Tag Archive: Islay


Douglas Laing’s XOP Laphroaig 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 18 year: 56.8% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Peat. Charcoal. Strong alcohol. Salt. Sultanas. Moss and seaweed. Medicinal. Dry cake sponge. Kippers. Brown sugar. Water adds smoke and oily notes.

Body: Sherry. Strong alcohol. Charring and soot. Medicinal. Salt. Charred nougat. Salt. Water adds cherries. Dry red wine. Huge peat. Tannins. Raisins. Slight peach. Grapes. Plums.

Finish: Soot. Dried beef. Numbing alcohol. Malt chocolate. Iodine. Water adds tannins. More malt chocolate. Nut oils. Tofu. Vanilla toffee and chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: Usually Laphroaig loses some of the peat and medicinal intensity as it ages, losing some of those elements that make the younger spirit so very identifiable. For what it loses there it however gains greater subtlety, smoothness and complexity.

This does not lose the intensity in any way, shape or form. It is sooty, peaty, dried beef, salt, seaweed and medicinal all in one, all punching out at the brutal cask strength. The sherry ageing, usually so dominant in whisky, tries to push to the fore. It brings, oddly enough, dry sherry notes as well as the more expected red wine notes, but they are backing the intense Laphroaig character, not leading it or controlling it.

Neat it is a brutally intense experience – there is sweetness coming like nougat that has been quickly charred somehow – harsh, with oiliness coming in from kippers to nut oils seeping under that. It feels as much as it tastes, with hard to place savoury notes weighing in heavily to ground it.

Now, if that kick is too much there is always water to play with, and the high abv gives a lot of room to do so. It still keeps the medicinal and sooty character, but brings out layers of dry red wine, sultanas, cherries and even odd fruit notes, before heading back into a dry and medicinal finish.

Now, I tend to wait a week or so after opening a bottle to do notes these days, seems to clear out some rough notes, so I’ve had this a few times now. Caught at the wrong moment this can be quite closed as a whisky. The intense alcohol, charring and smoke can close off access to everything else, and sometimes is seems even water play can’t open it up. Other times, caught at the right moment it has all the goodness of a young Laphroaig, some quarter cask notes, matched with rich red fruit and a mix of red wine notes that makes it utterly exceptional.

I love it – it is a super intense ride of Laphroaig and more. However, even loving it, it is a ride of high points and low points depending on how it is reacting today. For the high points I am happy with it, as when it is on it us bloody amazing and I have not seen such a mix of intensity, Laphroaig character and wood character work so well before. However at the cost, something that may be not super reliable on the high may not be worth it for you.

So, look at the cost, look at the info here, make up your mind. You call.

Background: Ok, this is very expensive even for an 18 year old Laphroaig, and those are not exactly common. I was allowed to try the tiniest of sips of a sample at Independent Spirit and it blew me away, but there was no way I could get it at the time. Then I received a cheque saying an audit had revealed I was owed money and well, so now I own a bottle. I don’t believe in fate, but if I did then it definitely wanted me to have this whisky. Anyway, cask strength, in a stupidly over the top box which is so wasteful, but I would be lying if I said I did not find cool. I am a hypocrite, grr, down with wasteful packaging! Anyway, I was nervous breaking this open, hoping it would hold up to my memory – especially after buying the darn thing! Anyway put on some old, more goth era Lacuna Coil while drinking. Still like their more metal newer stuff, but it seems to waste the vocal range that the singers have – old school is where it is at.

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Kilchoman: Port Cask: 2018 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with a red to rose wine hue. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Burnt tyres. Potpourri. Rose wine. Toast. Petals. Ash and smoke. Cold cellars. Brown sugar.

Body: Strawberry. Tingling alcohol. Dusty. Charred toast and brown bread. Soot. Water adds peat, cherries, perfume air, soft cherryaid and salt.

