It has become a growing tradition in our household for my eldest stepdaughter’s gift to me is an novel or unique whisky. Knowing that I’m something of a peat head, last Christmas I received a bottle of Douglas Laing’s Big Peat. What an excellent opportunity for a review!
Having never tried it before, we will discover Douglas Laing’s Big Peat Blended Scotch whisky together as we explore the following topics:
Overview Of Laphroaig 10 Year Old
- Distillery: Douglas Laing & Co
- Expression: Big Peat
- Region: Blended Islay [Hebrides]
- Age: NAS
- Casking: Ex-Bourbon
- Cask Strength: 46% ABV
- Chill-Filtered: No
- Pricing: $70 / 75 cl [Buy Now]
- Parent: Independent
An exciting and promising concept, Douglas Laing & Co sought to combine Islay’s distinctive flavours into a single dram by blending vatted malt from some of the island’s most celebrated distilleries such as Bowmore, Ardberg, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen. The result earned itself critical acclaim in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
Buy Big Peat Now
Big Peat’s Robe
- Hue: Dry Straw
- Transparency: Minor Translucence
- Body: Medium-Bodied
Douglas Laing proudly states that no colouring was used to darken Big Peat’s hue. Consequently, it’s a relatively pale spirit that’s reminiscent of dry straw or Chablis white wine.
Swirling the spirit in my Glencairn’s glass, I observed thin albeit quite slow whisky legs that leisurely trickled down the sides. As the whisky is non-chill filtered, adding a drop of water will produce rich swirls and display its viscometric potential.
Big Peat’s Nose
- Notes: Iodine, Flint, Marmalade, Malt
- Nosefeel: Peppery
Despite its reputation for having an overt smoky peat character, I found that its nose was surprisingly rich in minerals and malt instead. While there is certainly an iodine presence, the smokiness is closer to flint.
Meanwhile, candied fruit marmalade adds an element of zest while a warm malt cereal nose adds a touch of vanilla softness. Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice a touch of woollen lint in there too.
Big Peat’s Palate & Mouthfeel
- Primary Tastes: Salty, Sour
- Mouthfeel: Oily, Eucalyptus
- Opening: Marmalade, Brine, Mince Pies
- Heart: Iodine, Beeswax, Toffee
- Finish: Long [Marzipan, Lapsang Souchong, Creosote]
Overall, Big Peat offers a salty primary taste with a zesty citrus tartness throughout the opening. This is combined with a succulent and oily mouthfeel and a bracing eucalyptic effect.
Although not overly complex and quite youthful in character, it does have a smooth texture, which is particularly apparent during the heart. To set the rhythm for the palate, its rich candied citrus opening offers marmalade, festive mince pies with a generous dash of sea brine.
As these subside, a gourmand heart reveals a chewy combination of toffee and beeswax over an iodine backdrop. As mentioned earlier, there was also a latent lint property that added an intriguing element to the profile.
While the character is overall smoky, this only sets the tune for the actual aromatic notes that I experienced.
Eventually, we descend into a smooth and surprisingly soft marzipan finish, which climaxes to reveal the peaty identity, which consists of Lapsang Souchong tea and smoking creosote.
Usually, I’m partial to significantly cutting whisky with some water to really open up the aromas. However, I actually found it unnecessary with Big Peat. Despite its 46% ABV, it was perfectly smooth enough to drink neat and not remotely as rough as you’d expected.
Best Pairings With Big Peat
You would expect that Big Peat demands bold flavours to match its smoky character. However, this isn’t necessarily the case! Nevertheless, weaker or milder pairings may struggle against its wisps of smoke.
For instance, we sampled some Big Peat while preparing the comparative review of Davidoff and Romeo y Julieta’s Year of the Rat cigars. Both of these cigars feature exceedingly different blends with the Romeo y Julieta being quite mild and floral while the Davidoff was particularly full-bodied.
Nevertheless, both paired quite well and offered an entirely different experience. Still, I would probably recommend opting for a more full-bodied cigar that features ligero or sun-grown leaves in its blends.
As for food or snacks, mince pies were a particular favourite of mine with this whisky expression. Indeed, the candied fruits of the mince meat extended the peatiness beautifully and were wonderfully appropriate for the festive season. In that same regard, Christmas cake would be a good option too.
That said, I would be careful not to opt for anything too sweet. For instance, I absent-mindedly chewed on a stick of rock while taking a sip of Big Peat and the result was pretty disagreeable!
Finally, smoked salmon would be an excellent option too.
Overall Experience & Value For Money
At first, I honestly found the label and box’s gaudy design to be somewhat off-putting and even a little garish. Admittedly, this actually caused me to refrain from buying it for myself in the first place. However, I’ve come not only to appreciate but even love the label the more I look at it.
Unsurprisingly, the Ileasch fisherman pictured is called “Big Peat”. The Captain Haddock lookalike has a wincing expression while his thinning hair is blowing under a strong gust of wind. Overall, it beautifully captures and even epitomises the sensation of being sprayed by the island’s harsh and biting-cold seawater.
Indeed, anyone who has experienced it can certainly relate!
Behind him is what appears to be the coastal village of what looks like Portnahaven. In reality, the Rinns of Islay lighthouse is somewhat further in the distance but it works nicely for the purposes of the label.
While Portnahaven doesn’t host its own distillery, it’s picturesque and I imagine was the most diplomatic choice over the other possible locations.
As a side note, the wax stamps on the bottle aren’t conventional. In fact, my stepdaughter opted for this optional service at La Maison du Whisky in Paris so the bottle would feature my initials.
In terms of the best occasion to enjoy this whisky, it’s certainly a fantastic casual dram to enjoy alone or with friends.
Nevertheless, I would refrain from bringing it out for special occasions. Not only does the label lack the certain elegance that you would expect but some people may find the palate to be lacking in refinement.
Overall, though, it’s quite affordable if you know where to look. In the USA, it retails online for around $70 and is similarly priced elsewhere.
Like many of Islay’s proud expressions, Big Peat is a bold and unapologetic whisky. Some people may claim that its brash approach does Islay a disservice. However, I would argue that it succeeds in capturing its essence in a single bottle. Actually, it’s a great introduction to the spirit of what the island offers.
I even saw someone insultingly refer to it as tasting like a dirty kilt. Yet, I would wear that snub like a badge of honour as Laphroaig does. Indeed, it does in fact taste like dirty kilt and it tastes wonderful!
"While the Scotch whisky elite may find it unrefined, Big Peat unashamedly delivers on its promise in spades by providing a smoky peat bomb that warms the heart during the cold seasons."
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