(Note, this is part two of a three-part series of reviews. Start here.)
12.2 this year was distilled in 2015 from the 2014 harvest of Scottish-grown (not on Islay) Concerto barley. The barley was malted by Bairds in Inverness to 129.7 ppm and the distillate was aged for 3 years, half in first-fill ex-bourbon American oak casks and half in second-fill ex-bourbon casks. The whisky was then vatted together and transferred into first-fill French Sauternes casks for an additional 2 years (total age: 5). Although it is cask strength, Bruichladdich mixes in a “just a drop” of spring water from Octomore Farm’s natural spring, which does not significantly change its strength at 57.3% ABV.
This is not the first Octomore finished in Sauternes: The famed “Octomore 4.2 Comus” release was finished in valuable Chateau d’Yquem casks. Also like 4.2, this year’s 12.2 will be available in regular retail outlets in the United States. The last 7 editions of X.2 were only available in Travel Retail (‘duty free’).
This is an exciting development (which I hope Bruichladdich continues), since it allows those of us who do not frequently travel internationally to “complete the set” or at least have a better chance of trying all three.
Nose: Somewhat shy, initially only giving a hint of warm toast and honey. As it awakens, the unmistakable fungal scent of botrytis from the Sauternes emerges, even before the fruit, which is summery, and the peat, which is muted. After a rest in the glass, the peat and smoke are much more evident, both clean and crisp and piercing.
Palate: Syrupy body. Sweet, with a deluge of honey and apricot jam (or dried apricot) before the fog bank of peat smoke rolls in. Some of the same sooty-but-not-bitter charcoal notes from 12.1, as well as sultana raisins, orange marmalade, and smoky grilled peaches. Fascinatingly complex.
Finish: Long. Some of the wine notes persist through the finish, including the dried apricot and golden raisins. These fade into charcoal, light tannic oak, and spent tea.
With Water: I expected the several drops of water I added to awaken more fruit, but instead they add only vanilla. On the palate, however, the fruit turns much more tart and meshes better with the smoke. Try the water to see how it changes for you.
Overall: Yum. I can’t say that the Sauternes melds perfectly with the Octomore peat, but the two do play off of each other to interesting results. The flavors seem to ping-pong between intensely smoky and subtly fruity. When the fruit is in the fore, it is classic Sauternes: decadent and honeyed without being cloying.
I have always been a big proponent of Sauternes finishes, and this year’s 12.2 does not disappoint.
(Note: I’ve marked all three Octomore bottles as “Must Try” this year, but really I just mean you’ll enjoy any of them if you can get your hands on them. No need to buy all three unless you’re independently wealthy or just that devoted to Bruichladdich!)
Up Next: Octomore 12.3