I seem to keep coming across Douglas Laing’s blends. I don’t mind though, they usually are a masterclass in blending. Big Peat is their Islay version of a regional malt, usually being made up of Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen. There’s nothing wrong with the regular release, but I was blown away with the 26 year old expression I tasted last year at the Ghent International Whisky Festival. When I saw they were releasing a 33 year old variant, I had to get my hands, nose and palate on it. This one was finished in ex-cognac and sherry casks, it’s interesting, but at the same time I’m wondering if it was really necessary to finish a whisky this age…
Nose: It’s called Big Peat so I suppose it’s no surprise to find peat here. It’s not a sharp, focused peat but rather round and mature. The age is already showing here. There’s some menthol, but otherwise we’re dealing with quite a sweet nose with elements of raisins, red grapes and prunes. I was rather sceptical about finishing a 33 year old whisky, but it seems to have worked.
Palate: Very well rounded and integrated, yet it still comes across as heavy and robust, in the best possible way. Quite salty, sweet tar and some of the fruits from the nose. Just like the nose, I find the cognac casks have imparted more influence than the sherry casks. That’s a good thing though, because of the somewhat unusual casks, we also get an interesting concoction of flavour.
Finish: A nice and long finish with lingering smoke. A touch of lavender, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there’s a decent amount of Bowmore in here. At the very tail end, there’s a little coffee bean to reduce the sweet notes on your palate, preparing it for the next sip.
Beautiful combination of mature peat, sweet fruits and the interplay between them. Thank you Carl for the sample.
I’m going through my samples and picked out this Bunnahabhain from my birth year. Wemyss doesn’t tend to give out too much information. It comes from a hogshead and produced 310 bottles.
Nose: Hmm, quite a shifty nose and the alcohol is making its presence known. Quite a bit of mint and white pepper. Typical vanilla and honey notes and some salty coastalness. There seems to be some furniture polish in here as well. With water, there are some more fruity notes. Mainly mango and unripe banana.
Palate: It’s letting you taste the 25 long years it spent in a casks. Quite a dusty, even rusty impression with a slight metallic note. Ever so slight smoke and a mineral note too. Some lemons to lead us into the finish.
Finish: A medium long finish with hints of vanilla, leather and pepper.
It has to be said, I’m somewhat let down by this dram. For it’s age it’s not particularly well rounded and there’s quite a bit of unexpected smells and tastes.
Port Askaig is a little town in the north of Islay. Coincidentally, Caol Ila is just up the road. Anyway, this is a 16 year old single malt bottled in 2015.
Color: Light gold.
Nose: Very salty nose here. Some smoked fish in there. Burnt sugar, presumably from the sherry casks. What sets this apart is a vegetal note, think olives and parsley. It’s a very clean, sharp and focused nose.
Palate: Very clean here as well, and again, very salty. The green notes continue, with some moss in there for good measure. There are some sweet notes too, marzipan and hints of coffee beans. The waves of salt just keep your taste buds engaged.
Finish: Long finish, perfect after what we experienced on the nose and palate. Salt once again. The smoked fish make a return. Some toffee and eucalyptus to round things out.
What can I say? It does what it does, and it does so in a cracking way. I love this style of whisky.
On May 22, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society held a tasting at Campbeltown’s Ardshiel Hotel to taste some of their bottlings for the Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown festivals.
Luckily for me, they also streamed the tasting live, and members of the SMWS were able to buy samples of each of the five whiskies to be tasted.
The livestream was in a seperate room from the in person tasting, which meant we were able to create our own atmosphere in the chatroom. Unfortunately, there were some technical hick-ups, but the presentation was quite engaging. Either way, what counts most is the quality of the drams.
Glen Grant 2007, SMWS 9.161 “Cream Tea at the Patisserie” | 60.9% ABV | Bottled 2019
We started things off with a young Glen Grant aged for 11 years in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel. It’s labeled under the SMWS flavour profile “Sweet, Fruity & Mellow”.
Color: Pale gold.
Nose: The citrus is immediately apparent. Tons of lemon hits your nose. Digging in a little bit, it’s like being in a pastry shop (I guess their naming is on point). Lemon pie and cookie-dough, it needs a while to open up though. There’s a sweet sugar note too, think icing sugar. Orange marmelade. With water, the doughy notes come through a bit pore prominently, but the lemons are still at the forefront.
Palate: Quite a strong arrival. Sugary at first, but fades into tart lemons. Some orange zest and little Petit Beurre cookies. After some time, I get the appearance of a little whipped cream.
Finish: Short to medium lenght. Lemon, of course. A hint of salt and yeast. Some peppers, ginger and cinnamon show themselves here too.
This one really only opens up after adding some water and giving it some time. It’s a nice opener for the night, but a bit too heavy on the lemon for me.
On to the second Speysider of the night. This 21 year old Glenrothes has spent 19 years of it’s life in an ex-oloroso butt and was then finished for 2 years in a 2nd fill Pedro Ximénez butt. According to the SMWS, the flavour profile of this should be “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits”.
Color: Amber with a nice orange hue.
Nose: Oh this is inviting. Walnuts, prunes, dried figs, dried dates. Some sweet raisins and a very rum-like note. I like this nose, a lot. With water: some strawberries come into the mix.
Palate: Surprisingly soft and smooth arrival. This doesn’t mean the flavour isn’t there though. Lots of dark red fruits. Raisins, plums and prunes. Some tannins from the cask, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar. With water, the tannins come out a bit more. A very very sweet one, this Glenrothes, as I would expect from a PX-cask. But still nicely balanced.
Finish: The sweetness lingers and a slight herbal and menthol note appears. A bit of a sticky mouthfeel, makes you want to go for another sip. Luckily, the finish is quite long.
