Last year I went to a Jim McEwan Bruichladdich tasting (advertised as a "retirement" tasting - the second "retirement" tasting of his that I've been to - and like that one, he again announced no intention whatsoever of retiring) and heard the man say how much he disliked overly loquacious tasting notes. Well, go to the Bruichladdich website and read his notes, and my God - it's written like something out of Milton's Paradise Lost (only more pretentiously).
Which makes sense, since "Comus" was a play by Milton, performed in 1634, and I suppose largely forgotten. Comus was the son of Bacchus and Circe and would use his "potions" to ensnare an innocent young woman and take her virginity. Ew. Well done, McEwan - you named your whisky after a rapist armed with roofies.
As many of you know, Octomore is Bruichladdich's big-dick-contest-winner for the most heavily peated malt in the world. Octomore is both the name of a long closed distillery, and also of a farm situated above Port Charlotte. Being Bruichladdich, there are countless expressions of Octomore; this one is Edition 4.2, peated to a huge 167ppm, distilled in 2007 and matured for five years (in whole or in part) in Chateau D'Yquem casks (which McEwan calls the greatest wine in the world - that might be kinda subjective though). It is a limited edition of only 18,000 bottles. This almost-finished bottle was generously provided by @paddockjudge.
The colour is a pale but rich gold. On the nose, beautiful lemon, sweet peat, graham crackers (it's a lemon meringue pie!) Of course it is smoky but not overtly so. Marcona almonds. Light, golden raisins. Young, fresh, vibrant, but water seems to do little.
On the palate, immediate numbing of the tongue, not just from alcohol but from the massive peat as well. But in five seconds it clears up and is delicious. Oily mouthfeel, almost syrupy. Liquorice, eucalyptus, light tobacco, and more lemons! Sweeter than you would expect. Very complex, even more so with water, though the heat has increased.
The finish is fruity, with a combination of lemon, peach and mango, with ribbons of peat in the distance - a finish you never want to end. Of course, I'm a peat freak, so I suppose my review must be taken with a grain of salt (or barley). And despite my revulsion toward the marketing "geniuses" at Bruichladdich, and my impatience with the grandstanding, attention-seeking Mr. McEwan, this is an excellent whisky, one of the greatest I've ever tasted from what I feel is a very hit-and-miss distillery. It is rightly described by McEwan as a battle between the heavy peat and the sweet wine influence, and it works beautifully.
Now I remember. I've had the Octomore 5.1, 6.1 and 10. All similar amounts of "peat, heat and not much sweet," as I call them. When I had the 5.1 I thought, wow, with 5 more years this will be even better. But as it turns out, I did not feel the 10 was any improvement over the 5.1. Of the three, I preferred the 5.1. But I also had the pleasure of having a whole bottle of it......
@talexander, your description,
"immediate numbing of the tongue, not just from alcohol but from the massive peat as well. But in five seconds it clears up and is delicious". - This flavor explosion is what I refer to as 'Whisky' Pop Rocks(R).