Douglas Laing: Big Peat A846: Feis Ile 2020 (Scottish Blended Malt Islay Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly greened grain coloured spirit. Generally fast, middling sized streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Medical salve and medical bandages. Notable alcohol. Soft fudge. Soot and smoke. Clean medicinal iodine air. Calamine. Moss. Touch of clotted cream on scones. Water mutes it, adding sulphur. Wet rock. More smoke and still a medical cream note.

Body: Orange cream touch at front. Fudge. Lots of soot. Moss. Alcohol in a drying fashion. Drying in general. Burnt bark. Moderate thickness mouthfeel until it becomes dry. Water makes sweeter. More orange. Custard notes. Wet rocks.

Finish: Soot. Smoke and ash. Iodine. Drying. Medical cream. Harsh, slightly acrid. Vanilla fudge. Dried beef jerky. Slight dried lime air. Water adds orange cream and more fudge. Less drying character. Beef broth. Sweeter lime to choc lime.

Conclusion: So, back when I tried standard Big Peat I remember recommending having it neat over trying it with water. Water made it lose something. Also I remember that, for something called “Big Peat”, it had only moderate peat in my option. So, how does this one compare?

Well, I can start by saying that water definitely changes this one! Neat this leans very heavily into the medicinal Islay take, with soot and smoke rather than a full peat weight. It is so very drying, so much so that it is slightly too harsh and even slightly acrid.

It actually reminds me of Port Ellen in a few moments, with that calamine, medical cream and medical bandages odd notes amongst the more clean medicinal notes. There are hints of sweetness, but they are very low priority for a whisky that leaves your tongue dessicated and dry at the end of it. It feels like a whisky that could kill a cold with just a dram of the medicinal beast.

Oddly for a vatted malt it doesn’t feel smooth – it has a bit too much in the way of the rougher edges for me, and I don’t say that often. The weighty mouthfeel that it has at the front quickly dries so you don’t get the time needed to really appreciate it.

With water it is a very different dram. It is only slightly medicinal, and a tad more beefy peat and soot character – though still only moderate peat in my opinion. It is sweeter, some creamy fruit and more fudge, making a more balanced but less intense and obviously Islay styled body. It still has a medicinal, dry finish, but is a lot more forgiving in the rest of the dram.

Still not BIG Peat though. I may be a silly level peat head.

Overall – neat it is a tad too dry and astringent for me. Very medicinal. Very dry. Impressive but closed and doesn’t show the sweet contrast it has enough to pull it off. With water it loses the more interesting Islay characteristics but also becomes a more pleasant, if limited, dram.

Decent, but each version of it, with or without water, has flaws that keeps it from being one I would say to go for. It has lots to explore, but never hits its pinnacle of potential. Interesting, but there are better, similar priced islays.

Background: Big Peat! The vatted malt of Islay whiskies from Douglas Laing, this one a Feis Ile festival release limited to 3000 bottles. The A846 referenced a road on Islay, which also they reference with the 8 year old whisky and 46% abv. Very droll. Anyway, grabbed it from Independent Spirit to see how it went. Had different plans for music for this while drinking, but just as I was pouring Farewell Myth’s Made In Mexico came on , and it seemed to fit, so I left that playing.