Bruichladdich Octomore 10 year (4th edition)

This is the third part of a three-part series on Bruichladdich’s Octomore 11 release. For my review of 11.1, which includes all the background, click here.

For the fourth time, Bruichladdich has included a 10 year-old version of Octomore along with the annual release. The first time was in 2012, the second in 2016, and the third in 2018. Each has represented a unique spin on Octomore, and this year’s focus is on virgin oak.

Virgin oak is uncommon in scotch whisky. While it’s used extensively (indeed it’s required by law) in bourbon and other American whiskies, the climate of Scottish dunnage warehouses does not favor long (10, 15, 20 years) aging in virgin oak. The whiskies become too bitter, too tannic, and too overpoweringly flavored by the oak. Still, when handled carefully and used in moderation, virgin oak can bring unexpected flavors of cinnamon and baking spices, sandalwood, and tropical fruits that aren’t otherwise found when using only refill casks. Compass Box has used this fact to great effect, and other Scottish distillers sometimes dabble in it. Here, it forms a small part of the vatting, along with greater amounts of ex-bourbon (1st and 2nd fill) American oak casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace, and Jack Daniels.

The idea behind the 10 year-old editions of Octomore is for Bruichladdich to examine the effects of longer aging on the somewhat-well-understood young (typically 5 year-old) Octomore. As Head Distiller Adam Hannett said in our interview session for the Octomore 11 campaign, “we just don’t know everything,” and “there are so many infinite variables in the creation of single malt whisky, so we try to isolate one variable at a time to see how it improves the whisky, or doesn’t.”

The fourth edition of Octomore 10 year-old was distilled in 2009 from the 2008 harvest of 100% Scottish grown Optic barley. The barley was malted by Bairds in Inverness to 208 ppm before shipping to Bruichladdich for distillation. After aging for 10 years, it was bottled in a limited 12,000 bottles at 54.3% ABV without chill filtration or added coloring. Although it is cask strength, Bruichladdich mixes in a “just a drop” of spring water from Octomore Farm’s natural spring.

My tasting sample was provided by Bruichladdich for “The Octomore 11” Campaign.

Nose: Um. Wow. Fragrant. A ton of lemon verbena, white tea, honeysuckle, and orange peel, plus a ghost of peat infusing all of it with smoke that reminds me more of Chinese tea-smoking than peat. The whole is also sweeter than 11.1, with a lot more brown sugar and a little oak resin. Lovely. This release is also more stable – it appears unchanged after a rest in the glass.

Palate: Medium bodied. A robust (but not blinding) tongue burn is followed by burnt salted caramel, mild earthy peat, and sweet malty barley with just enough wood to remind you that it’s been aged longer.

Finish: Long. The peat rolls in like a storm front. Dark, heavy woodsmoke-style peat, with a some of the dark chocolate notes from Octomore 11.3. Not bitter. Finishes with a sudden wisp of black licorice and mint.

With Water: Several drops of water wake up an odd pomegranate note (like fresh grenadine), and also bring back some of the fleeting floral notes from the original pour. The palate is a little fruitier, as is the finish, and the licorice note arrives earlier. Definitely try this without water first, and then add a little after it starts to languish in the glass.

Overall: This is definitely my favorite of the three Octomores that I got to taste. That said, I did miss some of those youthful bright citrus notes that were prevalent in Octomore 11.1. If I had all the money in the world, I would own a bottle of each.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

An Islay distillery of another sort, Bruichladdich (“brook laddie”) or “The Laddie”, is now known for bucking the trend. In an era of more and more heavily-peated island whiskies, Bruichladdich produces a mildly-peated whisky with character derived more from oak and barley varieties than peat. Bruichladdich captured the hearts of craft whisky adherents with its rebellious approach to revitalizing the distillery after its 2001 reopening, producing numerous fancifully-named one-offs using maturing stock inherited from the previous owners, who mothballed it in 1994. It used these stocks to raise money each year until its ten year-old official bottling was ready. It also began marketing heavily-peated spirit under the name of nearby closed distillery Port Charlotte. Soon thereafter in 2012, however, it sold (or sold out?) to multinational spirits conglomerate Rémy Cointreau. The distillery’s process water rises through stone veined with iron, and runs over peat bogs. All Bruichladdich releases are of natural color and are not chill-filtered.
Bruichladdich Octomore 10 year (4th edition)
54.3% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: (estimated) $180 - $220
Acquired: (100ml sample bottle) thanks to Bruichladdich and "The Octomore 11" Campaign for the sample!

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  • I don’t mind hints of smoke. The Ardbegs and Laphroigs of the world are not up my alley. I prefer something milder. Would you say this falls in line with that? Sounds like something I would try at place that specializes in whiskey rather than dropping that kind of cash outright.

    • I would definitely suggest trying it before buying a bottle (they’re very expensive), especially if you’re not already 100% sold on peat. The peat is mild compared to other cask-strength peated Islay whiskies, but it’s still a very fully-flavored whisky.

  • My wife kindly bought the 10 year old 2009 Octomore for me. I was blown away. Absolutely the best scotch I’ve ever had. Sniffing prior to tasting gave off lovely waves of peat and smoke. Tasting was just insane. All over the tongue fireworks, that morphed into licorice/anise especially on the edges of the tongue with a soft undertongue honey, while the peat and smoke came back retronasal, and lasted, lasted and lasted. I confess I’m a big fan of peaty scotch but the length and complexity of the flavor of this one left me floored. Sadly for the distillery, I will drinking it in small drams because the flavor lasts so long, half a glass is more than enough.

  • I’m craving this. I can’t find where I can buy it, and I can’t wait to do so. I’m a unashamed peat-head Ardbeg and Laphroiag are right up my alley. Thanks so much for the great articles, they’re all such a joy to read.