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2019 sees Douglas Laing’s Big Peat brand celebrate its 10th anniversary. Developed by company chairman Fred Laing, Big Peat is a blend of single malts from the isle of Islay off Scotland’s western coast. Laing was inspired by family connections to the island to create a definitive Islay dram and used malts from Bowmore, Ardbeg, Caol Ila and even the closed Port Ellen distillery to give birth to what has since become one of the most beloved whisky brands on the market.
The Glasgow-based company was founded back in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, a talented and respected blender who’s filling programmes still benefit the organisation today. More than 70 years later, the business rests in the more than capable hands of his granddaughter Cara, herself a former marketing manager for Bowmore and Glen Garioch distilleries.
Known for single cask bottlings under their Provenance, Old Particular and X.O.P. labels, Laing & Co. could surely not have foreseen the success the Big Peat blend would enjoy but to capitalise on it, they followed with a range of ‘Remarkable Regional Malts’, each representing another of Scotland’s whisky producing regions. Big Peat meanwhile has expanded over the years, with countless variations and limited editions. There’s even an annual Christmas special! And like any self respecting bottler, an offering in celebration of the Islay Festival of Music and Malt is released in time for the festivities each year.
The ‘Feis Ile’ was the result of a committee, formed in 1984 with the goal of reviving the traditional Gaelic language and culture of Islay but it would become forever entwined with the islands famous distilleries when they began hosting open days throughout the week of the festival back in the year 2000.
Never a company to be left out, Douglas Laing have often been a presence on the island during the celebrations, hosting everything from whisky tastings to seafood pairings and countless other events over the years. For their 2019 festival bottling, they came up with the fun concept of ‘Big Peat’s Pals’ and asked fans to send in pictures of themselves enjoying a wee dram. The 400 selfies they received were then used to decorate the gift tube that held the bottle. For me, a light hearted and appropriate way to celebrate the brand, in this, its 10th year.
Bottled un-chill filtered at 48% and with just 3300 bottles available worldwide, Big Peat’s Pals retails at around £50.
Smell: Brine with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Honey and cream. Malty biscuit and seaweed. Wood smoke. Damp ash. Driftwood. Lemon and liquorice.
Taste: Great mouthfeel. Very salty. Pepper and brine with vanilla and floral honey. Buttery bourbon notes. Barley flour and smoky bacon. Yum.
Thoughts: Delivers everything we have come to expect from a bottle of Big Peat, and perhaps a little more.
Another top quality release in the Remarkable Regional Malts series that won’t break the bank. Seems to have taken on a little more cask influence, whether from increased age or more active wood I’m unsure but it is all the richer for it. The perfect accompaniment to reminiscences of time spent on Islay.
For more on Big Peat and Douglas Laing, click here.