THE OCTOMORE PROJECT: When the Smoke Clears
This feature will be unique in that it will be in 2 parts, but within the same piece. The second half will be an interview I did with a Dutch scotch enthusiast, and a sampling project he did involving Octomore in particular. This is someone who has taken his enjoyment of this amazing whisky to an epic new level. Not only does he do it for himself, but he has found a way of sharing that enthusiasm with others around the globe. But first, let’s dive into a brief history Octomore. What is it about this unique spirit that enchants and captivates it’s fans?
A BRIEF HISTORY OF OCTOMORE –
Octomore single malts were first distilled in 2002. Primarily bottled at 5 years old, they are always heavily peated and bottled at cask strength. Like mainly brilliant plans it started out as a late night “what if?” idea after a few drams, with the mad scientists at Bruichladdich. With Jim McEwan, the whisky icon, as the headmaster of this crazy bunch. The general idea was to distill the most heavily-peated barley humanly possible and create a spirit of exceptional quality. They tapped James Brown’s farm above Port Charlotte for the barley and the name Octomore, meaning in Gaelic “the big eight”. which is an ancient measure of land.
That first edition, the 1.1, was released in 2008 and was the lone Octomore offering that year. Having only a 5 year maturation, this powerhouse was anything but tame. Bursting with smoke, it was bottled at, for that time, an amazing 131 PPM. The highest rating ever up until that point. Based on it’s success, 2 versions were released the following year. The 2.1, which was created in a similar manner to the 1.1 and the 2.2, which spent a little extra time in French oak Bordeaux casks. The following year saw just one release, the 3.1, but the smoke had climbed to 152 PPM. This pattern of escalating PPM and just 1 edition followed by 2, continued until the #6 editions arrived in 2013. Now expanded to 3 versions, the 6.1 and 6.2 followed the same pattern of equal PPM’s (167 PPM in this case) but the 6.3 delivered a massive 256 PPM and blew the doors off the record of the smokiest whisky ever!
Following the 6 series, the yearly offerings were increased to 4, with the odd “special” release showing up from time to time. Though on the surface it sometimes seems like there shouldn’t be major differences in the 4, there can be some huge swings in aroma and taste. All of them are of phenomenal quality, but do your research, so you can find something that pleases your pallet. Of the 4 annual releases there is currently a pattern of the 4th being a .4 one year and a 10 year old version the next. Also, in recent years the .2 has been reserved for duty free sales or as an online exclusive.
Though the most heavily peated whiskies on Islay tend to measure around 40 PPM, don’t be afraid of the Octomores. At least not by the smoke, the $200+ price tag may scare the hell out of some of you however. Octomore isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a fan of peated whisky and haven’t tried one, you owe it to yourself to track some down and “smoke your pallet” …or as my wife says as I’m polishing off a dram “Are you drinking a campfire??” Hmmm…such a peasant. Slainte!
A Brief Chat With Maarten voor de Poorte – The Man Behind the Octomore Project
BP: Hi Maarten, How are you today? Tell me a little about yourself, what you do and where are you from?
MVP: Hi Dave, I’m doing quite well. So, I am Maarten voor de Poorte, and I’m an optical (work)shop employee, living in the Netherlands. Recently, I always seem to be on the move, I’ve moved 3 times in 3 years…and I’m done with it! (laughs), I have 2 cats, one named Naboo and the other is called Laddie, guess where that name comes from? I also love to create things artistically, only a lack of time limits me.
BP: When did you get into whisky?
MVP: I was only 18 when I got my first glass of whisky, some random blend. It was something my older brother was drinking and I liked the smell and taste immediately. After that experience I bought a few bottles of simple blends, then approximately 12 years ago I bought my first single malt, the rest is history. I currently have 50 open bottles and counting.
BP: Is it just Scotch or other spirits as well?
MVP: Mostly scotch or whisky from other countries. Sometimes a good rum or old, pre 1980 liquor, can be brilliant. You have to try an old Grand Marnier! It will change you.
BP: As far as Scotch goes, are there certain regions within Scotland that appeal to you more than others?
MVP: Mostly an Islay guy, but I won’t say no to a BenRiach or Arran, I love Arran! Approximately 50% of my bottles are Islay, the rest are from all over.
BP: How did the idea for the Octomore sample project come about and had you done any previous projects?
MVP: Sampling whisky or building these sets, started about 6 years ago with a hand full of samples from my private bottles. Then I got a hold of the complete Octomore collection up to that time, this was around 5 years ago. I wanted to do something crazy, I thought “What would be the most epic thing to do with this” They were up to 7.3 at that point if I recall. So that was actually the first time, same tubes as this time, but a bit more simple overall. Even then it was a lot of work. After that I told myself I’d never do this again. But, a few years later, Game of Thrones whisky apparently was a thing and I made a sample set of those, with the appropriate tube colors. Such as black for the Oban and white-blue-silver for the JW. Following that I put together the Bruichladdich Cuvee 16 set, I also housed those in a wooden box like the first set of Octomores. I then completed the Black Art series, with of course black tubes. and then the Bruichladdich Classics. Since I started Bruichladdich sample sets people have asked me to do another Octomore set, and then it all started again. Collecting enough participants, collecting all bottles, painting the tubes, which was approximately 900 of them. Then it was creating labels, printing all stuff, getting the boxes engraved and then finally, filling tubes and labeling. Special thanks to my lovely wife for putting all stickers on all samples.
BP: What type of profits do you see from these projects? Expenses?
MVP: Well, the profit mostly comes if I’m lucky enough to get the bottles at a decent price. Technically, I don’t charge for the boxes or labels. I “win” depending on the better price I get on the bottles, like the Octomore 2.2. I was lucky enough to get one at ±400, but its worth ±600. I keep 2 sets for myself and will donate 1 set to the Friends of Bruichladdich auction.
BP: What are your motivations for the projects?
MVP: I do this for 3 things: The fun of hunting down exclusive bottles, the fun of opening and trying exclusive whisky and a tiny bit for the profit that can be spent on other private bottles
BP: Any projects lined up after this?
MVP: There are plenty of ideas, such as The Stills, meaning Blacker, Redder and Golder, a follow-up for the Octomores which would include any the Future-bottles and the Renegades, the Port Charlotte Collection (PC5-PC12) and the original WMD with the Yellow Subs. There are also some other non whisky related side projects at home which I have to spend some time on first. Such as my new life on my Instagram, with the MrArtistDesign, There are all kinds of projects to be seen over there, including the sample sets, some nice bottles and also my build-projects in an artistic setting.
BP: Thanks so much for your time Maarten, I look forward to touching base with you again when you dive into your next project.
MVP: My pleasure. I’ll let you know when I do.
MrArtistDesign on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mrartistdesign/