Finish: Dusty. Toast. Salt. Red berries. Muted red wine. Malt drinks and malt chocolate. Water adds toffee and caramel. Riesen chocolate chews. Soot. Dried apricot. Cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a lot better than my first encounter with it at a whisky tasting night. It probably helps that this time it isn’t the fourth whisky in the rotation, plus it has had some time to breath. Anyway, back then I was worried that I had grabbed a dull one and had it waiting for me at home. Now? Well let us see.

Neat it is still lacklustre and a bit closed. It is a mix of sooty and perfumed in the body, which was weird as it had a very enticing oily aroma enticing you in, just seeping slowly over the lip of the glass, but the actual sipping of it gives none of that. Without water that closed nature means you get very little of the port influence. It actually felt kind of toast like – quite drab.

Water makes a big different. It is still slightly closed and more sooty than peaty, but now it has subtle red fruit in the body, and that element raises more the more you add extra water into the mix. I find it odd as it is muted in the red fruit and muted in the Islay characteristics – both individual elements feel weak, but together it is more than the sum of its parts. The subtle red fruit behind soot works better than I would have imagined it would. Grounded, ash over muted red wine and cherries. Still not great one, but somehow these elements come together to accentuate each other well.

So, not as good in my opinion as the demand for it would suggest, especially before giving it some time to air where it was very closed. Now, well it is a solid sooty, smokey whisky against good use of port. Well with water at least. I respect it, but can’t say I would recommend it highly against the other Islays or even the other Kilchomans. Interesting as one of the little done port aged Islay, but far from a must have.

Background: Had this for a short while before trying – I had to grab it fast as it is one of 10,000 bottles and they flew off the shelves. Kilchoman has been a lovely new Islay distillery, and I’m generally a fan of Port Cask ageing so it seemed like a must buy. I was a bit nervous though – after buying it I had tried it at an Independent Spirit Uber whisky tasting and found it kind of average- plus on immediately breaking this open the first dram seemed similarly mediocre. Still, as I do with whisky these days I left it a week or so after opening before doing notes – lets see if a bit of time to breath has helped it. Put on some of The Royal They while drinking – their mix of quirky tunes yet solid lyrics delivered often in a more upbeat sound than the actual message would lead you to expect has made me a fan.

Kilchoman: Comraich: Batch 3 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 year: 55.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold with a mix of fast and slow streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke and honey. Thick stewed fruit and raisins. Barbecue glaze. Water adds beef slices.

Body: Thick and oily. Smoked gammon. Stewed apricot. Big peat and well done steak. Charring. Honey. Water adds cherries, fruitcake and more oily character. Shortbread. Sticky toffee.

Finish: Oily, kippers. Oily smoke. Ash and charcoal touch. Water adds raisins and sultanas. Black-cherry.

Conclusion: This is absurdly easy to drink for an over 50% abv whisky. I was half way through it before I realised I should think about adding water and seeing how that altered things. Now don’t be tricked into thinking that this means this is a light whisky though. This is a thick, oily and heavy thing – it is just that it is delivered absolutely smooth with pretty much no alcohol character at all. If fact it turns out adding water made the alcohol just slightly more evident as there was no way it could make it any less. This is an impressive beast from the get go.

It has bloody big flavours to match that big body as well – smoked thick cut gammon, thick stewed and dark fruit against a heavy sweetness. Everything is thick, oily and smoked – in fact the smoke and the oil mix perfectly to create the feel of the ideal of the concept of peat juice dripping on your tongue.

So, with it being that impressive neat, does water weaken the experience? Hell no! There is now big sweetness but still heavy character – dark fruit comes out to match the meat and smoke, making fruit cake and black-cherry along with more traditional beef notes for the meat. Everything fills your mouth with its oily sheen and peaty air. This is all underlined by an oily by more understated finish – dry ash, smoke and charring all add up to draw a line under each sip’s experience.

So, to conclude, this is amazing neat, amazing with water as it adds to an already exellent experience and the alcohol strength gives a lot of room to experiment.

