The next stop of the whisky trail as led by Douglas Laing’s Regional Malts series is Islay on its own. In the previous segment we were travelling around all the islands of Scotland but now we focus purely on the heavily peated nirvana of Islay. All the distilleries on Islay produce at least some peated whisky now and the Big Peat series tries to include as many of them as possible. Sometimes, also including the long closed and soon to reappear Port Ellen distillery.
The Big Peat release was the first one in the Regional Malts series and is well known for two things. Firstly, the annual Christmas release which is always cask strength and almost always has something different or unusual in its recipe. Secondly, it is well known for having Port Ellen on the label which has to be the cheapest route for someone to say they have drank something from those mythical stills. Now some might say that teaspooning a blended malt in this way is nothing more than a cheap marketing gimmock. They, of course, would be correct but let’s not right off the entire series before we have tried it.
Like all the bottles it is natural colour, non-chill filtered and a blended malt whisky. On the way the distilleries which get a shout-out are: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen. With the exception of Caol Ila which as the powerhouse producer on the island would have to be in the recipe all the other ones mentioned are expensive premium brands which drive in the punters. So with the spin doctor definitely in the house lets get to the tasting.
Colour – white wine
Nose – The nose is strong and intense from a thick savoury meaty earthy smokey peat. Aside from the smoke there is fruity plums, sweet apples before moving on to inner tubes and brine as a back note.
Palate – In terms of the texture this is quite thin compared to some of the others we have tried. The peat is the same as the nose in its full on blanket coating over the flavour wheel. Lots of brine and rubber notes and a touch prickly.
Finish – The finish is so so long with the smoke lingering on for an age. The peat has become ashy at this point and there is notes of tobacco. There is also some smoked kippers with a wedge of lemon over the top. Quite a complex thing indeed.
This one is quite unusual and has a lot of different things going on. I have to say I wasn’t expecting much from this one and that was unfair. It is far far better than the Peat Monster I have reviewed recently and gets a better rep I would say.
The one distillery I can pick out on this most I would say is Bowmore. The rest are too ingrained or too small a component. I think that is where all the brine notes are coming from but interestingly I would bet money Ledaig is here as well. There is nothing on the label that means it has to only contain Islay malts but I am probably wrong.
Regardless, this is one to definitely seek out and try. I would be interested to see how the Christmas 2018 edition compares to this. If I find out I will be sure to inform you all as well. Stay tuned!