I’m not the biggest fan of whisky that is very heavily influenced by sherry, but this is an excellent example of good cask management.
Another “Deep, Rich & Dried Fruits” flavour profile, but I’m quite sure this will be quite different to the Glenrothes. It has spent 16 years in an American oak oloroso butt and another 3 years in a Spanish oak oloroso butt.
Color: Mahogany, the color is surprising yet inviting.
Nose: Well, it’s Laphroaig so the presence of peat shouldn’t be stated. However, it’s quite subdued. Lot’s and lot’s of liquorice. Figs and prunes too, as well as a minty note. With water: Old leather, a dusty leather armchair in an antique store. Ever so slight hint of petrol too.
Palate: The peat gives a definite kick here, more than the nose lead me to assume. Quite a briny, iodine note too. Adding water, the leather note comes through much more. Fresh figs and orange zest. Poached pears and pecans.
Finish: A long finish with notes of peatsmoke, ash, tobacco leaves, leather and an ever so slight hint of blueberry.
This is great stuff. Very nice marriage between the spirit and the cask. The age is noticeable, but it’s still more than lively enough.
Time for another Islay bottling, but this time without the peat. A 13 year old Bunnahabhain from a 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, bottled at a very healthy 61.8% ABV. The SMWS flavour profile here is “Oily & Coastal”.
Color: Light gold
Nose: Immediate banana, luckily I don’t have any minions in the house. Hints of tequila too. Some salt, but not the brine I’m used to in Bunnahabhain. Salted popcorn, that’s more like it. With water, some oysters and ever so slight elderflower notes. Banana-vanilla pudding, those yellow Petit Gervais yoghurts if you’ve ever had those.
Palate: Sweet and salty. Fruit de mer, crabcakes. White fruit too, mostly peach. Some brine here, and seaweed. A tonic note too. With water: more honey and vanilla notes. The seasalt comes through more clearly. Oh, and dried pineapple!
Finish: On the shorter side, although we’ve been spoiled with the previous two. Peaches, salt and aha, we have found the olives!
If you’d give this to me blind, I wouldn’t guess it’s an Islay malt. Still quite nice nonetheless.
Our final dram of the evening is a Campbeltown whisky. Our hosts tell us it’s not Springbank nor Glengyle. Of course, we could just Google the distillery number, right? It spent 10 years in a 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel. This should be lightly peated.
Color: Light gold.
Nose: Exotic fruits, lead by pineapples and lychee. A slight green vegetable note, peas perhaps? In the back there’s some freshly baked croissants and white chocolate.
Palate: I love it when a whisky can deliver what it promises on the nose. Pineapples aplenty, some papaya and lychee too. There’s a grassy and earthiness to this, which I get quite often with this not Springbank nor Glengyle distillery. Also, the peat is a bit louder than on the nose here, adding a nice counternote to the sweet fruits.
Finish: A minty eucalyptus note, toothpaste. Fresh green herbs and peaches to make sure the sweetness sustains. Nice and long finish.
I really like this one. Then again, I tend to like Glen Scotia so it isn’t a huge surprise.
At the beginning of the 2000’s, Bruichladdich distillery started producing heavily peated spirit under the name of closeby town Port Charlotte. Currently, this sits between the Bruichladdich and Octomore expressions.
This is the basic one, a NAS bottling at 50% ABV.
Color: Very pale gold.
Nose: Smoke with vanilla cream, peppermint and barley. After some time in the glass some more lemon notes come out. Nuts can be found in the distance.
Palate: A wave of smoke hits you first. After that some metallic notes and quite medicinal peat. The youngness shows itself here.
Finish: It’s medium long, mostly briny and some lingering peat. There’s a touch of gingerbread as well.
You can taste it’s a young one. The nose does a decent job of hiding it, but the metallic notes on the otherwise quite simplistic palate seal the deal. Still, it’s an enjoyable dram.
Today we have a Laphroaig bottled by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This one was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2015, at 17 years of age. It’s bottled at a good 52.9% ABV. The SMWS named it Fantastical, magical, transporting… Let’s see where it takes us.
Color: Pale straw
Nose: The medicinal peat smoke jumps out, loads of antiseptic and ash. If you dig a little deeper there’s brine and some fresh lime. Then seafood, think lobster and crab. With more time in the glass, some more fruity notes come out, but they are burried beneath the peat.
Palate: Quite gradual arrival, especially considering the ABV. Peat smoke ofcourse, smoked sausage and seafoods, lobsters and crabs are back, joined by some oysters. Salt as well. Digging deep, some hints of marshmallow, vanilla and green apple.
Finish: The medicinal notes continue, obviously. Some green apple gives it a hint of sweetness. Grapefruit at the tail end of this quite long finish.
This is a textbook example of how medicinal a Laphroaig can get. It’s not bad, but a bit of a one trick pony. I prefer my heavily peated malts to be a bit fruitier.
This is a 2005 bottling of Bruichladdich, matured for 15 years in bourbon barrels and finished in sauternes casks. It was bottled at 46% ABV.
Nose: Rich fruit notes jump out immediately. Some pineapple, mango and lime. A coastal note is in there also, oysters perhaps? The sauternes influence makes itself clear, but it’s married nicely with the spirit. With time, some wet hay and a nougat note come to the forefront.
Palate: A soft arrival, sweet and sour. The pineapple’s there again, some green apple and grapefruit. Then there’s a big, unexpected confectionery note, icing sugar. This tames itself after some time in the glass.
Finish: A nice, medium long, clean finish. The sweetness from the icing sugar lingers and is then overtaken by some salt. With time, some lemon notes pop up as well.
This is a strange one. When I first tried it I was disappointed. Now, trying it again, I like it much better. Maybe it just needs some air, or patience, or both.