GUEST BLOG: More Octomore, please!

Guest blog by Paul Nyberg (twitter: @derekcuster). Thanks Paul!!

Octomore 9.1

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I must begin with a disclaimer. While I have had one or three Bruichladdichs since really getting into my whisky rather than just drinking it, I would never have come across the Octomore range if I hadn't heard about the extreme peat on This is my Dram. When Stu and Andy went through the 8.1 and 8.2 on Series 3 Episode 4, I almost had to pull the car over (I'm a podcast-while-commuting guy) to mop up the saliva!

My old man got me into enjoying whisky with Talisker, Laphroaig and Ardbeg so peat was almost my introduction to scotch whisky. When I heard that Bruichladdich were taking peat levels far above anything I'd ever tasted and then doubled down on it I knew this was one I needed to try. I decided to stretch my usual budget beyond breaking point and treat myself.

Anyway, after that preamble, I shot for the sky and grabbed myself a bottle of the 9.1. It turned up and the beauty of the box and bottle blew me away. The black design is gorgeous. It looks a million dollars, even the lid on the box is a thing of beauty. It has a monster PPM of 156, it is cask strength at 59.1%, and is matured in bourbon casks (mainly Jim Beam and Jack Daniels) for 5 years.

Then you open the thing.

While I let the whisky open up I checked that the battery in the smoke alarm hadn't packed in, and when I was convinced it was just my drink I settled down to deep dive into this stuff.

Nose: Smoke, obviously. Not medicinal like a lower end Islay can be, but a combination of a regular peaty whisky with someone puffing on a cigar with a nice hardwood fire on.

Palete: Smoke smoke smoke. Then some oak, perhaps a hint of citrus and vanilla in there too.

Finish: It isn't still going on the following day, but it's lingering. More like having a mouthful of cigar smoke than whisky.

All in all I adored it. Despite being 59.1% it doesn't ever seem that strong. There is no aggression with this one, it's subtle while still packing a huge Iron Mike punch! Behind the smoke there are a plethora of flavours just waiting to be discovered. Each sip brings more out of it. An absolutely incredible whisky.

Given that This Is My Dram is all about pairing Whisky and Music... As a song choice to go with the Octomore; Bury Me in Smoke by Down yelled at me for the obvious connection, but this is a song I have loved for a long time. I saw Down play Newcastle back in 2006 when they didn't have a record label or anything behind them, and they put on one of the greatest shows in Newcastle uni basement I've ever been to. A week later I saw them turn up at Download Festival as unannounced guests and played this song for 50,000+ super happy drunken fools at 1 in the afternoon. For me it's a timeless song, and that main riff... if it doesn't make you want to thrash on air guitar then you just ain't right!

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Caol Ila 18 and 34 year old Mackillop’s Choice single cask

Ramblings by Stu

Taking a vertical tasting very literally... 

Taking a vertical tasting very literally... 

 

Caol Ila is close to our hearts here at This Is My Dram HQ for many reasons. Not only did their 12 year expression become the focus of our first ever podcast (... safe to say we were getting used to the podcast game back then, more one for our more devoted fans... hi Mum!!), but also the name is Gaelic for “Sounds of Islay”! Is there a better choice for a Whisky and music Podcast?

However, whilst I know and love the 12 year expression, the 18 year is less familiar, and the rare 34 year single cask with the moniker “Mackillop’s choice” is totally unfamiliar territory. I’m lucky enough to have a wife kind enough to seek out such expressions as a present for me. She’s a keeper, aye!

Whilst the 18 year expression is widely available (£85 at Master of Malt, though we encourage you to see if you can dig it out at your local whisky shop, see here for our “buy local” map of whisky shops!), the 34 year old Mackillop’s choice seems to be sold out in most places, and a bottle would set you back £280-ish! There are still samples available from Drinks by the dram for £21-22 from Master of Malt if you really want to try it.

Anyway, onto the tasting notes!!

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Caol Ila 18 year old

Nose: that classic Caol Ila nose, sweet and subtly peaty, smokey bacon crisps (always get this since Andy mentioned it as a tasting note when we first tried it!), slight honey and liquorice. The wood comes through after it opens up a bit.

Palate: thick, rich, oaky and peaty. It’s like the 12 year old but with added oomph!

Finish: prickly alcohol warmth and sweet peat continues, delightful

 

Caol Ila 34 year old 1980 cask 4962 Mackillop’s Choice

Nose: ok, bear with me on this one... imagine putting some salty smoked mackerel into half a fresh melon... that’s what this smells like, as pretentious as it sounds! The aging has removed some of the peat. It’s fresh, grassy, floral and earthy. Smoke comes across very subtlety and more as the salted smoked mackerel I mentioned. Leaving it to open up further gives a sweet peppery malty spice. Very complex and interesting!

Palate: smooth rich and sweet. The peat is still subtle, perhaps due to the age, which is really satisfying. Melon returns, this time with honey and aniseed.

Finish: long and sweet peaty tingliness, quite drying

Final thoughts...

If you are a massive Caol Ila fan, I recommend you try and get hold of some Mackillop’s choice while you still can just to sample how different, complex and interesting an old single cask tastes from Caol Ila. However if you want a solid Caol Ila expression that is reasonably priced and will always impress, you can’t got too far wrong with the 18 year.

...and the all important tunes?... 

Music to accompany these has to be the sounds of Islay with a song about and island in the sun... fitting for those crisp Islay sunny days, lounging around drinking a dram... it has to be Weezer’s mellow and melodic Island in the Sun. Enjoy.