Bruichladdich is a distillery that knows where it comes from. It is found on the glorious isle of Islay and prides itself on knowing its roots.
In the same way that wine makers focus on terrior, which refers to climate, soil type and environmental elements, Bruichladdich is all about provenance. They believe in the importance of the simple things, like quality barley, appreciating your surroundings and the people who work with you.
As part of this, the distillery is all about showcasing what they can do with the resources around them, and since they’re based on Islay, that means peat. They currently have three ranges, The Classic Laddie, Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich Octomore. Each range is an exploration in different levels of peat, with Ocotmore being the most heavily peated.
The Bruichladdich Octomore consists of four expressions and is a celebration of just how much peat you can pack into a dram.
They are all rather simply named and include 08.1, 08.2, 08.3 and 08.4. the PPM (Phenol Parts per Million) ranges from 167 to an incredible 309.
The first of the range, 08.1, has been aged for 8 years in first fill American oak casks, from distilleries such as Buffalo Trace, Four Roses and Heaven Hill.
It opens with a nose that is filled with peat. It is thick and earthy, with a slightly grassy aroma to it.
Underneath this is a tangy sweetness. Zesty oranges and lemons appear, with a hint of burnt white sugar to add some depth. Candy floss and chocolate also come out, with lots of sugar.
The palate is soft and warming, with more peat and chocolate notes. These lend a smooth mouth feel to the overall tone.
There is lots of fruit on the palate as well. It is brimming with oranges, lemons, apples, pears, raisins, pineapple, mango and melons. These go perfectly with the earthy qualities of the peat. There is also a sea salted note, with little hints of oil and brine to it.
The white sugar becomes mellower, with a focus on vanilla, which in turn takes on a lovely oaky depth. The oak brings everything together, going hand in hand with both the fruit and the peated qualities.
The finish is strong, with big booming notes of peat and smoke. The oak comes through as well, and it ends with a lovely warming hint of white sugar and vanilla.
The second expression has also been peated to 167 PPM and aged 8 years, but this time with a different process.
It started off for 6 years in second fill French Mourvedre, Austrian sweet wine and French Sauternes casks. These are all sweet and fruity wines, with lots of character to impart. It was then finished for 2 years in ex-Italian Amarone casks.
The nose opens with a rich array of fruits and a lovely waft of peat smoke. The smoke is thick but does not overwhelm the many different fruits that appear. Apples, pears, oranges, summer berries and bananas burst out, with lots of tang and sweetness.
There is an earthy quality to the smoke, which goes well with the oak wood and cereal notes. Barley and wheat are present, giving the fruits a lovely background to bounce off.
The palate is where the flavours really show themselves. Cherries, clementines, apricots and raisins all come through, add a nice chewy texture to the dram.
These are considerably darker than the fruits on nose, and add a depth to the overall feel of the dram. They are incredibly sweet and fresh. There are also more floral notes, such as rose petals and cherry blossom coming out. These go well with the orchard notes of oak and dew covered grass.
The oak is thick and takes on a sweet, nutty flavour towards the end of the dram. There are more cereal notes and a nice warming sweetness to finish it all off.
When his crops were ruined by bad weather, geese and red stag, farmer James Brown did not have much hope for the little produce that was yielded. But as it turned out, when malting this specific crop of barley, it produced that highest PPM results Bruichladdich had seen.
As such, it became Octomore 08.3, and went on to be matured for five year, with 56% placed in first fill Bourbon casks, and the remaining 44% being matured in ex- Ventoux, Rhone, Paulliacand Burgundy casks
The nose floral and seasidey, with hints of medicinal qualities and of course, lots of peat. There are lots of herbs and grassy notes that go well with the natural, organic flavours coming through.
The peat is the perfect companion to these flavours, with it rich earthy notes and seaside tang.There are also lots of sweet notes appear, with thick black treacle, maple syrup and burnt brown sugar. These are mouth watering and delicious.
The palate brims over with peat smoke. It is thick and pungent, with a damp earth quality to it. Underneath the peat are sweet fruits and nuts, with more maple syrup and an iodine flavour. There is a slight bitterness to the peat that goes well with dark chocolate and coffee that also appear.
The finish is strong and well peated. Some fruits appear and there is a lovely warming cereal note coming through as well.
The last in the Bruichladdich Octomore series is 08.4. This dram has a PPM of 179 and has been matured for 8 years in several different casks. The first 20% was matured in its entirety in virgin oak, with the other 80% being matured firstly in first fill ex-Bourbon American oak casks and then in European virgin oak casks that had already been used to mature another expression in the Octomore range, 07.4. That’s a lot of different casks, but the effect on flavour is amazing.
The nose opens with lots of sweetness and warmth. It is full of oak, but it has great complexity and depth. Caramel, honey, popcorn, hazelnuts and pralines all come out, with a lovely thick peat smoke the allow them to really shine.
They are sweet and rich, with an underlying hint of vanilla at the base of each of them. There is also a slightly peppered note to this dram that goes hand in hand with the peat.
The palate is as equally complex, with cinnamon, sweet nuts, oak wood, heather and more honey appearing. These all intermingle with each other and have a common relative in the oak notes.
The honey gives a lovely and smooth mouth feel to the overall texture of the dram. The peat is pungent and warming, with lots of smoke and a slightly iodine flavour to it.
The finish is strong, with lots of peat and a rich, warming cinnamon flavour.