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Another bottle I bought because of Jim Murray’s sacred scriptures. This one earned a 96 from him. This bottle brings me a step closer to “interpreting” Murray’s words for my own taste – always valuable. I opened this bottle in July of 2011. This is the combination of different tasting notes I did a few days after the bottle was open, then in June of 2012, and this past week. After the June tasting I decanted the remainder of the liquid into a 200mL bottle filling it to the brim. My score changed from an 80 up to an 85 in the first year, but virtually no change over this past year (84.5). Tasting it just last night I confirm my assessment of this bottle.
Nose: Very smoky with delicate sweet peat in the background. There is sea salt, seaweed and not a little bit of tar. I am amazed at both its earthiness, and it crisp cleanness. Lemon and grass now develop under this very interesting peat layer. There is both clean rock and dirty mud. There are a few other hints at things: flowers, spices (cumin, pepper, and thyme) and fruit (citrus, apples, raisins?). However, is almost like the peat is thin compared to the big 3 (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin). This nose is all about earthy, dry wood chips, fresh cakes of peat and coal. There is smoke, but it is in the background. Peat is more to the fore. In summary: thin peat and very smoky.
Taste: Sweet peat on the fore and ash in the back. Very sweet peat with malt, hay, bitter herbs, oak, smoke, and more peat. That bitter note works really well against all the sweetness that greats the front of the tongue. Perhaps it is a bit of soap?
Finish: You get that suck in breath like Ardbeg waiting for the huge peat explosion that never comes. Instead you have a very subtle peat fire tainted pool carry you with a few gentle waves toward the precipice . . . There is some tar, smoke, and ash along the way but it is a very gentle journey – long but gentle. And in the end ash coats the mouth along with a little chalk?
Balance, Complexity: Unique blend of power and meekness; complexity and simplicity. This is the thing that gets Murray going. Over all I would have said that this was a young malt: it seems a lot like a young Ardbeg but with none of the power. I don’t feel like I can exactly pick out all of the elements of this vatting. The Ardbeg stands out for sure on the nose. The Caol Ila makes it presence felt with a slight oily edge to the mouthfeel. But the Bowmore and Port Ellen seem hidden to me. Overall I give it points for effort but I didn’t like the balance nor the complexity that they achieved nearly as much I expected I would. Expectations can be a bitch.
Color, Body, Aesthetic experience: So light gold as to be almost clear. Hate the color, the bottle shape, and the label most of all – seriously, it looks so silly. They should have called it “big smoke” as that would have been more accurate. Still points for ncf and 46%.
Conclusion: I think if you call it “Big Peat” it really should be a Big Peat. Other reviews on this site are noting the same issue. My problem is that it isn’t as peaty as a standard Laphroaig, Ardbeg, or Lagavulin. The whole name issue aside I am again hit with the reality – I am a Big Flavors Club guy. This is a vatted malt (now Blended Malt) and I just don’t seem to like those as much. I think when you vatt multiple whiskies together you have a rounding of edges that occurs. I just don’t like this. I won’t buy it again. Do you like rounded smoky peat? Do you wish there were more affordable older Ardbeg’s on the market like a 17 year old? Try this. I think it has much more in common with older Ardbeg then most anything else readily available – which is why Murray liked it so much.