New Whiskies

Batch 174

by
Bruichladdich Octomore 9.1, 9.2 and 9.3, Bruichladdich 15 and Port Charlotte 2002, both master of Malt exclusives, and Pl5 from Elements of Islay

After last week’s load of Bunnahabhains, the ‘single Islay distillery’ theme continues with Bruichladdich. Dave Broom examines six different ‘laddies – or the peated Port Charlotte and Octomore variants – set to the dulcet tones of the late American singer-songwriter Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart.

First up is a 15-year-old bottling exclusive to online retailer Master of Malt. Broom finds burnt sugar, fresh ginger and toasted marshmallow. ‘A seriously impressive dram,’ he concludes, citing a gorgeous nose in particular.

Next up is the first of three five-year-old Octomores, Bruichladdich bottlings renowned for their peatiness, although Broom finds a more delicate mint flavour amid the ‘turfy smoke’ coming off Octomore 9.1. Despite the smoke, Broom claims that things haven’t quite ignited.

Octomore 9.2 fares better, with sweet characteristics such as fresh berries and fruit pastilles coming forward. ‘Still young and vibrant, but balanced,’ says Broom, as the sweetness gets offset by a briny element.

Octomore 9.3 is heralded as the best of the bunch, with an ‘unctuous and almost waxy’ mouthfeel pairing well with a fatty nose. It’s made with barley grown on Octomore Farm, close to the distillery, and regardless of whether that has any impact on flavour, Broom dubs it the most ‘rounded’ and complete of the trio.

An independent Port Charlotte offering from Elixir Distillers, its Elements of Islay Pl5 bottling is described as a ‘short, sharp shock’, with Broom likening it to a smoke grenade. Dilution curbs the heat but not the smoke, leading him to recommend it for a certain kind of whisky lover, but not everyone.

A final Master of Malt bottling, Port Charlotte 13-year-old has a discernible sweetness and a bit of butter in the mid-palate. Broom recommends a little more sweetness, but encourages ‘the brave and the bold’ to give it a go.

Scoring Explained

Overview

  • Bruichladdich 15 Years Old, 2002 (Master of Malt)

    Bruichladdich 15 Years Old, 2002 (Master of Malt)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    62.4%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    Master of Malt exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Rich & Round
    Nose

    Robust. The colour of chestnut, and smells of it as well, roasting and honey. This sweetness is allied to sloe-like bitter edges, some dried cherry and walnut while still retaining freshness. As it develops, you get fresh wild mushroom, chocolate and (not for the only time this week) dried orange zest before things move to marzipan and dried fruit. It finally settles down with an off-dry Sherried nuttiness and some mature cheese. Complex, in other words. Water adds more nuts with no loss of impact.

    Palate

    Peppery to start as the heat, which wasn’t apparent on the nose, now makes itself felt, giving things an almost sparkling quality with an added touch of cordite. The tip is burnt sugar, then comes dried lime. It’s got a little more grip than you might expect from the nose, while a fresh ginger note offsets the dried fruits. The alcohol does, however, kick in strongly. When water is added, you get some toasted marshmallow elements, some more classic Bruichladdich floral notes and apple skin.

    Finish

    Liquorice.

    Conclusion

    The nose is gorgeous and, while the palate doesn’t quite live up to its promise, this is a seriously impressive dram.

    Right place, right time

    Driving up through autumn woods to Observatory Crest.

    Octomore 9.1, 5 Years Old

    Octomore 9.1, 5 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    59.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Big, with turfy smoke, drying grass and pear/lychee-like fruit backed with meadowsweet. The smoke is controlled very well – there’s even a slight minty quality – albeit with some tension and heat. In time, a big hit of Parma Violet. Water brings out more of the garden bonfire smokiness, while its youthful energy is more apparent.

    Palate

    Much deeper than the nose and filled with that Octomore mix of the dense earthiness of peat and sweet, creamy (almost oily) fruitiness. At the back lurk anise, black cardamom, red liquorice and mint. The smoke sits slightly apart. Water firms things up with some roasted, rooty elements and, again, more depth than the nose.

    Finish

    Starts to soften; surprisingly dense.

    Conclusion

    Still pulling itself together, so things haven’t quite fully ignited in the punchy style that’s popular these days.

    Right place, right time

    Still getting to grips with that Low Yo Yo Stuff.

    Octomore 9.2, 5 Years Old

    Octomore 9.2, 5 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.2%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    Travel retail exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Fruity! Raspberry and mixed berries in yoghurt. There’s more overt smoke here than on 9.1, starting with a charred element. The fruits move to cranberry, red cherry, then dried rose petals, lemon peel and increasing smoke. Although there’s a host of elements vying for attention, there’s also a sense of calm and control. Water brings out a whiff of fresh paint and more fruits. The smoke is sly, sitting back at the start and then – boom! – hitting towards the back-palate. Fragrant, a touch of struck match, nuttiness.

