Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1 Review

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.1 Review

Non-Chill Filtered, Natural Colour, Cask Strength 59.5% abv.
Price: Around 650 Shekels in Israel, £110 in the UK.
Back in November 2015 for my annual visit to the United Kingdom, top on my “Must Buy” list was the Bruichladdich Octomore 6.1. I love peated whisky and had been dying to taste this, the world’s peatiest whisky, for a long time.
As anyone who has read my blog review of the 6.1 would know, by reading between the lines, I was somewhat disappointed with the 6.1. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing experience and I do not regret buying this but, in all honesty, I would not buy the 6.1 again.

The contents of the 6.1 bottle has long since gone but the tin-can lives on as the case to my Megillas Esther scroll.
My lasting memories of this, my first encounter with the Bruichladdich Octomore range, is the concentrated lingering odour of burnt dirty engine oil mixed with the smell of an electrical fire rather like a burnt out car engine. Then there is a coastal disinfectant coal tar smell like a public toilet by the seaside. The taste was sweet but with sulphury young white wine and tart apple juice and sea water flavours. The taste sticks to your tongue like having just eaten a very fatty cold meat and burnt seaweed sandwich.
Yep, that about sums it up!

Almost two years have gone by and I started hearing some good things about its replacement, the Octomore 7.1. Despite the 7.1 boasting an even higher PPM value, (208 PPM) than its predecessor, the 6.1 (167 PPM), the new 7.1 was described as sweeter, softer and “smoother”. Seeing the bottle for a very good price in my favourite whisky shop in the UK, situated in Stamford Hill, London, namely “The Grapevine”, I decided, you know what? I’m gonna give this notorious range another try!

So, I came to this 7.1 with expectations low. As low as my expectations had been high for the 6.1. This was a good thing.

The packaging is identical to the 6.1 expression and my comments for that still stand. The whole suite including metal case, bottle and text design is sophisticated and chic, if a little impractical. The bottle and case are really long and may not fit on every shelf. Perhaps they designed it like that to force retailers to place the Octomore on a shelf or display on its own. Sneaky! I found the black colour is appropriate as looking at the can, it reminds me of a log of Islay peat.

I still don’t like the completely opaque bottle though as you cannot tell how much whisky is left in the bottle.
I poured this Octomore into my Bruichladdich glass, (a present from the distillery tasting session I attended last year), and was immediately struck by the deep, rich yellow treacle colour which I could describe as looking like “liquid gold”.

Please note that this is 100% natural colour so all I can say is that the guys at Bruichladdich must have used some pretty active, heavily charred American Oak casks to get this fabulously opulent hue.
I’ve been to the Bruichladdich distillery twice already. For those who have yet to experience this pleasure, let me explain that they have uniformed security guards at the entrance, armed with liquid chemical detectors, checking everyone who tries to enter for bottles of E150a caramel colouring. No artificial colour gets through the gates at Bruichladdich; I can tell you!

Anyway, I was in the visitor’s centre and someone made an innocent comment about the weather saying that it had been good exercise walking along the Bruichladdich coastline, struggling against the chilly Islay wind but now they felt fitter for it! A bouncer overheard the remark and unfortunately misheard it for the foul-mouthed phrase “Bruichladdich is Chill Filtered” and out she went, tossed out the door, before she could even explain, without so much as a by your leave. I kid you not! The poor thing. A young female distillery guide ran to get a glass a water.  The bouncer thanked her, (still noticeably physically shaken by the whole sordid incident), and was now sitting down, trying to recover.

Swirl in Glass Appeal.

