Distillery: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Port Ellen
Bottler: Douglas Laing
Price at the time of purchasing: ca. 50€
Possibly Unchillfiltered / Natural Colour(?)
Colour: (very) pale white wine. On the nose I get an initial blast of malty, damp peat smoke reminding me of burning wet wood (in a good way!).
Not so much salt coming through, but there’s seaweed, menthol, camphor, phenolic notes. Pretty dry, actually. Malty sweetness and sweet vanilla pudding in the background but subdued by the smoky notes. Pretty well married, very hard to make out individual notes. Not even the slightest hint of fruits and no oak spices either. “Big Peat” indeed. On the palate there’s the obvious big initial hit of alcohol and phenolic peat smoke covering everything. The second taste reveals a very oily, briny, earthy, grassy dram. Slightly sweet but not overly so – no wonder, the colour suggests the use of predominantly second- and third-fill casks. A bit dry with hints of herbal bitterness – but once again very hard to make out individual notes. I know what you’re thinking: “add some water!”. Well, don’t – it flatlines flavour-wise bringing out more alcohol if you do, definitely not a swimmer! The finish is alive and kicking, coating the throat with oily, smoky goodness – no sweetness, more bitter herbal notes and lasting for a good length.
“Big Peat” – indeed. There’s Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen in there. Using some common sense it’s probably mostly Caol Ila, being the biggest Islay distillery and having sold quite a lot to the independent bottlers in the past, a bit of Bowmore, less Ardbeg and even less Port Ellen. How much Port Ellen? Nobody knows, except for tjose who make it. All I know is that when Douglas Laing was split up into two companies last year I read in an interview about “casks” (plural!) of Port Ellen destined for the Big Peat blended malts. So probably more than a drop per batch, but I don’t think there’s even close to a whole cask in the whole batch. Anyway, I digress. Comparing this Christmas edition from 2011, which is batch/cask strength, to a more current “standard” bottling it is quite different. A very smoky, earthy, grassy, herbal dram lacking almost all sweetness. Not overly old, not overly young and well blended together and a flavour profile you don’t get to taste every day.