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Darth Vader and Octomore

  • The Whiskey: Bruichladdich The Octomore 6.1
  • Cask type: American Oak
  • Age: 5 Years
  • ABV: 57%
  • Phenol PPM: 167!!!
  • The Comic Book: Star Wars Tales #9: Resurection
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Writer: Ron Marz
  • Inker: Terry Austin
  • Letterer: Steve Dutro
  • Colourist: Raul Trevino
  • Cover artist: Jon Foster

A Long Time ago:

So why did we pair Bruichladdich Octomore with Darth Vader? Well that story beings a long time ago….in a childhood far, far away.

I became a Star Wars fan long before I was a whiskey fan. My first memories of toys were the action figures my parents gave me from Return of the Jedi. I was 4 years old that Christmas and wanted nothing more than to be a Jedi. Like most kids, Star Wars is all about the good guys. You root for Luke because he’s on the hero’s journey (even if you don’t know what that is yet), Han and Chewie because you hope to have a friends like that someday, and Leia because against all the odds, she fights, and wins, time and again. You like the Ewoks, the droids, well, you get the point.

But as I got older, the villains are just so much more interesting. They are unapologetic in their pursuit of what they want. Their passion is their strength. Aren’t we told to find something we are passionate about and to pursue that passion? Through strength they gain power. Through power they gain victory. Through victory their chains are broken.

The Sith creed certainly doesn’t seem like a path to darkness when applied to my adult life. I’m passionate about my life and what’s important to me, be it family, my friends, my job, hobbies, whatever. And because of this passion I feel like I have a deep well  of personal strength upon which I can draw and this makes me feel empowered. This can lead to many forms of victory, and I think we can all agree that breaking the chains that bind you is a good thing!

But in the Star Wars universe, follow this creed, and you are doomed to suffer. Well, that’s all fine and well….but I still think Darth Vader is the coolest most badass character of all time. He overpowers anyone in his path. He never backs down, he digs deeper, and finds a way to be stronger than any opponent. His all black suit is iconic. The sound of his breathing sends chills to all those around. He can force choke someone from a different Star Destroyer. He is, without a doubt, a singular force to be reckoned with.

The Whisky – Bruichladdich Octomore 6.1

So what dram could we possibly pair with such a powerful villain? What could hope to stand up to the menacing figure in his black armour? Well, thankfully, there is a whisky that has its own cult following… and we are card carrying members. For those that seek the peatiest of drams, you need look no further than Octomore by Bruichladdich. In its jet black bottle, Octomore is mysterious, not letting anyone peer into its soul. It’s protected, like Vader in his armour. One look at this bottle and you can’t help but be intrigued.

And let me tell you…this should be the last dram you drink if you’re doing a flight, because your pallet will need time to recover from what is about to happen. Your nose is assaulted by the aromas of peat and your tongue is left with a loooooong smoky finish.  But there is a real depth and complexity to Octomore. The finish is almost unexpectedly smooth after the initial punch. Unlike a Jedi, it is not to be understood with a quick glance at the robe and lightsaber. Like Vader, you must go deeper to try and understand it. 

Courtesy of Bruichladdich.com

My Octomore Origin Story:

If you’ll bear with me, let me explain how I came to be a fan of Bruichladdich Octomore. I was first introduced to the Darth Vader of whiskies while in the UK. It was at a tiny out of the way pub in Cheltenham in the Cotswolds on vacation, so of course, I wanted to find a place to have a dram or 4. I told the owner that I was from Canada, that I loved Islay whiskies, and that I wanted to try something that I couldn’t get back home. He said he had just the thing.

He came back with this black bottle and placed it on the bar and looked up at me and said “how much do you like peat?”. I immediately said that I loved it, that my home collection was made up of Lagavulin 16, Laphroig quarter cask, and that I liked nothing more than a nice smoky finish. “Ok, well you’ve never had anything like this” he said as he uncorked the bottle and poured out the golden liquid into a glencairn glass.

