It all began as a 'what if?' after a few drams at the Bruichladdich table 15 years ago, now Octomore is the world’s most routinely heavily-peated whisky and a cult classic in the industry. Named for James Brown’s farm in the hills above Port Charlotte, just a stone’s through from the Bruichladdich distillery, Octomore was the creation of Master Distiller Jim McEwan and CEO Mark Reynier. A beast the likes of which Scotch Whisky had never seen before. The first ‘super heavily-peated’ release in 2008 clocked in at 131ppm (phenols per million or parts per million depending who you ask). The second release, named Octomore/2_140, further amped up the peat to 140ppm – more than two and half times that of a standard Ardbeg, itself known as a peat monster!
James Brown, Octomore farm (via Bruichladdich)
The releases continued in limited batches throughout the years, each exploring different aspects of production and maturation including cask finishes, longer ageing, and barley provenance. While the peat levels have gone as high as 258ppm – the highest ever released in the industry – there has always been more to the beast than its fangs. With the signature Bruichladdich finesse that was a hallmark of Jim Swan’s time at the helm, Octomore has offered sonnets of peat and barley, something that has continued under new Head Distiller Adam Hannett following Swan’s departure.
Former Master Distiller Jim McEwan & Head Distiller Adam Hannett (via Bruichladdich)
The latest from the range is not one, but a collection of four limited releases, termed collectively as the Octomore Masterclass. The first in the series, following the now iconic Octomore numbering system is 08.1. Peated to 167ppm, this Islay single malt was first distilled in 2009 from the previous year’s harvest, using 100% Scottish barley from within 30 miles of Inverness. Matured for a full 8 years in first-fill American oak casks from some of the USA’s best-loved bourbon distilleries including Buffalo Trace, Clermont Springs (Jim Beam), Four Roses, Heaven Hill and Jack Daniel’s, the spirit was then vatted together for bottling. Released at a meaty 59.3% abv without chill-filtration or artificial colouring, Hannett describes the first of the Masterclass series as ‘Winter Sun. A classic timeless feel.’