Octomore is a very peaty single malt produced at the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay. Often labelled 'the world's most heavily peated Scotch whisky' Octomore was designed to challenge perceptions and divide opinions. The high levels of smoke continue to challenge the whisky world. If you like Islay whiskies, then you simply have to taste Octomore. This extreme single malt is in a different league.
Octomore is fruity and floral with vanilla and coastal notes. However, it is most known for the extreme peat levels. The first batch hit 80ppm - almost double that of everyday Islay heavyweights such as Ardbeg and Laphroaig. The highest recorded level is 258ppm. PPM (Phenol Parts per Million) is the scale on which smoky whiskies are measured. The figure equates to the level of phenol, a naturally occurring compound released from peat when it burns, that gets locked into the barley when being dried.
Octomore is nearly always bottled young, most commonly at five years old - the optimum 'sweet spot' for the high peat characteristics to shine. They are always released at natural cask strength and now always as a batch of four expressions. This first happened since the 7th release.
The distillation of the Octomore spirit takes place at the Islay distillery of Bruichladdich. It runs through the same narrow-necked stills as the other brands from the same home, the regular Bruichladdich and lesser-peated Port Charlotte. Octomore accounts for only 10% of the spirit production at the distillery each year.
Bruichladdich has a seven tonne open-topped mash tun and operates 10 mashes per week. The mash feeds six Oregon pine wooden washbacks. The fermentation time ranges between 60 and 105 hours, depending on the time of year. There are four stills working in pairs - two wash stills for the first distillation and two spirit stills for the second distillation. The production is 1.5 million litres per year. Therefore, only 150,000 litres of Octomore are made annually.
The high phenol content affects all equipment and connecting pipework, meaning Octomore is run in short batches. The entire system is then flushed through to prevent any phenols from tainting subsequent batches of their non-peated spirit.
Octomore was created by legendary Master Distiller Jim McEwan and then owner of Bruichladdich, Mark Reynier. The name pays homage to Octomore Farm, which ran a distillery from 1816 until 1852, which is located near the village of Port Charlotte close to the distillery. The name translates from the Gaelic Ochdamh-Mor meaning 'eighth manor' - a reference to the historical farming plot number.
The first distillation of Octomore took place in September 2002, with the first bottling following in 2008. Current owner Remy Cointreau has continued the practice. They released the oldest bottling - Orpheus 10 years old - in late 2012. This was released to celebrate their new ownership of Bruichladdich and Octomore's decade of production.
Each edition carries a unique number. The first is the batch number, followed by a second number to indicate details about the spirit and maturation. The system is as follows :
.1 / 100% Scottish barley and matured in American oak, either ex-bourbon, Tennessee whiskey or both.
.2 / 100% Scottish barley and matured in European oak. This can include ex-sherry, wine or dessert wine casks.
.3 / 100% barley grown on Octomore Farm and a mix of American and European oak casks.
.4 / the most heavily peated spirits and matured in virgin oak.