Well, you know it must be coming up to Christmas (Whaaat?!). Over a month to Halloween yet and the mince pies were already on sale in Sainsbury’s last Sunday. And suddenly the first few smatterings of the forthcoming deluge of new products from hungry distilleries eager to cash in on the festive season have begun in earnest. We’ve already had the Glenmorangie Astar, and the Signet can’t be far away. Ardbegs Blasda and Mor II are imminent, and very soon the new Diageo Special Releases will be upon us (more details of all of which very soon).
But naturally, and despite their shy and retiring natures, some of the biggest publicity splashes and most highly sought-after and discussed new releases of the winter will be coming in the next two or three weeks from Bruichladdich.
The afore-mentioned hoo-hah is likely to be twice as noisy this year, of course, for not only do we have the third release of Port Charlotte, the ‘PC 7: Unity’ – no doubt there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the name, we just don’t know what it is yet - but, after literally years of speculation (and many soiled sheets of anticipation amongst the more obsessive peatheads), the first general release edition of the world’s most heavily peated malt whisky will also be taking its bow.
Octomore has been peated at a staggering 131 ppm, more than twenty times higher than normal Bruichladdich - and around two-and-a-half times more than standard Ardbeg, the highest of the other Islay distilleries. This first release (named ‘Redemption’) has been fully matured in Bourbon casks and bottled at 64.5%. The picture below is of the design proof for the bottle and its ‘perforated tin’.
So, what’s it actually like? Unfortunately we haven’t tried it yet, but here’s an excerpt from distillery manager Jim McEwan’s tasting notes, in which he admirably tries to dampen down the feverish hype that mystifyingly seems to generate around some Bruichladdich releases:
“The aromas burst from the glass on a floodtide of Atlantic sea squalls, Sea drenched sailcloth, light iodine, peat moor fires, bog myrtle and bracken.
Once this tempest has passed, the aromas of hawthorn and rowan emerge quickly followed by sweet oak drizzled with vanilla, lemon oil and cinnamon. The slow distillation has imparted a smoothness in the texture that helps to calm the storm for a while until the next wave crashes onto the palate bringing all the warnings given by the olfactor system. The Islay character detonates on the tongue unbridled, unrestrained so batten down the hatches. This youngster encapsulates the very essence of Islay.”
By the way, for anyone wondering about the Redemption name, here’s Jim’s typically understated explanation: “This first general release of Octomore is the redemption of a single malt that never had the opportunity to shine in the galaxy of Islay’s stars many years ago but will now blaze a trail like a meteorite with its impressive 131ppm peating level . It’s a breath of new life in a world of spin.”
Words fail us. Thank God for Jim McEwan.
In the furore that Octomore will inevitably cause, the third release of Port Charlotte is in danger of being merely an afterthought instead of one of the biggest releases of the year. So just to stoke the fires of your desire, here’s a few snaps of what’s to come:
Please don’t think us shallow, but I’m afraid that we must confess a feeling of relief to see the return of the black tins of PC5 after the somewhat-too-modern-for-this-old-fuddy-duddy white thing that PC 6 turned up in. And, before anyone asks, NO! You can’t pick which tin you’ll get when they arrive. Because, let’s face it - and this is no offence to Andrew, Woods and James B - it’s pretty clear that you’ll all want Bob.
The devil-may-care leaning-on-a-barrel pose. That man is an islander.
He even looks a bit like Pat Mustard from Father Ted…
Anyway, enough for now. More excitement soon, no doubt, but in the meantime if you want to get organised, it’s safe to buy those mince pies from Sainsburys. The best before date was Feb 09. I checked.