Bruichladdich has been known for its innovative releases over the years and it is this spirit of innovation which has allowed for them to release a number of unusual and interesting releases over the years.
With the distillery sporting three distinct lines of production (Bruichladdich for their unpeated releases, Port Charlotte for their heavily peated releases and Octomore for their super heavily peated releases), this segmentation allows for them to provide consumers with a wealth of purchase options.
One of the most innovative releases over the years has been the Black Art series, which until recently had been concentrated on the Bruichladdich side of things. The Black Art expressions have been well received and in the process have become cult classics among fans of the distillery.
While the distillery has been pushing for more transparency in the whisky industry (along with Compass Box) by providing consumers with more information as to the types of casks and barley types used in the production of their various expressions, the Black Art series is seen as an anomaly in this drive for transparency in the sense that the casks used in the production of these expressions are shrouded in secrecy.
In fact, the only people who know the exact make up of each expression would be the head distillers past (Jim McEwan) and present (Adam Hannett).
While many people have grown to know and love the Black Art releases, some have wondered if the other product lines from the distillery would be afforded the same treatment.
That question was answered during the Bruichladdich masterclass at Feis Ile 2016 when Adam Hannett produced a sample which was called “Octomore Black Art”.
If you were to skip to about 51 minutes into the video, Adam makes a reference to one of the samples and actually uses the term “Octomore Black Art” to describe it. The reaction from the crowd at that revelation was one of surprise and excitement and Adam was definitely pleased with it.
Most of us thought that this was probably one of those rare and one-off moments of magic which wouldn’t see the light of day beyond the confines of a warehouse tasting at Feis Ile, so imagine our surprise when it was revealed in late February this year that Bruichladdich was actually releasing an Octomore Black Art!
This expression was simply titled OBA Concept_0.1 and was the result of a vatting of several casks of unknown provenance. While not much is known apart from the alcohol strength (59.7% abv), the distillery made more information available on their website by allowing those who purchased an OBA to input the batch code on their bottles (17/143) on the site in order to access more information about its make up.
When the OBA was released, there naturally was a frenzy online as people rushed to secure their bottles. As a result, the Bruichladdich website couldn’t handle the traffic and was either extremely slow or had crashed entirely.
I personally started my attempt to purchase this expression at 8pm local time on the 22nd of February and after 2 hours and 45 minutes of uttery agony as I was forced to constantly refresh the page or just wait until it had been brought back online, I finally secured a bottle of the OBA.
As there were only 3000 bottles and with each bottle being only 500ml in volume, it meant that there was always going to be only a finite amount of liquid to go around.
After purchasing the bottle, thus began the wait and while it was promised that the bottles were to be delivered sometime in late April/early May, several issues cropped up with the delivery of the new bottles and the neck labels, which meant that the delivery was pushed back by a month while these issues were sorted.
The bottles were finally sent out for delivery in early June and I received mine on the evening of the 8th, a mere 106 days after the initial order was placed.
In that time, Bruichladdich conducted a variety of events and these included LaddieMP6 and Feis Ile 2017. It was at the former though, which was held in early May, that I had my first experience with the OBA and it was on the basis of that experience that my tasting notes were written.
This expression from Bruichladdich was crafted from a vatting of 10 casks (3 from 2007, 4 from 2006, 2 from 2008 and 1 from 2002) and 6 different cask types (no information was provided for this, as one would have expected considering its a Black Art release) and was bottled on the 1st of June at a cask strength abv of 59.7% by the distillery.
So, let’s jump right into the review!
Bruichladdich Octomore OBA Concept_0.1 (59.7% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents a blast of peat smoke and ash, followed by an undercurrent of rich red fruits (apricots, plums and nectarines in particular). Sea salt, black pepper and cinnamon cut through the richness of the red fruits and there are hints of coal dust, dried oregano, pine sap, herbal tea and methol alongside some creosote. (22/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents some heat in the form of red chili coupled with some farmyard elements such as wet straw and earth. Red wine hints coupled with the red fruits from the nose make an appearance and are followed by dark chocolate, black pepper and some eucalyptus oil.
With time, the coal dust, creosote, cinnamon, pine sap and herbal tea hints from the nose emerge on the palate and are followed by sea salt and cigar ash. But all of these elements are underpinned by a smouldering, yet nuanced peat note. (22/25)
Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the cigar ash, cinnamon, creosote and vestigial hints of the red fruits intermingling beautifully with the peat, sea salt and black pepper hints. A final flourish of dark chocolate brings things to a close. (21/25)
Balance: A really well-balanced and nuanced expression which possesses a number of facets and complexities which work well in tandem while showcasing their individual characters when needed. This expression evolves on the palate and continues to do so right through the finish.
The mouthfeel is drying for the most part and does contribute quite significantly to the overall character of this dram. Simply sublime! (22/25)
This expression of Octomore is unfortunately sold out worldwide, although some bottles have started to appear on auction sites for rather outrageous prices. There are a handful of establishments around which are selling it by the dram, although it won’t be many and whatever allocation they may have will surely not last long due to the demand.
If you do come across a bottle of this going for a reasonable price or even at a bar by the glass, I would definitely recommend that you try it as it is a rather interesting take on the classic Octomore style. I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed either.
Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.
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