For Islay fans, if you can find it, this is a must try.

Background: Oh man, this is a rare one – the Comraich series is, best I can tell, a whisky that is released only to select bars around the world. In this case there are only three bars in the UK that have it – thankfully The Hideout of Bath is one of them! So, yeah, bias warning, I was hyped to get to try this. This was my second time drinking it, the first was, as you might expect, also at the Hideout, but had come after an absolutely brilliant Irish whiskey tasting so I realised I may not have got all of the subtlety, so I returned, pen in hand to try it on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Oh the hard life. It is a mix of three ten year old casks, two bourbon and one sherry aged from 2007 to 2017. While drinking I noticed a little dinosaur hiding in the wall, so grabbed a shot of him to add below.

The Loch Fyne: The Living Cask 1745 (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Solid gold. Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Pungent peat. Moss. Aubergine. Brown bread. Dried beef slices. Smooth. Dumplings. Light salt. Solid. Water makes drier. Lightly nutty amongst the peat.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Alcohol warmth. Peppered beef slices. Vanilla toffee. Smooth, mouth filling peat. Water adds caramel, more honey. Even smoother and adds light apricot.

Finish: Fruitcake. Raisins. Salt. Malt chocolate. Oily. Cherries. Port. Falling apart beef and heavy peat. Water keeps fairly similar.

Conclusion: This is bloody smooth. It is honeyed, weighty in thickness but no alcohol burn at all, just a soothing warmness. The peat is meaty and filling, coating the mouth and giving a gentle mossy smoke to everything while the sweeter notes dance. Gentle isn’t quite the right word – more it just oozes into every tastebud so easily that it feels like it was always there. In fact it works so well that I was afraid to add water lest I spoil it.

I shouldn’t have worried, all the water did was make it even smoother still and bring out more sweet character – now bringing toffee notes against the meaty broth imagery.

What is most notable about this whisky is what Islay elements it doesn’t use. There are no medicinal touches, very little salt – it just balances the sweet, thick notes with big meaty peat creating an exceptionally smooth yet booming whisky. It is so different from a lot of Islays – if actually feels like what the already good Elements Of Islay whisky was aiming for – sweet, but peaty – but this actually does it so much better.

Basically, I am very impressed. So, what flaws does this have? Well it is single minded – water soothes but changes very little. What you see at the start is what you get at the end. If you are happy with that as I was, then I can recommend this whole heartedly.

Background: I’ve been intrigued by the Living Cask for a while – a blended malt whisky where the cask is topped up regularly with more malt so it is ever changing and every varying, with some of the malt sticking around each time. A fascinating concept. So, when I saw this mini at The Whisky Shop I thought I would grab it. They had a pretty decent mini selection there – I may have to grab some more for random notes. After a quick google it looks 1745 is their original Islay only blended malt, with the other Living Casks being offshoots where other malts are added. I think. Let me know if I got it wrong please. Put on Massive Attack: Mezzanine for this. Had a feeling it would be a big moody whisky and wanted tunes to match.

Elements Of Islay: OC5 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed grain. Slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Chilli pepper. Chipotle chilli notes. Light charcoal dust. Fresh white crusty bread. Water adds dried beef, beetroot and pulled pork along with a salt touch.

Body: Golden syrup. Mass of alcohol. Barbecue glaze. Water adds more barbecue sauce glaze, custard. Salt. Drying. Syrup notes and cherries.

Finish: Barbecued meat. Pear. Smoke. Water makes more oily. Slow cooked stew. More water adds more peat, beef and syrup. Light strawberry. Chipotle sauce.

Conclusion: I’m slightly mixed on my opinion on this, as there is a heck of a lot going on in the near 60% of abv and a hundred whatever levels of peat per million it throws at you. In general I love the Octomore in all the expressions I have encountered, I love the range it brings in, but with this one it feels like there are many different mashed up elements that are great, but do not come together here.

