Octomore. The name is enough to send shivers down the spine of every peat smoke-loving single malt fan. Known for being the most heavily peated whisky in the world, Bruichladdich’s Octomore bottlings are highly sought after and demand a hefty price.
Octomore, which gets its name from the nearby Octomore Farm (which itself once housed a distillery), is released in limited batches/versions on an annual (or near-annual) basis, with each version being slightly unique. The peat level, expressed in phenol parts per million (ppm) of the malted barley (prior to distillation), in each Octomore release has ranged from a low of 131 ppm to a high of an incredible 309 ppm (in the recently announced version 8.3). In addition to differing peat levels, individual versions of Octomore have been characterized by different cask influences, barley sources, and ages (ranging in age from 5 to 10 years).
I recently purchased a bottle of Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley, which is aged five years in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at cask strength. This particular version of Octomore was peated at 167 ppm—not the highest in the Octomore series, but much higher (roughly 3-4 times) than your typical heavily-peated Islay malt (which normal range from roughly 35 to 55 ppm).
So how does one of the most heavily peated single malts in the world taste? To be honest, even though I was excited to finally try Octomore, I was expecting to be disappointed by it. A massive peat level, with a young age, and a high price tag? Sounds gimmicky. But disappointed I was not. Let’s move on to the tasting notes.
Bruichladdich Octomore 6.1 Review
Type: Single Malt Scotch
Nose: Peat smoke. Malted chocolate milkshake. Oak. Earthy. Salted butterscotch. A touch of fruit, mainly berries. Some nuttiness, especially peanuts. Menthol. Cinnamon. Dark honey.
Palate: Dark, chocolaty peat smoke. Intense, but not overly so. Sea salted butterscotch. Vanilla syrup. Lavender. Oak. Marshmallow chocolate caramel candy (reminiscent of a Milky Way Midnight).
Finish: Long and lingering. Peat. Vanilla ice cream. Salted caramel. Lavender. A touch of oak spice.
Overall: This whisky has a great nose. Shockingly good—the best nose I’ve ever experienced from a heavily peated whisky. Sometimes a great nose results in a disappointing palate, but not here—the palate lives up to the nose’s promise by being tremendously balanced and surprisingly nuanced. The peat is not overwhelming at all, at least not to my palate. It’s certain present, but there’s much more to this dram than just peat smoke. Salty and sweet, chocolate and vanilla—and then that lavender note really adds some nice depth and complexity. This is fantastic.
At five years old, this is a young whisky. Heavily peated malts do tend to do better at a young age compared to other styles of whisky; nonetheless, it’s hard to believe that there is so much complexity—without any rough edges—in such a young dram.
This is expensive whisky, one of the most expensive bottles I’ve ever purchased. Although I’d hardly call it a good value, I’m happy with the purchase and will buy Octomore again in the future. If you have the means and you’re a fan of peated Islay whisky, then I recommend giving Octomore a try. I love this stuff, and I bet you will too.
Buy Again? Yes.
Questions about my scoring system? Refer to the Review Method & Scoring Scale page.
For more reviews, check out the Whisky Review Archive.
Also check out my guest appearance on The Malted Man Cave, where we reviewed this whisky while I was on vacation with my family (Keith, the host of The Malted Man Cave, is my cousin—be sure to checkout his YouTube channel).