Octomore 14.4 & Jim McEwan Signature Collection 8.3 Octomore cask #1871


Today, we're reviewing Octomore 14.4 and updating our ranking of all the bottles in the 14th series. You can find our reviews of the other releases from the 14th series here.

Octomore 14.4

Region: Islay

ABV: 59.2%

Price: £175.00

14.1 was distilled in 2017 from the 2016 harvest of Concerto barley. It was peated to 106 PPM, matured in Colombian Virgin Oak casks, and bottled at 5 years old.

Nose

Surprisingly closed initially given what this is, although there is peat here in its more medicinal form, think chlorine, TCP, and iodine. After a moment, aromas of vanilla cola, pepper, toffee pops, leather dress shoes, and coastal sea air begin to emerge. As we spend more time with it, hints of tropical fruits also start to peek through. Not what we were expecting given the casks used.

Palate

The palate reveals a more pronounced fruitiness than the nose, featuring abundant lemon and lime. Accompanying these are notes of liquorice, lavender, ginger, pear drops, and a hint of dark chocolate bitterness. Underpinning these flavours is a substantial presence of peat, lending depth to the dram. The finish is dominated by black pepper and wood spice, complemented by a delightful oily mouthfeel. It’s good, but the ABV is noticeable, and will hopefully lose a little of it bite with water.

Nose (with water)

After adding water, the nose features tobacco, red apples, an intensified coastal sea air, pear drops, Bovril gravy, and yeast. With water this has gained some aromas and lost others. It’s not so much opened up as morphed into something a little different.

Palate (with water)

Adding a few drops of water significantly reduces the alcohol's bite, while the mouthfeel remains largely the same. There's an increase in cloves and aniseed, though the palate doesn't undergo a drastic change from its undiluted state.

Conclusion

We can’t say that the nose or palate provided what we were expecting given this release was matured in virgin oak. What it did provide was something pretty good. With a few drops of water we could go to a 7.5.

Our ranking of the Octomore 14 range:

  1. Octomore 14.4
  2. Octomore 14.2
  3. Octomore 14.3
  4. Octomore 14.1

Score: 7.5/10

Value

Only £5 more than last year’s .4. If we were being honest we expected a bigger jump in price. Saying that it’s not exactly cheap.


Jim McEwan Signature Collection 8.3 Octomore cask #1871

Region: Islay

ABV: 62.4%

Price: £295.00

Distilled on 28th March 2013 and peated to 107 PPM, this whisky matured in a fill bourbon barrel from an unknown American distillery and was bottled at 10 years old. 224 bottles were released.

Nose

The whisky is less smoky than we were anticipating, the nose unveils notes of dried apricots, marmalade, synthetic sweetness, and dolly mixtures, with a hint of light peat lingering in the background. Given time, additional layers notes, including dried oats, wet paint, tobacco, orange peel, sea spray, dirt, ginger, and damp wood.

Palate

Initially a tad bitter and dry, the palate reveals dried roasted peanuts and sweetness from golden syrup and orange peel, transitioning to tobacco, ash, TCP, freshly laid tar, and vanilla. The finish has a medium length, but is dominated by spice. While the mouthfeel is good, it doesn't surpass that of the 10.4 version. We were expecting more sweetness given the nose, but the peat dominates here.

Nose (with water)

Upon dilution, the whisky reveals notes of a musty old cupboard, smoked cashew nuts, golden syrup, cloves, aniseed, fresh leather, and tobacco, with lime also coming through. The smokiness has notably receded, primarily manifesting as ash, with the nose having become significantly sweeter, reminiscent of buttercream icing.

Palate (with water)

With dilution, the palate experiences a reduction in sweetness. However, the spice finds a better balance, and the overall character becomes ashier, making the present sweetness more discernible amidst a less peaty backdrop. Notes of burnt brown sugar, butterscotch, and toffee cinders also emerge. The mouthfeel remains satisfying, and the finish is no longer overwhelmed by spice.

Conclusion

Another dram that benefits from a little dilution becoming something quite tasty. Good, but there are better options in the Jim McEwan Signature Collection. Still it’s an easy 7.5.

Score: 7.5/10

Value

We wish it was good value as we do enjoy an occasional dram of Octomore... but alas..

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  • 10 - Perfection. One in a million
  • 9 - Outstanding. Exceptional whisky.
  • 8 - Great. Would seek this out.
  • 7 - Good. Quality whisky.
  • 6 - Above average. Happy to have a dram.
  • 5 - Average. Drinkable whisky.
  • 4 - Below average. Passable.
  • 3 - Flawed. Noticeable negatives.
  • 2 - Defective. Significant faults.
  • 1 - Offensive. Pour it out.

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