I picked up the glass and brought it to my nose…and my eyes must have looked like saucers. I put it back down and looked back up at him and he chuckled and poured himself a glass. It was the middle of the week, just after dinner, and I was one of the only patrons. He lifted the glass and took a deep sniff and smiled. He raised his in salut, and we both took a taste. Well if my eyes had been wide when nosing, they were like spotlights now. My tastebuds felt  like they were on board the Millenium Falcon for my first jump to lightspeed.

Bruichladdich Octomore – The first sip:

Octomore truly is unlike anything else. My current bottle is the 11.1 edition which comes in at 139 ppm, but for this article we used my now deceased 6.1 edition, which came it at 167 ppm [Side note 2: PPM (parts per million) is the measurement used to determine the phenol content. We will dive deeper into all things PEAT in a later article, but the following explanation will be enough for our purposes here: the higher the ppm, the peatier the dram. For comparison, Ardbeg 10, a nice peaty dram in it’s own right which I’m sure will be featured by us at some point, comes in around 55-65 ppm. So trust me when I say 167 is a lot! Bruichladdich has pushed the envelope even further in the newer releases, with edition 8.3 coming in at a whopping 309 ppm…which I ‘ve been hunting for :)]

Want to hear us ramble on even more about Octomore? Check out our Youtbe video series The Neck Pour Sessions where we sample the 11.1 and the 11.3!

I returned to this pub the following two nights and while I sampled some of the other things that I couldn’t get back in Canada, I ended each night with a dram of the Octomore. I was so intrigued by this whisky that I really didn’t want to drink anything else. It stuck with me, stayed on my pallet long after I was done. Years later, I look back on this experience like I do a fond memory of Star Wars. While others may complain that it’s too peaty and overpowering, I want to wrap myself up in it’s black cloak and give in to the dark side.

The Comic – Star Wars Tales #9: Resurection

Let’s first dip into why this book was chosen over countless other Darth Vader stories. We felt like nothing quite grasped the pure essence of Vader as was portrayed in Star Wars Tales #9: Vader vs. Maul. It has Vader on the hunt for the stolen Death Star plans but he quickly realizes that he was misled and is being pitted against a resurrected Darth Maul.

Darth Maul – Side Note

Ok, yeah, a sidenote already…To be clear, I’m an Episode 1 apologist for one reason, and one reason only: Darth Maul. I skipped school and took my younger brother (the other whiskey geek) with me and we went and lined up early to ensure we could see a Friday matinee show on opening weekend. And when everyone walked out and started complaining, I just couldn’t join them. I was still in awe of what I had just seen. At that point, that was the best lightsaber fight ever. Period. It was everything I had always wanted. That red double bladed saber, the Dathomirian horns, the Sith tattoos, his acrobatics…I mean everything about Maul was just cool. He blasted onto the screen, and when he was (cough cough) “killed” by Obi-Wan I was left wanting more.

Thankfully, he was only really “comic book dead” and he has come back in many forms in both comic books, The Clone Wars and Rebels Animated series, and in the Solo movie. All that to say, when I got to meet Ray Park at the Ottawa Comic Con I geeked out and he didn’t disappoint. He was just awesome, signed some autographs, gave us a free signed picture of him as Darth Maul for our 10 month old son that we had brought with us. I picked up my copy of Star Wars Tales 9 that same day while digging through some long boxes. Maul, like Vader, has a rich backstory for those that want to dig into it. But basically, he, like Vader, is driven by his passion which is focused by his hatred of the Jedi. Ok, tangent over…Darth Maul is awesome.

Back to the comic

The story finds Darth Vader on a volcanic moon (think Mustafar) with a squadron of Stormtroopers. Vader leads two of the troopers into a fortress while the rest of the squadron search the surface…and are quickly killed by a Sith acolyte wielding a red lightsaber. As Vader and the two stormtroopers head deeper underground, Vader senses the strong connection with the dark side of the force that is present while the stormtroopers give a little background on the history of the place…and are then force choked as three Sith acolytes confront Vader. They inform him that the rebels are not here and that they lured him to this place because they find him lacking in his role of apprentice to the Emperor.

