) were considerably lower than future editions (up to 169), but it still had the highest peating levels of any single malt next to Ardbeg Supernova (approx. 100ppm).  The Futures edition was five-and-a-half years old and aged in former Buffalo Trace barrels.

Scoot forward five years and now some of the barrels from that original Octomore batch were ready to be barreled at 10 years of age.  All previous versions of Octomore were 5 years old.  With more maturation time, lower ppm levels, and a lower ABV, this was a genuinely new approach to the whisky.

Daniel and I were looking forward to this one.  Because I was short a Glencairn glass, we went with a stemmed nosing glass instead.  The glass still delivered the goods.


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: Bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
PPM: 80.5
Limited release: 6,000 bottles

The color is a light gold. It's darker than the 5.1, but lighter than the 3.1.  The nose starts out almost floral.  There's licorice, perfumed hand soap, gingerbread, and candied orange peel.  There are also hints of sugary breakfast cereal (that might have been Daniel's note) and vanilla beans.  With some time and air, the whisky develops notes of apples, almond paste, mint leaves, dried herbs, baked squash, and beets.  Peated sweet bread leads the palate.  There's a little sugar, and a little salt.  Not much smoke, but rather a leafy forest floor.  The sweetness remains light with further notes of mint, white fruits, and vanilla.  The finish gets toastier and ashier, with grimier peat.  It's very oceanic and extensive.

Ignoring price and whisky politics for a moment, I think this was the best of the three Octomores we tried.  Allowing it ten full years of maturation gave it a whole new set of characteristics and complexity (oh that word).  I wouldn't doubt that the lower peat levels made a difference as well, but we'll have to see how future batches turn out.

Now, here's where things get sticky.  I've been growing disgruntled with my ratings system and will be making changes in the new year.  While I have no regrets in giving this four stars -- it would register about a 90 out of 100 -- I agree with SKU from Recent Eats that this could have been even better had they released it at full cask strength as they had with the rest of the Octomores.  Instead they watered it down to 50%.  And charged nearly $300 for it.

A ten year old, not at full strength, with a $300 price tag.  That makes this a four-star whisky that is difficult for me to recommend.  At the same price, (with some research) you can buy two bottles of full-strength Port Charlotte PC7 and two bottles of Kilchoman Machir Bay -- all of which are also young small batches, all of which are comparable in quality to the Octomore 10 or possibly better in a blind tasting.

If finances are an issue for you (as they are for me), then you can feel safe knowing the Kilchomans and some of the cask strength PCs can stand their ground against the Octomores at a fraction of the cost.  If finances are not a issue for you then this is good stuff, unique stuff (until the second edition, I guess).  It's also easy to find since folks still haven't rushed out to swoop it off the shelves en masse.  Having now tried five of the Octomores, I can say that this one, with its age and somewhat lower ppms, registers as the least stunt-like of the range, and is my favorite.

Availability - Most specialty retailers worldwide
Pricing - $240-$300 (US); $320-$400 (Europe)
Rating - 90


  1. I saw a single bottle of this at Beltramo's this week. It was $369.99....

    I like shopping at Beltramo's but that price was just insane.

    1. That's pricing Dalmore-style. Good luck selling that one!

  2. $300+ for a 10 year old whisky...