Review: Big Peat Christmas 2016 (& Others!)

Big Peat Christmas 2016Big Peat Christmas 2016 & Special Guests (Big Peat Christmas 2015 & 2013, & Old Big Peat)

Info: Big Peat Christmas 2016, a now traditional fixture of the winter whisky calendar, is back to deliver some more goodies! This year a slight change has been made, and the recipe now contains malts from every active distillery on Islay, along with some Port Ellen as well. 2300 cases (20,700 bottles?), 54.6% abv. It’s non chill filtered and non coloured.
Nose: Creamy spirity peat, a mix of coastal peat and inland heathery peat, all with an underlying base of burning embers that are smouldering away merrily.
Palate: The palate is oily, thick, creamy and peaty… it’s fairly sweet with hints of oak, older dunnage style oak flavours, along with younger hints of peat fires.
Finish: The finish is sweet, peated, warming, and long with hints of coal smoke. Nice.
Thoughts: It’s a royal winter warmer that hits the spot perfectly… The strength seems particularly easy on you, maybe because it’s low on the spice (although there’s just enough to keep it interesting). A really well put together peaty blend, with the twist that all active Islay distilleries are now in the mix, along with some Port Ellen. Also, great Xmas artwork!
Available: Master of Malt – £46.95

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at some previous years!
The reviews below are all compared to above and taken at the same tasting…

Big Peat Christmas 2015Big Peat Christmas 2015 – 53.8% abv

Nose: Maybe slightly more closed compared to the 2016, but it’s very obviously peaty and gorgeously wintery. There’s some sweet peat floral heathery notes at the back.
Palate: Compared to 2016 this seems a little more tame, less peat, less creaminess… but still damn good.
Finish: Embers, peat and some smoke, with a freshness to it as well. Rather enjoyable!
Thoughts: It’s a great malt, but for me I think the 2016 outshines it a touch. That said, this is the slightly more easy going malt maybe, depending on what you’re looking for.
Available: Master of Malt – £45.89

Big Peat Christmas 2013Big Peat Christmas 2013 – 54.9% abv

Nose: Compared to the above two, this has a slightly more “farm” thing on the nose, maybe less peat smoke, but what there is, I think smells a little older… There’s a restrained quality to it, maybe not quite so obvious. It’s nicely sweet and welcoming.
Palate: Sweet, oily, thick and calm with spices, some older peat smoke notes coming through just like the nose. A slight metallic note, and older, more gentle peat and embers that have almost died out. Some definite tarts perfume comes in at the end, I’m guessing there’s some 1990s Bowmore in this, not detected in the above.
Finish: The Parma Violet type notes that started to become obvious on the palate is more obvious here on the finish… I’m not a huge fan, but in this form when blended with the other malts it’s more than palatable. A more subtle finish, although just as enjoyable.
Thoughts: It’s been waiting for 3 years for me to come to it, but it’s been well sealed so hopefully what I’m tasting is a good reflection of what it was at the time. It’s a subtler blend, it’s nice, but not one I’m enjoying as much as the 2015 or 2016 by a fair way.
Available: Out of stock in everywhere I’ve looked (not that I’ve looked hard).

old big peatOld Big Peat – 50% abv

Info: Something rather special here, it’s only Old Big Peat! Not a release that’ll be well known in the UK as it was released in France to mark the 60th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky. Not too much is known, only that the malts in the blend are the same as usual, however they’re all of an older age than the regular releases.
Nose: Really creamy, sweet, subtle peat. Nuts and candy floss.
Palate: This seems thicker and more oily to me than the ones above, maybe the extra age helps here with that. It’s very easy, and although it’s older it doesn’t seem to have picked up lots of extra spice, so it’s smooth on your tongue and tempts you to hold it there for a long time enjoying the various flavours… which are refined a little, presumably from the older malts having that bit more time to settle down and lose some of their younger heat & peat.
Finish: The finish seems oily and long; it’s calm, subtlely but well peated.
Thoughts: If there was to be a Late Night Peat, then this is it… enjoy the younger more powerfully peated Big Peats early in the evening… let your palate relax, and then end on this, it’s a later evening peated beauty to settle down with. The problem? It’s so easy to drink you might get through your bottle too quickly! Good stuff. Thanks to my friend Franck for sourcing a bottle and splitting it.
Available: Maison Du Whisky – €69 – 1500 bottles.

Have you had enough Big Peat goodness yet? If not… then why not check out my reviews of Big Peat Small Batch Limited Edition and Big Peat Christmas Edition 2011!

Thanks to Douglas Laing for the Christmas 2015 and 2016 samples, the others are from bottle shares amongst friends.

Comments or questions? Why not come and find me on twitter @steveprentice.

big peat christmas 2016 samples


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