Early on it is mainly showing the intense alcohol, with less peat intensity than you would expect as the sheer strength makes it come across quite closed. Water is definitely needed to bring out the cornucopia of clashing notes I alluded to earlier. There is a glazed barbecue backbone, smoke but still less that you would expect. It is more meaty than anything else, slow cooked, falling apart to touch meat in the stew and pulled pork imagery.

More water clashes with the peat imagery even more as an oddly sweet syrupy core comes out, another element added in that pulls the whisky in yet another different direction. First the glazed barbecue, then the meat and peat, the syrup, red fruit late on – all elements I enjoy,but not a coherent whole.

Enjoyable, and a wild ride, but doesn’t do better than the more focussed, though lower abv, intensity of the standard Octomore – and with that you get a silly shiny bottle as well.

Background: Final of the whiskies from the recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. If you are wondering what happened to the foruth whisky, I already have a bottle of it and will be doing full notes at a a later date. This is an independent Octomore bottling, from the very respectable Elements Of Islay range – Octomore being Bruichladdich’s very highly peated whisky. This is probably the only cask strength bottling of Octomore I have seen, which makes it interesting in itself. I’m a big fan of Octomore even if the super high peat level is more of a marketing gimmick than a huge element of the whisky itself. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again. I was more inebriated by the point I took the photo of the glass, so it is just a tad out of focus, to say the least.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

Port Askaig: 8 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with brackish green tinge. Fast thick streaks. Water makes very cloudy.

Nose: Medicinal. Reek of peat. Peppered beef slices. Peppercorn. Light salt. Water brings out more medicinal notes.

Body: Beef slices. Peat smoke. Overdone steaks. Salt. Slightly tarry. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Some alcohol weight and warmth. Water makes smoother. Adds vanilla fudge. Pears. More medicinal notes. Apricot. Light bread. Lime cordial.

Finish: Drying. Salt. Light vanilla. Tarry. Golden syrup. Apple pies. Water makes medicinal. Adds lime jelly and slight zestiness. Apricot.

Conclusion: This is a big ‘un. Yet water makes it oh so mellow. Ok, I am kind of lying my balls off there. It is not mellow, but there is a whole other subtle set of characteristics under the peat assault that only come out when you add water.

So, first of all let’s take a look at this without water. Whoa! This reeks, utterly reeks of peat. In a good way. It has huge intense smoke and smoked beef, mixed with peat, with medicinal notes in there as well. Without water a vanilla and golden syrup sweetness backs it up over time, but the rest of the intensity does not let up.

Now at this point it is not complex, but it does show the advantage of a younger spirit in keeping the peat intensity up. It is heaven for smoke fanatics, while utterly lacking in subtlety.

Then you add water.

It happens slowly – drop by watery drop. First vanilla fudge comes out, then soft lime notes, then finally sweet apricot creeps out from under the peat nest it is birthed in. What the heck even is this? Apart from delicious I mean.

Now it isn’t quite Lagavulin 16 level must have, but the range it runs with water – going from sheer assault, to still weighty but with a great range of fruit notes – well, that makes this a steal at the 40 quid ish price it goes for.

Both heavy duty Islay, and complex restrained Islay in one whisky. I advise grabbing a bottle and adding water to your preference. Very impressive.

Background: I had Port Askaig for the first time many a year ago at a whisky show. It was very nice, but I never did get around to grabbing a bottle of it for myself since. That mistake has now been rectified. Port Askig is not a distillery, but a bottling of one of the other existing Islay distilleries under the Port Askaig brand. So far quality has been very high. The most common guess of what distillery it is from is Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I have no idea. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit and broke it open with some Karnivool to listen to – Sound Awake to be exact. Saw them as a warm up band once, and enjoyed them enough to grab the CD there and then. Pretty soothing music for background noise.

