Friday, January 28, 2011

Genie In A Bottle: Big Peat

I am loving this whisky and it isn't even a single malt. When I first saw this at Whisky Live Sydney I felt this one was a bit of a gimmick just by the packaging so I had avoided it deliberately (no way I was going to buy into manipulative marketing) to my disappointment. I was recently given this bottle by a fellow drammer / cousin and was overly surprised by the result.  Big Peat is a Islay whisky with balance, flavour and pure drinkability.

Big Peat by Douglas Laing & Co, is a Vatted Malt of x4 Islay distilleries. These distilleries are Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, and Port Ellen. At this stage it is worth a note that I have never had Caol Ila nor Port Ellen as a single malt before so as to what their influence is I honestly cannot say. Following on I also can't tell you what the expressions of these distilleries have been added either. What I can say is that this is a never to be repeated vatting as it is a small batch with specific influences coming from individual casks. If you want to try it in it's current form get out there and get one now.

What is a Vatted Malt? A Vatted Malt is a blend of only single malts only with no other influences added such as other grains found in Scotch Whisky Blends. Yes JW Black may in fact have several single malts as part of a blend but there is also grain malts added to give consistency and balance.

So where to start? The name Big Peat could be interpreted wrongly as being relative to a massive phenol content of peat smoke found in some single malts from Bruichladdich or Ardbeg. The matter of fact is that it relates to being just the vatting of peated Islay single malts only. The intensity of the peat smoke is medium for an Islay so don't be too afraid.

Big Peat: Islay Scotch Vatted Malt at 46% alcohol.

On the nose there is big beachy sea breeze hits that will permeate the room when left in at the glass. Peat smoke to follow but not intense enough to make the nose tingle and burn.

To taste there is no mistaking the peat smoke and salty sea air. A little tingle on the lips and tongue and lots of warmth quickly heading down into the chest which simply amplifies the overall Big Peat hit. A bit earthy and ashy but not overly dry. The blending of the malts has certainly given a soft texture to it also.

The finish is long and drawn out with waves of peat smoke in every breath. The tastes (yes I did says tastes because there is a lot of odd things happening) sticks to the pallet enticing for another sip and then of course another dram. Many a time I had to stop myself from pouring another and then another.

The balance I think is great as it is and by adding even a wee bit of water (which I regrettable tried only once) turned it instantly to stale dirty water. No need to cut this one but then I prefer my whiskies straight anyway.

This is a big busty vatted malt all to happy for you to nestle in it's bosom. If I was to give a dram then it would be a 6 1/2 out of 7. Lots of flavour, easy drinking and a little bit dirty. I think this is a whisky that is underrated simply by the fact of it's packaging and would easily rate it a daily dram Islay style with a bit of fun.

Based on my experiences on Big Peat alone I am guessing Douglas Laing & Co know their stuff all to well and I will certainly be heading out to try their Double Barrel expressions while they are still in the stores. I will also be picking up a couple more bottles of Big Peat before this release is gone for good.

Something of note is the fact this bottle developed a very dark ashy sludge at the bottom only days after opening. Strangely it would stick together when the bottle was distrupted and would whisp up like smokey trailing form a fire. Now I know it was not there when I first opened it and it has continued to get darker the longer the bottle stands to oxygen. Is this the genie in the bottle reflective of the genius in a bottle...

If you want to find out a wee bit more about Big Peat and Douglas Laing & Co, check out this youtube interview between Richard Paterson and Fred Laing. Note you may be distracted by the tans and mustachios, if so look away and just listen as it is well worth it.