Octomore 7.3. ABV 63%. Non-chill filtered.
This is a Bruichladdich distillery single malt that has been aged 5 years. The Octomore offerings are about producing a very highly peated whisky, typically at least twice what you would find in other Islay whisky – which are the heavier peated whisky to start. The peat component of a whisky is measured by the parts per million (PPM) phenol levels. Most of the Islay whisky that is associated with peat and smoke has a PPM of around 50. Highland and Speyside whisky more in the 20-35 range. The Octomore 7.3 release has a PPM of 169. Interestingly, this is lower than some of the earlier Octomore releases that have been in the 200-250 PPM range.
The Octomore 7.3 is also distinctive from earlier releases in that is uses barley farmed only on Islay. The other contrast with earlier Octomores, is that the 7.3 was matured in American bourbon casks followed by barrels used to mature Ribera del Duero wine in Spain.
The nose on this whisky caught me off guard. I have not tasted any of the Octomore releases, and had not read reviews of the 7.3. I came to this tasting expecting an over-the-top peat and smoke on the nose. Instead, I found a mellower nose, a bit like malt, oatmeal, and toffee. There is an earthy element that I attribute to the peat, and a subtle undercurrent of smoke. But, if you come to this expecting a smoke bomb on the nose, you will be surprised.
On the palate it is dry, with an oil layering, almost creamy. There is an early sweetness, honey and barley followed by a wave of peat and light smoke that slowly consumes your palate. It is not a harsh introduction, more like a gradual transition with the peat and smoke emerging and then consuming. The peat brings a powerful mouthful, but not overwhelming, and in time the sweet undercurrents reemerge a little
The finish is warm, medium to long, not all that surprising given the high ABV. Indeed, I think that this is certainly a single malt where you benefit with the addition of a drop or two of water. It both brings out some of the earthy sweet elements and cuts the burn of a cask strength bottling. It is a warming finish with peat and smoke dominant, complimented by spicy, citrus-like, elements. The peat and smoke hang around.
Overall, I like this whisky. For those who enjoy the more heavily peated offerings from Islay, this Octomore offering is a nice addition to the neighborhood. If you are more of a fan of Highland or Speyside whisky, then I suspect that the Octomore line would not be of particular appeal to you.
It is a good young whisky. I will certainly find occasions to enjoy and share a dram.