Bruichladdich: The Octomore Eleven

The Octomore 11 Insider’s Guide: A whisky enthusiast’s companion for exploring the depths of Bruichladdich Distillery’s 11th series of Octomore. For 30 days, a group of 11 whisky aficionados spent time with the team at Bruichladdich to experience a deep dive into the history, processes, complexities and evolutions of the world’s most peated whisky. This one-of-a-kind collaboration reflects the union between the passionate team behind Octomore and the 11 enthusiasts who were given the opportunity to appreciate it first-hand. What unfolded was this compendium, crafted for your enjoyment, to accompany and complement your experience with this remarkable spirit.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 year (4th edition)

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.”

Bruichladdich Octomore 11.3

The Octomore .3 releases are always made from 100% Islay-grown barley from Octomore farm by “The Godfather of Soil” James Brown. This year’s 11.3 release is 5 years old and was aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks from a variety of bourbon distilleries … Jim McEwan talks about the soil of Islay and why he goes to such cost-inefficient lengths to get 100% Islay barley. He talks about how mainland Scottish farms can pull 3 or 3.5 tons of barley per acre in yield while Islay’s difficult climate maxes out around 2 tons. Moreover…

Bruichladdich Octomore 11.1

Octomore, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of shelling out $150+ for a bottle of one of the past ten editions, is the most heavily-peated whisky in the world. It’s bottled at cask strength and comes out every year in either 3 or 4 varieties. In brief, 11.1 is 5 years old and was aged only in ex-bourbon American oak. … this year was distilled in 2014 from the 2013 harvest of Scottish-grown (not on Islay) Concerto and Propino barley. The barley was malted by Bairds in Inverness to 139.6 ppm and the final 30,000 bottles were bottled at 59.4% ABV. The release was aged for…

Sagamore Spirit Rye

A little searching online reveals that Sagamore is blending two MGP products; a high-rye (95% rye, 5% malted barley) and a low-rye (unspecified mash bill). They are also cask-finishing a number of casks in everything from Cognac to Calvados, so they aren’t just resting on MGP’s laurels. If nothing else, at least they are revealing the source of their whiskey instead of trying to hide it.

Craigellachie (13 year)

This official bottling (one of three from the distillery including a 17-year and a 23-year, all new in 2014 after Bacardi assumed ownership) comes from a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and is bottled at 46% ABV without added coloring and without chill filtration. … Upon further reading, I wonder if the famous sulphur note that everyone says is a hallmark of Craigellachie might be hitting my jaded senses as banana. That will require more investigation.

J.H. Cutter Whiskey

The liquid, in fact, is a blend of 73% sourced bourbon from Bardstown (aka Kentucky Bourbon Distillers / KBD aka Willett), 17% Old Potrero 18th Century Style Rye Whiskey (which is 100% malted rye), and 10% Old Potrero Port Finish Rye Whiskey. Old Potrero is one of Anchor’s whiskey brands, distilled and aged in San Francisco, California. The reported ages of the components…

Compass Box: Affinity

In a bit of a departure from my usual “whisky-only” reviews on this blog, I’d like to say a few words about Compass Box’s Affinity. If you haven’t been following the flurry of Compass Box releases lately (and why should you? Every g-ddamn one of them has been north of $150), you might not know that Affinity is actually a “spirit drink”, which is the only legal way to label a blend of Scottish whisky and French calvados (apple and/or pear brandy).

Tamdhu (12 year)

Aged exclusively in sherry casks for the full 12 years of maturation for that pure sherry bomb goodness, Tamdhu uses both first fill and refill American and European Oloroso sherry casks. I’ve discussed sherry aging on this blog before, and the topic is (as ever) murky. It’s probably safe to assume that the company is using whatever “real” sherry barrels (those would be the European oak casks) it can get its hands on, while supplementing their supply with American oak (ex-bourbon) that has been “seasoned” with sherry.