First things first. Open a new window and listen to this while you’re reading the blog. It’ll put you in a good mood, and this might be the last you see of me before Christmas, so I want you to be happy.
Anyway, what recession?!! It’s been so mind-bendingly busy here at TWE Towers that I’ve not had a chance to do any blogging at all in the last month. It’s got so crazy that I’ve had to go downstairs and get my hands dirty picking orders 12 hrs a day for the last week. Quelle Horreur!! Even now, I may be dragged back to the coalface at any moment, so I’m going to make this pretty brief.
So, it’s that time of year again. Octomore, Bruichladdich’s controversial uber-peated behemoth, is back – still as a 5 year-old – and this time, it’s coming with a twist: it’s been finished in wine casks.
Well, let’s face it – it’s Bruichladdich we’re talking about here. This was always going to happen.
But these are no mortal wine casks – the world’s peatiest whisky has been finished in casks formerly home to one of the world’s most expensive wines: Chateau Petrus. Does this qualify to be called gilding the lily?
Now, I’m on record as not having been a massive fan of Octomore in the past but I have to admit that I’m once again intrigued. My main complaint with the version I tried was that it was too one-dimensional: just massive, overwhelming, ashy phenols. But can putting this totally OTT spirit into special Allier wood imbued with one of the world’s best clarets put that right?
It just might. During the Bruichladdich open day at the Feis Ile this year I’m sure I tasted a few of the various editions finished in casks from various First Growth clarets. Most of them were good solid whiskies: decent if unspectacular. I’m wondering how long the spirit was finished for in this case. If anything’s going to bring something to the peat party, perhaps Petrus can do it.
So will Orpheus be a match made in heaven or folly on folly, an excess too far? No-one knows yet, and I don’t have a sample, but even without tasting it I know that some people will go crackers for Orpheus while others will dismiss it as yet another Bruichladdich gimmick.
Unsurprisingly, Jim McEwan is in the former camp:
Enhanced in Petrus Casks – 61% Alc
Jim McEwan’s Tasting Notes
“Colour: Mahogany red
Body: Strong and muscular, absolutely in top condition. The texture is as smooth as the rocks on Islay’s western seaboard. An amazing warmth floods throughout the body lifting you to a level of pleasure you have never experienced from a malt whisky.
Nose / Palate: The aromas explode from the glass. It’s peat smoke, wet seaweed, archangel tar, wet sailcloth, all the Islay character is on the flood tide, then with time and a little water the wonderful sweet red fruit notes from the Petrus wine casks emerge; cherry, cranberry and pomegranate, Turkish delight, the sweetness of oak and barley slipstream, together they bring a sensational contrast to the phenolic maelstrom. It’s a journey of discovery for the senses, which are on full alert coping with physical heat, but they are loving it. It’s something they have never experienced before and they will never forget.
This spirit cries ‘freedom’ untainted by additives and attitudes. Let the spirit seep into your soul. It’s revelation in a glass.
Finish: It’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Islay style. Total romance with a sensational ending, can’t tell you about it you HAVE to try it, it’s wicked.”
Understated stuff there from the maestro. Don’t hold back, Jim – tell us what you really think.
Anyway, there’s much more in the same vein on the official press release, which you can read in this Octomore Orpheus PDF. It explains, amongst other things and in case you hadn’t guessed already, that the red tin signifys the flames of Hades into which Orpheus had to descend to try and get his missus out of a spot of bother.
Well, as I said before: I’m intrigued. It’s clear that the tide was turning on Octomore a little – certainly not a chorus of disapproval, and God knows it’s always flown off the shelves – but there was a consensus forming amongst the nerderati that the previous releases were a little disappointing and even the totally committed peat freaks seemed to prefer Ardbeg Supernova. So what do Bruichladdich do? They raise the stakes again. You have to hand it to them, they really know how to cause a stir – and believe me, this will cause a stir. Consider my hat doffed.
Right, I hear the coalface calling. Such a shame, as there’s so much good stuff happening I want to talk about. Shouts and a healthy slap on the back to Joel Caskstrength after a terrific birthday tasting the other week (and I’m looking forward to ‘helping’ with the judging of their BiG Awards gongshow soon, too).
I also tasted some of the controversial Manager’s Choice releases last week: here’s my potted run-down of some forthcoming stuff:
Glen Spey: Creamy. Pleasant. Unexciting.
Dalwhinnie: Clean. Biscuity. Extremely Classy.
Inchgower: Marmalade. Sulphur. Avoid.
Blair Atholl: Earthy. Buttered Digestives. Complex.
Royal Lochnagar: Fruit syrup. Honeyed flapjacks. Not bad at all.
Talisker: Seemed fine, but tasted outside in freezing conditions with braziers and a chiminea belching smoke everywhere.
You can read more details on that particular tasting on the caskstrength blog (bearing in mind that they do both work for Diageo these days, although thankfully it hasn’t affected their style at all).
Finally, a quick plug before I go for the Jameson Cult Film Club (it’s a good thing, and their PR girl sends me very polite emails): they’re showing one of my favourite ever films, This is Spinal Tap, at the Clapham Grand tonight. It’s free and so is the booze – check the details on http://jamesoncultfilmclub.com and if you’re in the area get down there for some hardcore rockumentary fun. And spare a thought for your poor blogger, working his delicate fingers to the bone pulling bottles off shelves and clambering about warehouse racking looking for the last bottle of Green Apple Monin syrup (as recommended by Nigella, curse her).