So, this is officially my first time posting in the K&L Spirits Journal. As part of the David2 Spirits buying team here at K&L, I've had a wonderful time watching Mr. Driscoll develop the spirits conversation across the bay area and beyond. It was about time I add a little southern flavor. The SoCal perspective is not so different from the SF outlook. I will admit that my city is still significantly behind the north in terms of the cocktail. You still can't get a decent cocktail on the Sunset Strip, but we are catching up fast. Los Angelenos love for the finer things is as strong as anyone's; we always want the best!
The thirst for high quality spirits is growing exponentially all across our nation. To say we are having a spirits renaissance is cliché, but that does not make it any less true. The people who care about what they're drinking, really care. They want to know the what, why, where, who and how. At no other time in history has the spirits consumer has been so knowledgeable, opinionated, or involved (e.g. Driscoll's last post).
The general intensity of interest and demand by spirits consumers for high-quality, unique products has allowed some of the finer producers to experiment in ways that would have been unthinkable twenty years ago. Bruichladdich is one of these producers. Historically considered Islay's innovator, heated debate revolves around this little distillery, just few clicks north of Port Charlotte. It would be an understatement to label this distillery as controversial. Bruichladdich is not afraid to try something new. In an industry where commitment to tradition is held above all other attributes, Bruichladdich takes a daring position. Bruichladdich's independence is a gift to the whisky loving world. They've developed a line of incredibly diverse NAS malts by marrying young peaty whisky and older unpeaty stocks. They've bottled some incredible whisky from the stocks distilled prior to the 1994 closure. They've released organic single malt whisky. They utilize more than 50% locally grown barely. Love it or hate it, the independently owned Bruichladdich stands in stark contrast to the large conglomerates that control much of Scotland's whisky production. For distilling and aging whisky, smaller is not always better and it certainly doesn't make anything easier. It takes some serious balloons [sic.] to commit so much of their production to these experimental bottlings. I have a feeling that their vision will become more clear as malt matures.
Bruichladdich's most outrageous experiment to date has been the Octomore. Many are aware of these whiskies, with their distinctive bottle shape and awe inspiring price tag. A true experiment, driven by a Dr. Frankenstein like zeal. Octomore is what happens when you extend the smoking process from the standard very peaty 1.5 days to upwards of 5 full days of smoke. These experiments were designed specifically to push the maximum phenolic contents to new heights. The process has purportedly created blindingly peaty malt with phenolic levels measuring upwards of 300 ppm. This ultra smoky whisky is married with the 80ppm stuff to create the 1.1 and 2.1 bottlings that are available state side. The whiskies are peated at 131 and 140ppm, respectively and bottled at full strength. Despite the whiskies' youth, proof, and incredible peat levels, they have a surprising drinkablility (just like Bud Light). The overall feeling of peat is all-encompassing, but not sharp or harsh. The science behind is phenomenon is the whisky's high oil content, which is infused into the barley along during the smoking process. The longer the burn the higher the oil content creating a textural base that elongate the intensity of peat. This adds up to a surprisingly well rounded whisky. Unfortunately, the Octomore is VERY expensive. It has been out of reach for many whisky lovers as it boasts a $200 price tag. Now for a limited time, thanks to a distribution change, it will be available at a significant discount. For everyone who has purchased to collect, now would be the time to pick up a bottle to drink. For all who were curious about tasting the peatiest whisky ever created this is your chance. We've only got 1 case of the 1.1 release and the 2.1 is very limited as well.