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This is a blended malt, consisting of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, and Port Ellen single malts, plus (according to a few sources) a few mystery malts tossed into the mix. With a moniker like “Big Peat,” you know what to expect here. Yet, despite what the name might imply, this is a very palatable, non-threatening whisky, more of a peat gentleman than a peat monster. I like it, but I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t blown away like the bearded chap on the label. (Captain Haddock? Having been a Tintin fan since my youth, I like to think so.)
I’ve had this bottle for only a few days, so this review is based on my third dram. If I notice some changes over time, I’ll add them to the comments section down the road.
Nose: Um...well,peat. Definitely not the lemony sort of peat associated with, say, Lagavulin, but more like a campfire in a pine forest. And someone’s roasting hot dogs over that campfire. Hints of white chocolate and maybe a little sweet pipe tobacco. Not much dimension here, but plenty of guts.
I would strongly suggest avoiding the water with Big Peat. I had my first dram neat then added a couple of tiny drops of water for my second, and it just made everything (especially the nose) go limp. Like your grandmother walking into the room after you’ve just leafed through the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. You know what I mean.
Palate: Peat (duh). I’ll go so far as to say this is the most well-rounded peat taste I’ve experienced. It’s just the right balance of smoky and sweet, medicinal and earthy. Give this to a newbie who wants to taste what peat is all about. Unlike Ardbeg 10 yo, it’s not like a sudden plunge into the deep end of the peat pool. Its balance should satisfy peat lovers, yet it won’t scare away the rookies.
Frankly, I don’t know what to make of the finish. There are some strange elements here that I’ve never tasted in a whisky, like a combination of plastic and mildly sweet fruit (cantaloupe or muskmelon), along with some burned maple syrup. Nothing in the nose or on the tongue led me to expect this. The peat is still there, but it’s been demoted from A-list star to ensemble player.
I might have a few reservations, but I regard this whisky as money well-spent. Maybe not as “Big” as I expected or desired, but “Peat” has become a good friend nonetheless.