Review: Big Peat Christmas Edition Blended Islay Malt Scotch Whisky / by Jason Hambrey

100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Islay, Scotland)

This is a cask strength, beefier version of Big Peat - released annually for Christmas every year by Douglas Laing. It has many admirers - I originally picked it up because it won Whisky Advocate's Blended Malt of the Year in 2013. It is not only high ABV, but also higher grade whiskies going into this - so not only is it bigger than Big Peat, but also better. And, great bottle!

Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2013 (54.9%)

  • Bottling Code: L 29 08 13 3 10:40 88 BATCH53

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Medicinal, tarry peat, and quite sharp throughout. Thick, indeed, with peat, and some vanilla and creaminess poking its head through. Largely, it would appear, it's the two camps - the creamy vanilla and intense, complex peatiness (both earthy and smoky) which are integrated together. Vegetal undertones, like green pepper and asparagus. Follows through on the palate, showing dark earthy chocolate as well...with the smoke and vanilla and sweetness all balanced quite intricately. Oily too, and has the rawness and power of younger whisky. Long, ashy finish. The complexity comes out in bulk if water is added, and the nose comes alive. dried leaves on the finish, and drying...umm....terrific blending. It is young, which I actually like here and don't like.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $102.

Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2014 (55.7%)

  • Bottling Code: L 15 08 14 3 09:12 88 BATCH61

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Sharp, chiseled peat, it would seem. A bit more wood, and a bit calmer, than in 2013, and a bit more balance right off the bat. Some bourbon notes, tar, custard, asparagus, agave, lemon zest, banana. Pepper, and a good dose of creamy and buttery notes as in the standard big peat – only, bigger. Finishes with a good dose of earthy smoke with light wood tannins. Thick with vegetal notes – asparagus (as with the 2013), green pepper, celery, and lots of mineral notes, quite reminiscent of rockpools. Terrific tannins on the finish. Oh, and lots of smoke! Finishes with roasted black pepper, wood smoke, peat (the dirty, vegetal notes of the actual stuff), and creamy banana custard. More charcoal and smoke than 2013, though, it would seem, a tad less complex. I wasn’t gonna bump it up to 90, except for a beautiful dry, smoky, and sweet finish that I just can’t get enough of. And, great balance and minerality – a quality I quite like with my peat. Beautiful stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $102.