Big Peat is a cult release from the folks at Douglas Laing comprising of a range of Islay malts including Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and the now legendary Port Ellen. Following the huge success of this Islay blended malt a new small batch released has been unveiled. It is only available online, comes in a 50cl bottle and is bottled at the slightly punchier strength of 50%. With just under one month until we’re on Islay I was excited about tasting this whisky. So how does it stand up?
The nose is raw and dirty to begin with – my mind wanders to the peat bogs high above Ardbeg and I’m hit with tar and smoke before some lighter notes of jasmine appear. My mind flashes to a tasting in the dark in the Laphroaig warehouse before I see storm waves at Machir Bay near Kilchoman. Sunlight shines through and notes of beachside barbeques arrive strongly before the medicinal accident and emergency room assaults the senses. This is an evocative nose and it delivers exactly what I require from an Islay dram.
The palate is initially light before it builds to thick peaty smoke – almost industrial in nature with chimneys pushing out plumes of black ash into the air. I’m reminded of charred steak, with caramelised fat providing some sweetness. Once the peat creeps up it doesn’t leave; it is tempered by a slightly springlike grassy taste – but the peat is still there in spades. The finish is long and peaty, with antiseptic wipes and smoke – a massive whisky.
This new incarnation of Big Peat does not dissapoint. It is my kind of whisky delivering what I like in an Islay spirit. I’d like to think I can spot the individual components but regardless of whether I can or not, the combination of whiskies works exceptionally well here. I think Calmac should buy up some stocks and give everyone a dram at Kennacraig – it would build the anticipation for landing on the Queen of the Hebrides.