Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Peat Plus: Finished Octomores
ATTENTION: WE INTERRUPT OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING TO ACTUALLY TASTE SOME WHISKY
I was a big fan of the first edition of Octomore, the uber-peated expression from Bruichladdich, but I haven't sampled one since that first expression (which is, by the way, still available). Today I try two Octomores: The 2.2 Orpheus and the 4.2 Comus.
Both whiskies are five years old, as are all Octomores so far, and named for Greek gods. The Orpheus is peated to 140 ppm and finished in Bordeaux casks from Chateau Petrus. The Comus is the newest Octomore and is finished in Sauternes casks. This one is peated to a mind-numbing 167 ppm (though they are apparently working on one in the 300s). Comus isn't available in the US yet but it appears to be on its way. My guess is it will go for $170-$180.
Keep in mind that peat phenols in ppm (parts per million) are generally measured after malting. The distillation process and aging can affect the perceived peat content, so the numbers alone don't tell the full story.
Octomore 2.2 Orpheus, 61% abv ($160)
I love the nose on this. It's like what I imagine it would be like to stick your head into a peat bog, smoky, earthy and a tad sweet (okay maybe a bog wouldn't be sweet, I don't know). The palate is at once sweet and smoky but that's about it. It has a lot less complexity than the nose and there is a bit of a chemical element which lasts through to the finish. A drop of water, though, does a lot to bring out some of those more earthy flavors I was missing from the nose and adds a more multi-dimensional quality, bringing in some of that earthiness and even a more distinct wine note, so I'd recommend this one with water (something I rarely find myself saying).
Octomore 4.2 Comus, 61% abv
The nose on this has rotting plant matter with motor oil, flowers and sugar cane...and I like it. The palate is similarly funky with some definite white wine influence, corn syrup and maybe even some soy sauce and mushrooms. Water on this one brings out both the sweetness and the smoke. The finish is just peaty.
Even though Comus is peated to a higher level, Orpheus really tastes like a more traditional peat monster (albeit on steroids). I find that Sauternes influence is a gamble and I'm not so sure it works on the Comus. If I had to choose between the two, I'd definitely pick the Orpheus, but I'm not sure I'd pay for either given the other, cheaper peated whiskies that are available.