Category Archives: Big Peat

Big Peat Cask Strength Review

Big Peat Cask Strength008

57.1% abv

Score:  85/100


I’d initially planned to post this in December, when the subject matter would have been a little more topical, but…as always…other stuff always seemed to take precedent.

Our good friend ‘Peat’ has had a makeover as Santa Clause for the packaging of this cask strength version of our beloved Big Peat from Douglas Laing.  This expression is colloquially referred to as ‘Big Peat Santa’ around here, and event now is readily available if you’re on the hunt.  You won’t have to hunt hard either.  This whisky is instantly recognizable for its graphics, if not its flavour profile this time ’round.

Wait.  What?  Is this the Big Peat we’ve been singing the praises of for a few years now?  Not really, I’m afraid.  The differences are not simply in the horsepower and nuance either, but are woven throughout the DNA of the whisky.  I hate to say it, but this is not even recognizable under the same name as its weaker strength brother.  But maybe it’s all in how you view it.  Maybe I should look at this one differently.  Maybe it’s supposed to be more a variation on a theme than a full strength realization. 

It’s a rare occasion when I’ll take the lower strength dram when there is a beefier offering at hand.  Call it ‘flavour greed’, not alcoholism, if you don’t mind.  Which brings us back to why I’d opt for the standard edition over this…the flavour is simply richer in the mainstay release.

The color this time is as gentle as white wine.  The smoke, though still big, is thinner…less billowy.  The whisky seems less oily and textured.  Where I could pick up on echoes of Port Ellen in the regular bottling, it is absolutely lost in here.  The notes of maturity that surprised in the other bottling are here replaced by younger, underdeveloped tones. 

Don’t get me wrong.  This is still a good dram.  It’s just not nearly as good as what you can find in regular Big Peat.

Nose:  Almond.  Iodine.  Salt and pepper.  Peat.  Smoke.  More chocolate.  More fruit here than on the standard edition.  Orange.  Mixed fruit juices.  Sunflower seeds.  Rubber…like bicycle tires.  Maybe a touch of cola.  Lacks the immediate charm of the original versions at 46%.  Boasts a few feinty notes too, from either very young whisky or a poor middle cut, I’d guess.

Palate:  Smoky and peaty.  Wow…this is a big, fiery young dram.  Some prickly chilis.  Lime.  Pepper, salt and very fresh lively ginger.  Coffee and bitter dark chocolate.  Citrus again.  Very naked actually.  Devolves into wood splinters, dry cocoa, apple skins.

Thoughts:  Still a good dram, but nowhere near the ‘take you by surprise’ charm of the regular edition.  If you’re a fan of the youthful flaming peat bogs, and you love ’em big and pointy as hell (and a l’il bit young), this is your dram.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Big Peat Review

Big Peat031

46% abv

Score:  89.5/100


Let’s talk about marketing savvy.  Big Peat.  A blended malt (vatted malt, damn it!) built from Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen.  Hmmm…can you imagine just what exactly the ratios of each of those component malts are in this snazzy l’il dram?  Maybe something along the lines of 85% Caol Ila, 10% Bowmore, 4.95% Ardbeg and 0.05% Port Ellen.  Just a guess. 

My skepticism regarding the addition of Port Ellen is one I imagine to be shared by many out there.  Let’s face it…even the lowest quality casks of Port Ellen are fetching disgusting sums.  Do you really think any company (in this case Douglas Laing) is going to just vat away something that can net hundreds per bottle?  Not so sure.  Either way, this four ingredient recipe is enough to make even the most jaded Islay-phile light up like a little kid at Christmas time.

Big Peat is a unique offering from Douglas Laing, and one which speaks volumes about the blender’s art.  Having four such distinct voices come together in this kind of harmony is magic.   Big kudos to whomever owns the nose that pulled this all together.

And as for ‘Big Peat’ himself…that grizzled and windswept old bastard on the label and I…we’re pretty tight.  We’ve spent several great nights together, including one magical evening in Islay’s best whisky bar, just off Loch Indaal.  A bro-mance made in heaven (or at least Islay). 

All joking aside, don’t be fooled by the rather less than serious packaging.  The cartoon-ery hides a sophistication and quality that are impressive. 

Nose:  The nose alone kinda blows away the early cynicism I may have had.  There are definite Caol Ila notes, but there really ARE notes of mid-20s-ish Port Ellen.  Reminiscent of some of the Douglas Laing OMC expressions in particular.  Maybe I was wrong.  Ardbeg…yeah, I think I’m getting that.  Bowmore…not so sure I’m picking up any notes of Bowmore.  Citrus, smoke and rubber.  Ash.  Salt and pepper.  Soil.  Peat.  A touch of leather.  Briny.  Some chocolate.  A touch of natural caramel.  Iodine.  Faint Lapsang Souchong tea.  Great balance.

Palate:  Citric and smoky.  Like cask strength Caol Ila, with a little more roundness.  Great arrival.  Much peppery punch.  Salt licorice.  Touch of lime zest.  Just vaguely farmy…or maybe just hay.

Thoughts:  Incredibly well integrated.  Incredibly well made.  This is a helluva dram for the price.  If you cannae afford the big guns from Islay in their single malt incarnations…grab a bottle of Big Peat.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

The Essence Of Islay – Big Peat



According to legend, 1,500 years ago the Irish once created the perfect whiskey, but when drank, the intoxicating qualities caused thousands to see paradise.  But alas, paradise on earth was not meant to be for the chosen Irish and the perfect whiskey was lost to the sands of time.  But It’s more likely the damn Vikings or angry Swedes stole the perfect whiskey, like they stole Canada’s Olympic 1994 Gold medal in hockey.

I believe that the Laing’s, owners of Douglas Laing, were born with a superior olfactory sense and a dark sense of humor.  Armed with this superior sense of smell, they have been on a quest to recreate the world’s finest whisky.  At some point the Laing’s realized that they must vat the Port Ellen scent with those other Islay malts to make the ultimate whisky; one which will make them be worshipped as gods forever.  Much like Victor Frankenstein’s desire to create life and in a way cheat death, Big Peat is alive with the pure essence, or the embodiment, of Islay.

Big Peat is a vatting of Islay single malt scotch, but it’s more than that.  It’s also a convoluted story of murder in the death of the Port Ellen distillery; high french fashion with Louis Ardbeg Vuitton; corporate greed with drink giant, Diageo – Caol Ila; and the lost in translation Eastern Asia intrigue with Sumo Suntory Bowmore.

Douglas Laing advertises Big Peat is a shovel full of Islay malts.  How big is a shovel full of Islay malt you ask?  Well, it’s just big enough to fill the hole in the heart of many peat freaks .


Big Peat and all it is made of.


BIG PEAT Batch #1   46% ABV

NOSE:  Very nice balanced peat.  Pepper.  Lemons.  Black liquorice.  Low tide.

TASTE:  Creamy caramel and green apples.

FINISH:  Long and lightly warming.

ASSESSMENT:  Well done, well done.  The definition of a good Islay whisky.



BIG PEAT – SANTA EDITION Natural Cask Strength 57.8 % ABV

NOSE:  Medicinal peat.  Farmy.  Pepper and orange marmalade.

TASTE:  Mint and liquorice.  Wee bitter and briny.

FINISH:  Elegant and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Normally I really love the cask strength, but I believe this tastes better at 46%.  Maybe a Viking (Norwegian, not Swedish Viking) bottling with a windblown helmet at 50% next, just a suggestion.


– As always , your humble drudge , Maltmonster


(On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a 4.5 Liter bottle of Big Peat whisky…On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love said to me, “Where the f#@k have you been for the last 3 days?”)