Legs? What legs? When you have stopped swirling the liquid around, don’t even bother trying to check the amount of time it takes for the whisky to drip back down into the glass. You will be there for a long time. The blobs of liquid alcohol simply stick to the sides and don’t move.
Never mind the highest PPM levels in the world! I have never seen a whisky in my life before with such a high “Swirl in the Glass” viscosity factor. The viscosity on this Octomore 7.1 needs to be seen to be believed. It is like swirling a mixture of pure olive oil and treacle around in your glass.
I have no idea whether this is connected to the ultra-high peat PPM levels or not but this whisky is incredibly oily. This is shown very much in the smell and taste as I am about to describe.
Nosing Notes

Delicious, thick and creamy burnt barley porridge with maple golden treacle or maple syrup. The smell of new vinyl like vinyl seats. Musky sea caves where the water comes in at high tide. Loads of coastal salty sea spray and sweet spices. Wet fresh seaweed and sea water soaked drift wood. The nose is very fruity sweet with apple wine, pear and lychee juice.
If Octomore 7.1 was a 4D Cinema experience with smells and sensations, then it would look, smell and feel something like this:
There you are, sitting on a rock inside a cave at high tide. You have lit a fire from salt encrusted drift wood you found on the beach to keep you warm. The smoke fills the cavern. You are eating hot porridge with maple syrup and drinking an apple and cinnamon tea. There is sea weed and wood swirling around the cave. The sea water is coming in and lapping against the rock, soaking your legs and leaving salty deposits on your skin.

The Octomore 6.1 which is all about Electric car cable burn and Coal Tar disinfectant. There is perhaps a hint of something electrical with the 7.1, but it’s a cleaner and sweeter odour with no dirty engine oil smells. If I had to describe it, I’d say that the smell reminds me of a high-end vacuum tube valve HiFi amplifier after it has been on for a few hours. It lets out this sweet warm smell of the hot valves.
Octomore 6.1
Octomore 7.1
The Coal Tar is also present but it’s now creamy soap lather. We have gone from the public toilets in some run down seaside town to a coal-tar shampoo in a luxury hotel bathroom.
Octomore 6.1

Octomore 7.1

The smell also reminds me very much of fresh wet sweet road tarmac by the coast.

Now, I’ll write something which might surprise you. All the nosing notes above are for Octomore 7.1 neat. That is, as it came out the bottle at cask strength, almost 60% abv!
There are some whiskies at 46% abv which have a certain amount of prickly alcohol heat on the nose before you add water. I don’t know how they do it, but this Octomore, while having a substantial alcohol weight, has no spirit nose burn at all. Smelling notes such as red chillies, black pepper etc are no where to be seen. There is a mild smoky white pepper in the mix but it’s all blended in very well.
With Water
Adding water really focuses the nose and you start to notice other things. Yes, the Octomore does feel more open and fruitier with the addition of water but in all honesty, it didn’t exactly feel closed before.
As well as that Apple Wine I mentioned, there is now a recognisable smell of Red “Tirosh” Kiddush Grape juice, polished wood cabinets and Diet Coca Cola. (Not Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max or Cola Zero. Original Diet Coca Cola!)

With water, it takes some of the coal-tar and electric valves smells away and magnifies the creamy porridge and fruitiness. Some of the muskiness goes as well. My advice is to add a tiny drop of water, wait 5 minutes and smell. Then try adding another drop of water and so on. In other words, don’t add too much water in one go. Be careful. I found the Octomore is easily drowned. This is very surprising for a 5-Year-Old single malt. Be patient and take your time.
Here is a list from my notes in the order I wrote them down:

