I first tried Bruichladdich's Octomore a couple of years ago in a whisky bar. I have no idea what batch it was, but I can clearly recall my drinking companions taking a collective step away from me as soon as I started waving the glass around. It is, after all, the most heavily peated whisky in the world.
But as I've come to get to know this particular bottle of the 5-year-old single malt from Islay, I realise it's not actually that peaty after all.
While this elegant bottle contains single malt with a 208 PPM, it has, to my palate, more chocolate characteristics than pure peat.
It took many months to properly open up, with the taste initially dominated by a sharp grappa note. Now at the halfway mark, the grappa smell has mellowed considerably, and it tastes really good. Try it with chocolate pudding. Seriously, it's fantastic!
Nose: Sweet with lots of butterscotch. Apricots, foam banana sweets, chocolate-covered pretzels and Toffee Crisp bars. Salt and vanilla. The peat is definitely there but it's lurking in the background - more campfire smoke than peat blast. Ash, twigs, slight citrus and mellow oak-aged grappa. Water brings out more fruit, cranks up the smoke and adds some caramel.
Palate: Thick and syrupy with huge slabs of chocolate. Cinnamon, citrus, peppercorns and granary bread. Water tames the dram but still keeps the intensity intact. Adds fruit and sherbet lemons.
Finish: Malted hot chocolate, ash, peat, smoke and earth. Really spicy. Water adds liquorice, toasted bread and a healthy spoonful of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.