This Natsu 2012 Basho has been one of mighty excitement, and I needed a mighty fine whisky to go with it. I mentioned earlier that I was sipping on some Glenlivet 18, and I will get to that eventually, but today I am going to stick with a bottle I have been slowly draining for the last few months; Big Peat. Don’t let the silly name and cheesy packaging fool you, this is one whisky that is out to play for keeps. You might have heard of this bottling after it won Jim Murray’s top prize in its category last year.
Big Peat is a blended malt offering from Douglas Laing. Blended malts, which used to be known as a pure malt or a vatted malt until the scotch whisky association changed the naming rules in an effort to show the Sumo Association that they too can make stupid decisions, is a combination of several single malt whiskies and is a fairly rare genre of whisky. Unlike a blended whisky, a blended malt contains no grain whisky, and is generally considered a higher quality spirit. Probably the most well-known of the genre is the recently discontinued Johnnie Walker Green Label. (A shame, as it was the best of their range.) This particular bottle is a combination of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, and even a bit of Port Ellen. Before I get dive into the taste of this dram I want to give a quick golf clap to the producers for offering this whisky non chill filtered and at 46%; although they don’t say on the label that there is no caramel added, it seems unlikely as this spirit is the color of light straw at best.
Onto the interesting part. The nose is one of freshly cut grass, with lots of vegetal notes up front with big ardbeg peat backing everything up. The last dying embers in a bonfire in a forest after a long day of drinking with friends. From the nose it seems like a standard Ardbeg 10 year old has been slightly diluted with a touch of Caol Ila and not much else. The first sip reveals first and foremost that I have a cut in the roof of my mouth that I need to take care of and now might not to be sampling an over 90 proof whisky straight. But seriously, the taste is first and foremost of gigantic peat with almost no traces of a Laphraoig-esque smoke; this beast’s heart is from Ardbeg through and through. There are definite characteristic Caol Ila and Bowmore seaside notes, but strangely, they add their flavors on top of the intensity of the whisky without dumbing it down a bit. All three of these malts definitely jam well together, and I can say with certainty that any included Port Ellen is in there purely for marketing’s sake as it has no appreciable effect on the taste of this dram. The finish initially lets you down as it disappears almost as rapidly as it came to hit you in the face. However, the peat and vegetal notes gradually return with a beautiful chest warming sensation that is not unlike being wrapped in an electric blanket on a cold night.
And a cold night is probably when this particular dram is best enjoyed. With its eye popping punch up front and full body warming effects, it seems definitely more suited for some new year sumo rather than now in early summer. Not that I am complaining.
All in all, Big Peat is a fine offering from the fellows over at Douglas Laing. This is one Blended Malt that is definitely better than the sum of its parts, although at about 1.5 x the price of a bottle of Ardbeg it seems a little step to justify what they are offering. Seeing as how slowly and fully I have been enjoying this bottle, however, I think I will probably justify picking up another bottle after I run out, and for that matter, you should too.