Bruichladdich Octomore 8.1

When searching for strongly peated single malt whiskies, a few Islay distillery names are bound to immediately spring to mind: Ardbeg, Laphroaig, or maybe even Caol Ila. Perhaps not well known outside the circles of connoisseurs and stinking reek-fiends, is Bruichladdich's Octomore series of "super heavily peated" single malt whiskies. This limited edition Masterclass bottling isn't the "peatiest" they've ever made but at 167 parts per million its nearly four times more "peaty" than any other standard Islay whisky currently on LCBO shelves. 

As with all of Bruichladdich's whiskies, the entire production cycle from distillation and maturation to bottling is performed on-site; a point of pride for the Islay distillery. Octomore 8.1 Masterclass was matured for eight years in first-fill American oak casks and was bottled without colouring and un-chill filtered at a potent 59.3% ABV. 

Nose: Pungent aromas of tarry smoke, peat and iodine with a light wisp of buttery vanilla but, every now and then, I swear I get a whiff of Oreo cookie wafer! 

Palate: A wallop of peat smoke, more tar, and charred meat register first. With time, more delicate flavours begin to emerge in the relatively light-bodied dram: malty sweetness, vanilla, cantaloupe, candied citrus, and cocoa.
Finish: Whoa! This one goes on forever. The mouth-watering finish shows lingering, almost grassy, smoke, a drop or two of iodine, old leather, cocoa and a surprising touch of mint.

Overall: Everything about this dram is big and dialed-up; from the ABV to the peat level, Octomore 8.1 is a masterclass in how to walk the line between relying upon a gimmick and creating a compelling whisky. This one is decidedly for the peat freaks but it's so well-crafted and balanced that it also plays really well with food; especially oysters, roast lamb, or even strong cheeses. While you may initially balk at the $225 price tag in the LCBO for a cask-strength 8 year old whisky, it's worth remembering that age isn't everything and Octomore proves that you can get big, complex, flavour from a young whisky. 

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