When I was a young man one of my main chores at home was to light the fire in the living room each winter evening. I’m painfully aware that this makes it sound as though I grew up in a castle and that this is all getting a little bit Monarch of the Glen but that’s the fact: old man BibCup (see my review of Nikka: Pure Malt Black) loves his woodburner and he also loves getting his offspring to do stuff for him. But thank goodness he did as I’m sure that it’s from this simple chore that the love of smoke, wood and burning embers has developed. That smell of a freshly lit match and the thick smoke that comes from still-green kindling are set forever in my memory.
That passion was indulged deeply last night when I was lucky to sample a dram (or three) of Elements of Islay’s Oc3.
Kindly donated by the co-host of a small whisky night that we recently put on the Oc3 is a remarkable bottling from Bruichladdich and sold under the Octomore strand of the Element’s brand. Aged for 7 years in first-fill bourbon and sauternes casks this is a lightly coloured dram that is incredibly full bodied for one so young. The nose stings and invigorates the nostrils, tingling its way down to the back of the throat and threatening the eyes if breathed in deeply. The smells hint a little at what is to come, dominating the scent is ginger spiced vanilla and a rich aroma of fresh crushed coffee beans.
Taste wise Oc3 is unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted. The smokiness conjures memories of bonfires, of thick soot and of course, of those living room chores. As an Octomore it is peated to the point of excess and this flavour resonates down the sides of your tongue minutes after all liquid has long slid down your gullet. A dram of Oc3 is a pure shot of coal-fired caramel espresso wrapped up in a smoke grenade. It is, without doubt, magnificent.
Beyond the smoke there are the traditional tastes of a bourbon cask whisky that has been matured by the sea, rich fruits blend with a salty tang and the peppery tones are strong. But overall the dominant flavour is that rich smoky tidal wave of toffee that floods through your mouth with each sip.
The only problem with the Oc3 is that it was, as with all of the elements range, a limited run. Having now been replaced by the Oc4 supplies of Oc3 are low. In many places the Oc3 is unavailable and that is a real shame. I will treasure the (now half) bottle that I have in the store, breaking this one out for those special occasions when I feel like rewinding to the days of youth.