It’s that time of year again when the nights are getting longer and we drop back into standard time (or ‘winter clock’ as they call it in Israel) and at long last, temperatures begin to enter a comfortable zone. Sadly it’s nowhere near “fireplace range” here, but we can always imagine it. That of course means only one thing, it’s time to taste the new Big Peat Christmas Edition of 2016.
I’ve written quite a few reviews on big peat and the Christmas editions, offered at cask strength. I won’t reiterate the whole story behind big peat and the brand that it’s become, rather only mention that while the normal Big Peat is a vatting of whisky from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen, the 2016 edition includes whisky from all eight active Islay distilleries as well as from Port Ellen, closed since 1983. Thus, in this year’s edition you’ll find whiskies from Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman, as well as the Port Ellen Distillery. Pulling this off required some corporation from Kilchoman, as this distillery does not sell casks to independent bottlers on any regular basis.
Can you tell the difference between past Christmas bottlings and this one? The answer is unequivocally yes. This is a gentler Christmas Edition with quite a bit of softness to it and somewhat less brine and a softer peatiness. You won’t mistake it for anything but Big Peat, but it’s different!
Douglas Laing Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 “All Islay” (54.6% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Pale gold, very thin legs running down the glass.
Nose: Much softer than the editions of Christmas past, somewhat sweeter on the nose with some spice. The very “Big Peaty” brine is there, but it’s a little less pronounced, with a fresh maltiness to it. There’s also some marshmallow and vanilla. With time, you get some floral notes too. A drop of water brings up the brine again, and after that settles, ash, maltiness and a hint of mint surface.
Palate: A lot of hot spice with a big hit of peat, and a tinge of ashiness to it. Some paint thinner and crushed pepper with a layer of fruity sweetness under the smoke. There’s a very clear layer of vanilla and coconut there (I’d venture to speculate that there are some unpeated fresh bourbon casks in there this time).
Linger: Long and smoky, with a lot of the spice remaining on the tongue. A bitterness, with some wood (perhaps an evergreen, though not pine) and lemon.
You can’t get too attached to these one off special editions, but this is one to stock up on. There are layers to discover as it sits in a glass, and something about it has a pretty soft and endearing aspect. This is one very well made vatted malt. Kudus, Fred!
Official sample provided by Douglas Laing. Slainte!