    Palate

    Thick and quite vinous (it’s spent one year in red wine casks) with black grape skin, while the fresh berry elements continue, along with a briny element alongside some orange pith bitterness which acts as a balancing agent to the fruit and the blanketing, earthy smoke. Water makes things more delicate, the smoke seemingly drier in quality while the fruit – now rhubarb syrup mixed with blackberry jam – is retained. Great balance for one so young.

    Finish

    Fruit pastilles, that citrus edge, smoke and some heat.

    Conclusion

    Still young and vibrant, but balanced. Like it. Marked in its competitive set.

    Right place, right time

    The Clouds Are Full Of Wine.

    Octomore 9.3, 5 Years Old

    Octomore 9.3, 5 Years Old
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    62.9%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Dry heat with balanced smoke and a herbal aspect: rosemary wood on a charcoal fire, with some green olive, a mix of tar and a pleasant earthiness, plus woodsmoke on a wool jumper. At the same time as this pulls things towards the drier side, there’s a balancing floral sweetness, barley which inveigles itself with the peat reek, adding violet elements and a briny/saline quality. Water amplifies it further, adding a fatty quality. Really complex for its age.

    Palate

    Very thick again, unctuous and almost waxy in feel. Again, the citrus is there along with lilac blossom and runny clover honey. Though firm with a youthful edge, it has range. Water makes it a lot drier, with the fragrant smoke (moor burn), some Lapsang Souchong now fully in charge and, while the heat is impossible to tame, it has a quality that belies its age.

    Finish

    Heavy smoke, then rosewater and salty chocolate.

    Conclusion

    Made with 100% Octomore Farm barley, this is a vatting of American oak and wine casks. The most rounded and complete of the trio. The mix of earth, sweetness, smoke and bitter elements are all present and in harmony.

    Right place, right time

    One dram and you’re off doing the Floppy Boot Stomp.

    PI5, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)

    PI5, Elements of Islay (Elixir Distillers)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    63.1%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    A lemony element is uppermost here to start with, alongside banana and pineapple esters, while the smoke slumbers slightly. There’s considerable heat, with some rooty qualities, such as angelica root and seed, while dried herbs (see Octomore 9.3) come through quite strongly. The smoke builds steadily alongside green plum, light ginger and dry grass. Water continues this green theme (more mossy now), along with a fine smokiness, dry sand and, finally, cultured butter. Dilution shows a youthful energy.

    Palate

    Quite different to the ever-so-slightly edgy nose, things pick up where the diluted palate left off with creamy, sweet elements, as well as that lemon and bruised fruit. It’s slightly oily in feel. The smoke bomb goes off in the middle of the tongue, adding in heather and bonfire – both smouldering wood and flame. It does need dilution to curb the heat. When that happens, things lighten and sweeten slightly, while never losing the smoke.

    Finish

    Green nuts and smoke. Quite short and always hot.

    Conclusion

    I was tempted to give this 3.14159. A short, sharp shock to the system. If you like things whippy and smoky, it’s for you. 

    Right place, right time

    Charged with Electricity.

    Port Charlotte 13 Years Old (Master of Malt)

    Port Charlotte 13 Years Old (Master of Malt)
    Price band
    £ £ £ £ £
    ABV
    58.8%
    Production type
    Single malt whisky
    Region
    Islay
    Availability
    Master of Malt exclusive
    Flavour camp
    Smoky & Peaty
    Nose

    Has the distillery’s chewy, slightly oily quality, plus fragrant woodsmoke as well as a sense of rounded sweetness with some raw honey and honeysuckle, a touch of Neoprene and chilli flakes/pimento. There’s great balance being struck here. Water opens up the smoke along with some mineral qualities, then lemon, a little floral edge, then bandages.

    Palate

    Smoke kicks things off immediately, making it drier than the nose suggests with a calamus/gentian element and a dominant role for the alcohol. Though there is discernible sweetness in the middle of the tongue, as with the PI, a bonfire blazes on the back-palate, making water a necessity. The dryness continues along with this slightly needly intensity, even at high levels of dilution, with just a touch of butter in the middle.

    Finish

    Peels and smoke.

    Conclusion

    A heart-on-the-sleeve smoky malt, it just needs a little more central sweetness to balance that fierce alcohol. For the brave and the bold.

    Right place, right time

    A bit of a Hot Head.

Scroll To Top