"But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise and you should not,
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
Goodnight and joy be with you all."
This is an update of the Orpheus review I posted last night. I was admittedly tired and out of sorts from the Boston bombing news. In my weariness I somehow broke one of my cardinal rules of blogging: never write something you don't want to write. The review was meandering, unfocused, filled with fluff and metaphor and very little tangible benefit. I have found that if I am writing something I care about, the words and thoughts tend to flow deftly from my fingers. It's as if God gives me one little moment to speak with authority, and then I'm back in a rut, staring at the screen and wondering how it happened. If I stare too long, I risk upsetting the sacred construction that now stands on its own. So I'm rebuilding. It's like Bikram Choudhury (well established Yoga hack, but yogi just the same) says: "It's never too late to start from scratch."
My goal with these reviews is not to reinvent the wheel, but to challenge some of the well-established moors of spirit blogging. If you read it and learn nothing about the spirit, the maker, the terroir... well then, I've failed to do my job. So let's start over. You can still take a moment to listen to that marvelous rendition of "Parting Glass' from the Wailin' Jennys above, and then perhaps have a moment of silence for those affected by the evil in Boston.
Among those well-versed in whiskies, the words "Bruichladdich Octomore" carry an almost mythical amount of weight. I'm guessing that part of it stems from the sheer difficulty of acquiring whiskies from this series (although I am blessed to have a local liquor store that still stocks several of them). It is helped by having the reputation of World's Peatiest Whisky, although I understand now that it is tied for this title.
Octomore is little different, except that this particular distillery (Bruichladdich) is on an experimental tear as their new batch of spirit continues to age. We'll probably do a distillery profile on these guys in the near future, such is my fascination with them, but suffice it to say that no whisky sold to you comes promptly out of the still - it must be aged (by law, in fact) to even be called a whisky. This makes cash flow a bit of a problem unless you're looking to sell some very young (comparitive to the industry) whisky in the meantime. To do so risks derision at the hands of critics, as there is still a great deal of "older is better" mindset in the public mind.
Ahhhhh, I can already smell the ashes. There's no doubt, that reputed peatiness leaps straight out of the bottle, a very forward presence. Alright there, laddie, hush a bit. Let's see what hearts beats beneath that obsidian veneer.
Upon the pour, we get a very elegant color: golden, red, warmer than the non-ACEd (Additional Cask Enhancement) Octomore. This color is obviously from the Bordeaux enhancement, but what's interesting is that the warm red hue fades to gold near the edges of the glass. I once likened it to a candle flame, flickering softly in your palm. In fact, I'd be surprised if your face didn't glow a bit (or perhaps it's just those peaty embers) if you lowered yourself down to it. Either way, you're holding your own little Glencairn vigil every time :-)
Reveal your secrets! It's in subsequent dips that those winey notes finally make themselves heard under that barnyard symphony. A faint, subtle meaty sweetness. Alright then, I think I'm ready to go swimming!
As the spirit enters the palate, the first sensation is a an angry heat. This comes partly from the ABV, partly from those Octomore phenols. The peat takes a different form in this dram than your usual Islay affair. It's purer, less boggy, and decidedly not what you were fearing when you read it was 140 ppm phenols (phenols in parts per million are how we measure the "peatiness" or smokiness of most whiskies). I think one website likened this flash of heat to white pepper, but I'm going to go straight ahead and say that it's like biting into a fresh-picked cayenne pepper. Welcome to your first OC-flavored whisky ;-) Just kidding. Sort of.
Just before the malt gives way to that winey finish I always notice a somewhat vegetal tone. This kind of makes sense - after all, we're talking about cayenne peppers and farms and what-not. I likened the flavor to the smell of tomato vine. If you could extract that scent and place it into a whisky, that's what you'd find here.
To quote master distiller Jim McEwan: "Wow! A single malt life support system! Massive, power-packed yet not aggressive. Petrus and Peat – who would have guessed that such diverse flavours could create something so amazing? Single malt sorcery! [...] Cunning, conspiratorial, Machiavellian. Whatever next?"
I do love how this man writes about his product! I'm reminded of a line from Dostoevsky: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'". Only this time, we all come out from Jim McEwan's thesaurus ;-)