Big Peat Small Batch | 46% abv (92 Proof), $55.99/bottle (BevMo for me or online)
Color/Appearance: As listed on the label there is no colored added and it shows, a golden pale yellow possibly paler than white wine. The bottle and modern labeling only seem to brazenly tempt the viewer that they might not be brave enough to tackle such a raw and intense spirit. There are no visible hints of a honeyed dram here. This bottle may reflect a new reality where drinking peated whisky is not some old-timey thing where tradition and conformity are the best but an attempt to draw in some new and untapped demographic of scotch drinkers.
Nose: Sweet peaty embrace with clean costal notes softly blended. More brightly shinning early summer beauty of a day rather than the dark stormy intense night depicted on the bottle. Relatively simple but enjoyable. Not evolving as much as some of the nuanced single malts from Islay. Does have a soft envelope for the peat that really seems to make its more medicinal herbal side shine so softly as to make its appeal to non-peat-heads more apparent. Some hints of its probable younger age a little noticeable.
Palate: So smooth, smooth and smooth, gosh this may be too smooth. Its a weird feeling to find that over engineered whisky that is too smooth for your palate. This may be that dram. So far the blended whiskies that I have had, seem to loose a vibrancy and uniqueness of flavor so obvious in most single-malts. Blending so many distilleries that are so singularly awesome does not in this case seem to amplify the whole. I get this warm peaty embrace followed by chemically caramelized sugar sweetness that balances the peat so nicely but still leaves me feeling a sense of lacking. Like I somehow ate a mass produced store bought cookie rather than a freshly baked one. It just seems hard to put your finger on any one flavor descriptor. Really to me this whisky really tests the reviewer. Just as each flavor tries to assert itself on your pallet it is pulled back into smoothness. Thereby leaving only a nondescript saccharine sweetness in its place. This youthful blend’s character is softened artificially but the soft result is pleasing enough to leave me short of writing more negatively. A surprisingly easygoing big peat.
Finish: Lingering the peat is nice and slow to fade out but those sweet elements that balance it lack depth of character. Also seems one note in the full expression of peat. No smoke and burning slender forest branches here but a mass-produced bog fuel clogging the industrial highway. Doesn’t fade out slowly but I am left unsure if I want it to linger too long.
Overall: Blends. I want to like this whisky but I find that for a single-dimensional peaty dram like this I would take a more complex single malt any day. It seems likely the Caol Ila part of the blend is quite significant. Port Ellen oh where are you. Shame to think that your precious liquid was wasted on such an effort. Though obviously there is some sense in wasting a few barrels of superior stock to make a large volume of whisky much more palatable. Oh Port Ellen and Ardbeg you have not toiled in vain, though I wonder if I would have the stomach for such a game. I seem to want to give an even lower score but each time I come to this whisky I find its smoothness too appealing to give a more negative review. Despite a few issues this remains a very smooth and peaty dram, which is not easy to do. That alone really is its strength and its defining character. Making peat palatable for the masses and possibly doing it well. Not really my sort of dram but since I am not its target demographic I am not really its true customer.
**** Follow Up: Towards the end of this bottle my opinion of it softened considerably. I found it more and more to my liking. Maybe its allure was too subtle for me at the time. I may have to revisit it in the future to see if my thoughts about it evolve further.