As Vader moves to strike them down, another red lightsaber stops his blow…as Darth Maul appears. He was resurrected and seeks to destroy Vader and retake his place by the Emperor’s side. Maul sees Vader as nothing more than a Jedi that is slightly off the path. He, like Luke in Return of the Jedi, can sense that there is still good in him. This makes him an unworthy Sith and certainly not worthy to be the apprentice to Darth Sidious.

The Duel of the Sith:

And with a dram of Octomore in our glancairn glass, let us get to the duel between Darth Vader and the resurrected Darth Maul. Maul quickly begins to taunt Vader, calling him Jedi, and saying that he knows nothing of the hate that is in Maul’s heart. The battle looks eerily like that between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar, with streams of magma flowing in the underground fortress, and Maul and Vader falling down into the river and Maul using the Force to float on a fallen rock above the red hot magma.  

As they ascend back to more solid ground, Maul slashes at Vader and scores a hit on his suit, causing it to spark. He continues to taunt Vader, refusing to call him anything but Jedi and says he’s more machine than man, echoing what we hear Obi-wan say to Luke in episode 6 as he describes Darth Vader to Luke. Maul says a machine can’t hate and how can Vader possibly beat him if he can’t hate. Hate is where Maul finds his strength and he believes no one has more hate than he does. Vader manages to split Maul saber in half, but with renewed ferocity, Maul attacks Vader, striking his helmet and causing him to drop his lightsaber.

As Maul comes in for the death blow, he is distracted by the rumble of the volcanic moon, and Vader summons his lightsaber and ignites it, impaling himself through the stomach and burning through Maul as well. With his dying words, Maul asks what Vader could possibly hate enough to have given him the strength to defeat him. Vader simply says “Myself.” Vader, suit sparking, helmet cracked, and with a self-inflicted hole through his middle, found a way once again to overpower his foe.

Dark Horse Comics

The Pairing:

When reading the following description from Bruichalddich make sure you are thinking about Darth Vader:

The world’s most heavily peated whisky, this is the 6th edition of the uber-experimental cult Octomore. Titanic amounts of peat but with a light, delicate complexity and a beguiling finesse. young, yet eminently mature, it defies us. It remains an enigma. We embrace that. Here, we pay tribute to its pedigree, to the land from which it came and the raw materials that gave it life: Octomore Scottish barley. We believe in challenging convention.

Bruichladdich

Let me rework the above just a little, and hear the Emperor describing Darth Vader in this way:

The Galaxy’s highest midichlorian count ever. Titanic amounts of power, but with a light, delicate complexity with a beguiling finesse. Young, yet mature beyond his years, he defied the Jedi. He remains an enigma. I embrace that and pay tribute to his pedigree and the raw materials that gave him life. Darth Vader. He challenges every convention.

The Whiskey Geeks

It’s like Bruichladdich Octomore and Darth Vader were made for eachother! Perhaps my favourite part of the description of Octomore is the “beguiling finesse”. It’s this deceptive nature that made me fall in love with this whiskey. I expected this to be a single faceted dram…all peat and little else. But I was deceived. While the first taste is heavy with peat, iodine and sea spray, it is quickly accompanied by light floral and very subtle lemon notes.  But for me, it’s the finish where Octomore really shines. The incredibly long smoky finish, is so smooth and warm that you almost forget that Octomore 6.1 comes in at 57%.  For the rest of the evening (or afternoon, we don’t judge here at The Whiskey Geeks), you will be reminded of the superb dram that you enjoyed.

That’s also how we feel about Darth Vader, and specifically Vader in this book. He is power personified, and his final words to Maul, “Myself”, stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.

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