Friday, May 25, 2012

#2 - BIG PEAT! - Islay blended malt

Greetings everyone! Sorry for the huge delay, I've been sick as all hell this last couple of weeks and used the time whilst sick to study, so all was not lost. However, as I've been unable to enjoy any of my delicious malty whisky goodness I've been unable to do any reviews. Never fear, I'm back with a ripper!

This one is specifically for a buddy of mine from work. He says IS-LAY, I say EYE-LA. Tomay-toe, Tomar-toe. Whatever the way you pronounce it, Islay is a little island off the west coast of Scotland. They have a specific type of Peat there, and they are usually very smoky whiskies as they use the peat smoke to dry the malted barley in large kilns (for those of you that didn't know the way they get the flavour). 

Peated whisky has a pungent odour and taste that at first hits you like burnt rubber. I was on a quest when I started my whisky journey to find out what possesses people to drink burnt rubber in a glass! Honestly, are you mad? I stuck with it, however, so that I started to develop the appreciation and taste for the Islay style Malts. Any of you out in whisky land that find peated whisky to be stinky, gross, burnt, plasticy, off, putrid, detritus, muddy, firey, and thinking that they used old white 'dog-logs' to dry their barley instead of a great natural resource of old compressed organic matter, Please....Stick with it, and work your way up to the heavily peated stuff.  Here's a map of Islay to get started

On the scale of peated whisky by me, I'd say Johnny Walker green label which whilst peaty, is still quite mild. Next, onto Talisker which is more peated, but with a less intense less medicinal type of peat that is from the Isle of Skye, not Islay. Great stuff that is like a gateway drug to peaty goodness. (Talisker was introduced to me from another great work colleague who also is a Karate Blackbelt, and keeps a gimp. haha) Then onto the Mid-range Peated Islay, Bowmore 10 year old. It's a great whisky that can be had usually for $50 which I think for a single malt, especially something as amazingly crafted as Bowmore, is a steal! Finally, the Southern Islay crew of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Port Ellen and Ardbeg. Some of the biggest names in whisky, which also have a huge cult following, and for a good reason. In an age where everyone is 'unique' and apparently all so 'different' it's refreshing to know that there are still some people with the heart and passion on a small island half way around the world that make whisky the way it was back then, which happens to be the most unique whisky in the world today. Still. I guess the key to uniqueness is to actually NOT change. Who'da thought?

This leads me on to my next rant, which annoys me. I like to drink whisky, and collect a few. It does, however, annoy the bejesus out of me that certain whisky is so hard to come by.... and at the top of that list is an Original Port Ellen.  For those who do not know, Port Ellen still has a Malting’s, which they supply a lot of other Islay distilleries with, but they were a working distillery from 1820-1983. 163 bloody years. That's a good trot in anyone's book. Prices for an original Port Ellen today are average price of about 500 pounds British. I'll probably one day have one, but unfortunately I've not been lucky enough to secure even a taster yet. I'll try my best to sort one. 

Then, out of left field comes Big Peat! BOOM! Ardbeg, Caol-Ila, Bowmore and...Gulp.....PORT ELLEN! After the previous paragraph I bet you'd think its a few hundred dollars/pounds. It's in fact, a Blended Malt (used to be called vatted, but that’s a whinge for another day.) no grain whisky added, for $60 odd Australian. How's that for value?

It's an awesome bottling from Douglas Laing, an Independent bottler. What a great looking tin and bottle. It makes you smile, thinking of a salty sea breeze with a camp fire, crappy weather and winter. Perfect for an Islay Whisky! YES! Have a look and tell me it doesn't at least make you look at the label for a second. What Macallan is to refinement, Big Peat is to bold awesomeness. 

So, how’s it go? Bloody fantastic. That's how! 

Firstly, it's a non-chill filtered, non-coloured 46% abv whisky, and having Caol Ila in it makes it quite oily which I personally adore. It's like a whisky police man shot a velvety smoke bomb into a glass of sweet syrup. Seriously! It has a great consistency, leaves medium size legs, and some nice fat oily tear drops. The colour is almost like a light chardonnay pale straw colour, which turns milky with the addition of a drop of water. 

Nose: BANG. Peat in the face. A really earthy, heavily medicinal peat that also has a sweetness to it almost like new make spirit. The sweet ethanol smell as it just comes off the still, but not at all harsh on the nose. I almost get a feint whiff of fisherman’s friend style lolly in it. 

Palate: The instant peat is huge, but doesn't overpower the other subtle flavours.  A nice sweet peaty whisky, which is how I like the peated whisky. Peat and sweet. It's also got a little bitterness (not at all bad) and a slight sour kick as well, but then fades out into a mandarin like sweetness that you get when you can smell when someone in the room opens a fresh mandarin. Not what I was expecting from an Islay! Awesome!

Finish is huge and changes constantly, and the whole whisky is pretty damn impressive, especially for 60 bucks. It's probably the best value for money Islay malt out there due to the rarity of the Port Ellen, and that it's cheaper than most of the other malts in the blend. Buy one. 

It's complex, and changes from glass to glass, and is perfect on a horrible rainy cold night like tonight here in Canberra. 

My rating for Big Peat given all of the above? KILLER! That's all.... KILLER.

In the words of the Russian master of weaponry Dmitri.... 'Don't Be Beech!'

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