  • Coastal bonfire with Salty Caramel and Lemon ice cream.
  • Hot oily French bread. Baguette, straight out the oven.
  • The Baguette is slightly burnt on one end and slightly underdone on the other.
  • Original Diet Coco Cola.
  • Ginger snaps. Brittle crunchy toffee biscuits.
  • More Salty burnt caramel.
  • English Cough syrup. (Liquorish medicinal syrup).
  • Sweet, Creamy, Chewy melt-in-the-mouth soft Toffee cubes.
  • Smoked chicken breast with Light sweet Chinese soya sauce.
  • Eating Lemon and Vanilla ice cream by the seaside.
  • Red juicy pears.
  • Red “TiroshKiddush sweet Grape juice.
  • Apple wine, Apple cider.
  • Lemon barley cordial drink.
  • Sucking on a soggy tea bag.
  • Wood Spices and Roasted Almonds.
Looking down this list, I noticed that these tasting notes contain things I have never tasted in a whisky before. However, despite some weird flavours, everything combines perfectly together to make a delicious, hugely engaging, immensely complex and well balanced Islay peat experience.
A word of advice if you are drinking this in a tasting session with friends or at a whisky meeting. Drink this Octomore 7.1 last because after this, everything will taste bland. I think this say it all.
The Finish
Err….actually it doesn’t finish! Waves of coastal bonfires, sulphury ash with Salty caramel flavours, Smoked Soya Sauce juicy chicken breast, creamy vanilla toffee, tea bags, grape juice, apple wine and sea weed….Even after a glass of Diet Cola I could still taste this Octomore quite clearly. Just as the Islay peat has impregnated the Scottish Barley, so will this whisky impregnate your tongue. A dram of this at night and you will still be tasting the sea salty caramel when you wake up in the morning.
A comparison of the Octomore 6.1 and Octomore 7.1

As I have already mentioned, I cannot actually do a direct comparison but based on my extensive tasting notes from last year, I can arrive at what I believe is a pretty reliable assessment.
The Octomore 7.1 is without doubt much more balanced. The 6.1, although much to compliment, did have some off notes. The 7.1 has some strange flavours but everything is blended nicely together to produce a very enjoyable dram.
The 7.1 is sweeter, creamier and mellower than the 6.1. The 6.1 is harsher with dominant burnt electric oil burning engine notes. Even with 167 ppm, the 6.1 seems a lot peatier than the 7.1 at 208 PPM.

Yes, the 7.1 gives you a massive peat experience but it’s all delivered in a most graceful and effortless fashion to such an extent that I suspect that some so called “Peat Heads” who taste this, expecting an “In-Your-Face” peat punch, might actually be quite disappointed.

Those who have been reading my blog on a regular basis will know that I have been a taking break from Islay whiskies and reviewing a lot of unpeated Highland whiskies recently. Coming back to a heavily peated, in fact the heaviest peated Scotch single malt whisky there is, has been an utter delight.

This, as stated on the side of the bottle, is a Jim McEwan creation. It is a Master Distiller masterclass in how to make a superb, unique and an instant classic single malt whisky.

Jim left Bruichladdich in 2015 and went into a well deserved retirement after being one of the super stars within the Scotch whisky industry for 50 years. Bruichladdich must have been bitterly sorry to see him go. He retired to his home on Islay where he said he wanted to spend some quality time with his family.

Well, that plan didn't last long! In February 2017, it was announced that he had joined the team at Ardnahoe, a brand new Islay distillery, at the age of 69. This, the 9th distillery on Islay now, situated on the North-East side of the island, between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila distilleries, will Be'ezrat Hashem, come online in the of summer of 2018.

I wish them BeHatzlacha and look forward to some exciting and stunning expressions coming out with the magical guiding hands of the larger than life, Jim McEwan. (May he live in health until 120!)

This Octmore 7.1 is a full workout for the senses. Smell, Taste and mouth feel.

  • The thickest, oily whisky I’ve ever come across.
  • The peatiest PPM there is.
  • Not only is this malt packed with flavours, it has the most unusual list I’ve ever experienced.
  • The longest finish in a whisky I’ve ever encountered.
  • This one of the most interesting whiskies I’ve ever drunk in my life.
This is one of the short list of single malts which I would say every serious Malt lover MUST try at least once in his/her life.
Could this Octomore 7.1 have earnt a place on my top 10 favourite whiskies of all time? I’m not going to rush into a hasty decision. Let’s do an appraisal of my top three favourite Islay whiskies this Shabbat and see how the Octomore 7.1 stands up to direct comparison with the Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength, Kilchoman 100% Islay Malt and Lagavulin 12 Edition 2015. I’ll update you bli neder next week.

The Octomore is on sale here in Israel from between 630 and 700 shekels.
If you enjoy peated Islay whiskies, then go out and buy a bottle of this. It’s Reb Mordechai recommended.


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