Kilchoman: Sanaig (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Rich deep gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey and peaty. Wet rocks. Salt touch. Big aroma. Brown bread. Kippers. Water adds vanilla and light apples.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel with caramel, fudge and vanilla. Warming. Beefy. Peaty. Stew character. Salt. Water adds apples with cinnamon. Sherried raisins. Nutmeg. Dried apricot. Oily.

Finish: Medicinal. Salt. Brown bread. Paprika spice. Dried raisins. Dry cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Light peat. Dry in general. Water adds cherries, sherry and now juicy raisins. Creamy coffee. Menthol. Caramel.

Conclusion: There is a nice mix to this – I’m going to break it down into its layers and examine each individually as there is a lot going on here.

On first pour you get a big booming aroma that you can’t mistake for anything but Islay, and it is recognisable from metaphorical miles away from the glass. Classic Islay peat, smoke, salt and rocks all delivered thick and oily.

Drinking a sip keeps the thick character, but now with that peat expressed in a beefy style – layered over thick caramel and fudge notes. It is a dry sweetness, very chewy, very big and a great backing and contrast for the big Islay flavours.

The finish finally shows the story of the sherry influence – coming in as dry spice and raisins over the, still showing but now medicinal, Islay character. All of the levels has alcohol warmth, but the texture is luxury level smooth.

So, what can water do with this then? Quite a bit actually – soft green fruit and sweeter spice notes while the sherry influence ramps up nicely giving cherry and sherry notes into dry nutty finish. Well the finish was always quite dry – I forgot to mention that before. Forgive me please there is a lot to get through here. Anyway, compared to the chewy main body the finish is a nicely done dry underlying, drawing a line under the experience.

So, yeah, the fact I’m forgetting stuff while trying to get the notes done is showing how much this has going on – huge peat, big Islay, big sherry, yet with enough room to show the lighter notes. Big, but not so big that it becomes simple from overpowering notes.

It lacks only that “je ne sais quoi” to make it an all time great, but it is as good as you can get without that. Bloody nice.

Background: Another chance to dip into Islay’s youngest distillery – not got much info on this one. It’s a no age statement made with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Grabbed in ickle mini form from Independent Spirit so I could give it a try. So lacking in detail on the whisky – I listened to a collection of No Doubt’s single while drinking this. While I didn’t like all of the musical directions they took they were always good – just some of the tracks were not for me. When they were at their best IMHO was when they took on topics akin to the punkier scenes I enjoy so much, but delivered in such a way that it reached a much wider crowd without descending to the saccharine Spice Girls style “Girl Power” delivery. So there you have it.

Auldi: Glenmarnoch: Islay (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big. Peaty. Fish oils. Slight salt. Wet rocks. Smokey. Dry charring. Water makes more oaken.

Body: Thick. Coal. Big smoke. Honey. Charring. Fish skins. Toffee. Light choc lime sweets. Warming. Water makes sweeter and also more meaty. Beef.

Finish: Smoke. Lots of peat. Beef slices. Slight golden syrup. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Water adds beef stew, vanilla and light salt.

Conclusion: With there being so comparatively few Islay distilleries, it is hard to try and unnamed Islay distillery expression and not try to guess where it came from. For example – take this one – heavy on the peat, very smokey and beefy which makes it highly unlikely to be bunnahabhain or similarly one from the lighter end of the Islay scale. Admittedly most distilleries there do do a heavy peated variant of their spirit, but I doubt Auldi would get cheap access to that.

Under the peat there is a lot of sweetness, delivered quite honey and toffee touched, which makes me think the more medicinal like Laphroaig are out of the running. It, instead, seems like the general weight I would associate with Ardbeg – not quite as intense, but in a similar ballpark. Maybe the heavier end of Caol Ila if not that.

Anyway, musings on where it could be from aside, considering this is a no age statement whisky I was very surprised at how smooth this was. It is warming, but no alcohol burn – no real signs of youth apart from the fact it has not had long enough to lose any of the peat weight.

