I like to think that I’m a steely rock, inscrutable and impenetrable to the grasping wiles of advertisers and their kerned and pantone-d ministrations, but really, I’m just as much of a sucker for good packaging and marketing as the next guy. Ardbeg, for example, does a masterful job mixing the tradition and mythos of Scotch & Scotland with great design and savvy media know-how. Bruichladdich, while hit (Black Art) or miss (Links) in my book, pushes well past the traditional in much of its packaging and design, and is at least successful in creating a unique look for its unique drams. I like when a design can both capture the tradition and gravitas of Scotch but also bring a new refinement to it. So…with that in mind, when I saw the “Big Peat” bottle for the first time, I gotta say, I was pretty turned off. A vatted malt only aspiring to peat featuring a silly name and wind-blown cartoon on the label? I dunno, that just didn’t make me want to try it.
I probably would not have given myself a chance with Big Peat were it not for a recent K&L tasting in Redwood City which included it along with several other Islay malts, but in the end I’m glad I did. Big Peat is bottled by Douglas Laing & Co. and is a non-chill filtered marriage of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila, and surprisingly, Port Ellen.
The Nose: Fair amount of peat reek and smoke, not a real pin-pointable smoke, just good, general…smoke. There are a few light coffee and vanilla notes and faint vague fruit somewhere but mostly it’s mostly just Islay funk. I have to say the first whiff of this was a nostalgic jolt to the system, it took a few moments but then I got it…Paris Metro station…most likely La Motte-Picquet Grenelle.
The Palate: Perhaps unsurprisingly…big peat, not in an overwhelming way like Supernova or Octomore, just big, smokey, diesel-y, rubbery, the works. There seemed to be a little ripe apple struggling to be heard, but mostly it was all about the peat.
The Finish: C’mon, a Islay blend called “Big Peat”? What do you think the finish is gonna be like?
Thoughts: Aside from the label, this is well-executed stuff. It’s blended well in that I couldn’t really pick out any one component from another, they all work surprisingly well together. For something called “Big Peat”, this does show a tiny bit of restraint and balance, but mostly it’s a bold showcase of peat and smoke. As you can imagine, there’s not much complexity or depth here, it’s pretty much just like its name. For a no age statement blended malt this is a little on the expensive side ($100), I’m not sure why I’d want to grab this if I can have the components (which I like better on their own) for less.