Big Peat is a new vatted malt whisky created by the independent bottling company Douglas Laing & Co. They are based in Glasgow and the company was founded by Frederick Douglas Laing in 1948. It is currently run by Frederick’s two sons, Stewart and Fred Jnr, and Douglas Laing & Co are one of Scotland’s largest independent bottlers of whisky. They bottle whiskies from all over Scotland and their ranges include over 200 different single malts at any one time, with the majority being from single casks. In addition to the single malts, they also blend and vat their own ranges of whisky and these currently include this Big Peat and the Double Barrel series.
A vatted whisky is a mixture of single malt whiskies. They can be from different distilleries and be of differing ages. In the case of Big Peat, there are four distilleries from the western island of Islay included – Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen. The first three are currently operating but Port Ellen closed in 1983 and whiskies from there are becoming rare and expensive (therefore, the whisky included here has to be at least 26 years old). To produce Big Peat, Douglas Laing & Co vatted these four whiskies together in small batches and then reduce the alcohol strength to 46% ABV for bottling. A bottle should cost £35-40 from specialist whisky retailers.
The colour of Big Peat is dark and golden and the nose blows your nostrils away. It is VERY smoky (no surprise really as the clue is in the name!) with a mix of tar, burning rubber and petrol. There is also a slight saltiness and an interesting herbal aniseed note, reminiscent of fennel. Little else gets the chance to battle through the powerful smokiness. On the palate, there is a similar story. It is full bodied and packed with overwhelming and explosive smoke. The smokiness again exhibits a tarry and burnt rubber note (think of screeching tyres) and there is a distinct hot spiciness (imagine black peppercorns and red chillis). The smokiness becomes more ashy (like the embers of a log fire) with time. Other elements struggle and almost give up trying to get through the smoke but some vanilla and cereal grains are detectable. The finish is potent and long with the tarry smoke burning away for ever, before turning more ashy later on. The finish is also very dry, leaving your mouth parched and wanting some water. The addition of water to the whisky dilutes the smokiness but only slightly. Some grainy cereal sweetness and grassy herbal notes come through easier.
Big Peat makes no apologies for what it is, after all the clue is in the name. It is very smoky and overpowering but if you like dramatic peaty whisky, this is definitely one to try. It is a brash and attention seeking whisky with the four big peaty whiskies fight for your attention, with no clear winner emerging. This is not one for the beginner (it would probably scare them off whisky forever) or the faint hearted but peaty whisky fans may well be in heaven. This dram offers an truly unforgettable experience, whether it suits your taste or not.