For an Islay fan like me it feels a tad over smooth, a tad lacking in the rougher edges I like – its akin to a good vatted malt in how it smooths things out. I am aware though that for many of you that will be an advantage, not a flaw.

So, to use minor criticisms, it isn’t as full of depth as , say Laphroaig quarter cask, or Lagavulin 16, nowhere near that quality. However those are top notch whiskies, and on the price point this comes it at, it isn’t competing with them.

It is very smooth, toffee sweet and heavy peat – not one of the best whiskies, but bloody good for the price point.

Background: Yes I know there is no such place as the Glenmarnoch Distillery – the fact that they had to specify that it was the Islay release gave that away first. Most distilleries stay in one place and don’t have releases from different regions. This instead is Aldi’s name for their varied whisky releases. I’d heard that they had a surprisingly good reputation, but had never got around to trying them. Then, at a whisky tasting at mine, Tony brought this around, and said I could keep what was left of the bottle for hosting it. Many thanks mate. So, I tried it again to do proper tasting notes a few days later, whilst listening to some Jonathan Young stuff on youtube.

Douglas Laing: Big Peat (Islay Blended Malt: No age statement: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain touch and with hint of brackish green.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Lightly medicinal but clean. Salt and moss. Light alcohol air. Peat smoke. Water makes slightly harsher medicinal but cleaner alcohol with more moss.

Body: Beef. Vanilla and toffee. Light chocolate to praline notes. Salt. Crushed nuts. Peat. Light alcohol air. Water makes smooth – caramel and fudge notes. More water makes slight golden syrup.

Finish: Peat smoke. Smoked beef slices. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Lightly medicinal. Nutty. Water makes more beefy and peaty.

Conclusion: The odd thing I find with vatted malts is that, unlike single malts or standard blended whisky, they often can work best without water. It is a miracle! I guess since they have more room to design the exact nature of the whisky it may be easier to get just the balance they want.

Anyway, that is to say, this is a good whisky with water, but best tried neat.

This is, well – not a simple whisky, but a fairly straightforward whisky if you get the difference. It seems very clean, but despite that a typical Islay style on the aroma. Not heavily done, smooth as vatted malts often are, but balances the peat, salt and medicinal notes.

The body is the biggest difference from an Islay single malt – it is very sweet for an Islay. Most Islay have some sweetness, but this has a thicker toffee, caramel or even fudge character depending on the level of water used, and behind that some chocolate notes mixed in there. A much more solid base in the sweetness. From that the peat, beef smoke and salt that the Island is famous for seem much more well contrasted and a smoother experience because of that.

So, why do I say it should be drunk with no water? Well, without water it feels more intense and – despite the alcohol being slightly noticeable – it still seems less harsh in the medicinal notes that with a little water. Now, if you add a lot of water, rather than a little water, then it gains the caramel character and becomes very smooth indeed in all things, however that comes at the cost of a lot of what you came here for – the peat. So, yep, without water is the way for me.

Now, on that note, for something call Big Peat it is, well, moderate peat on the Islay scale. So, not one in you want it super intense and peaty. However as a smooth, balanced, sweet and peaty whisky it is very good. So, not as super intense as the name suggests but that does not make it bad in any way at all.

Background: Had a few run ins with this one, first at a tasting session at Independent Spirit, then a Douglas Laing tasting at The Hideout. I never had my tasting note kit on me though,I was going for more social nights out at the time. So now, finally I get to do my notes as Independent Spirit kindly donated a measure of it for doing some notes on. Many thanks. This is an Islay vatted malt made with Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the closed distillery Port Ellen whisky! It was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah – hard music for heavy peat. Also drunk after watching some new Doctor Who, so in a generally good frame of mind. Also, because we are childish, at the first tasting note we were amused by the idea of having some of Big Peat in our mouth. Also we were drinking, which may explain it. Also that works better when said rather than written down.

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