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The colour is a pleasant mid amber. On the nose peat dominates but initially it is sweeter than your usual heavily peated malt. I get a whiff of marzipan. After a few minutes nosing I get some more savoury notes coming through, some damp wood or compost. For a 51.2% spirit the nose is actually quite gentle, and I get a lovely faint hint of rose right at the end.
In the mouth it is pleasingly peaty but not at all overpowering. Definitely a more spicy smoke than a hot burning smoke. But those flavours are wrapped in a warmer, sweeter more gentle mouth taste than I am used to from Ardbeg (or other Islays (though I readily accept I’m no peat-freak)).
Any burn on the finish is short lived – actually shorter than I expected – but despite that quickly subsiding the remainder of the finish lingers on for a good time, leading to much chewing, appreciating the fading flavour notes.
With a few drops of water the difference is quite pronounced. I get toffee and vanillas on the nose and if I sniff for a while that hint of rose in the background seems to become citrusy. It’s a beautiful nose once its been opened up with water. Similarly in the mouth it takes on a more bourbon-y character than I thought it had neat.
Overall, it actually isn’t what I was expecting. I’d say the peat plays second fiddle here to what else is going on around it. I personally don’t get the BBQ and cumin and so on that the official tasting notes talk about, but I often find trying to match ‘official’ notes to my own experience a fruitless and frustrating task. But there is a lot happening and the peat and smoke just fit nicely into the mix. I like it a lot.