What are we drinking? vol. IV - 13/6/2013

I’ve recently been drinking the world’s peatiest whisky.  The peatiness of a whisky is measured in ‘phenol parts per million’ (PPM).  The stalwarts of the smoky scene measure like this: Laphroaig is 40 PPM, Lagavulin is 45 PPM,  and Ardbeg is 54 PPM.  The Bruichladdich Octomore 5.1 weighs in at an absurdly hefty 169 PPM.

These intimidating statistics left me wondering whether the stuff would be drinkable.  However, as soon as you pour a dram and give it a sniff those worries subside.  On the nose this whisky is incredibly subtle.  The peat isn’t jumping out at you and drowning all the other flavours.  There is an excellent blend of sweetness and smoke, reminding me of bittersweet chocolate, or the moment you blowtorch the top of a crème brulee, caramelizing the sugar.

The instant it hits the tongue you also get some sweetness, some smoked honey and a bit of spice.  However, as soon as you begin to swallow it tastes as if an arsonist has crawled inside your mouth.  A bonfire rages and dances.  Unbelievably heavy smoke.   You can’t quite believe this taste can be in liquid form.  You know that you’re trying something superbly special and it’s chaos all around. 

The aftertaste is perfect.  That intensity calms down, leaving you with the smoldering embers of a great event.  Picture the silence of wild fire that’s just finished destroying a forest and has now burnt itself out; charred trees and wisps of smoke rising into the air.