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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Big Smoke 60 Blended Malt, Duncan Taylor

Duncan Taylor has released a pair of The Big Smoke blended malts, one is bottled at 46%abv, the other is 60%abv. I have been told by a reputable source that the two vattings have different recipes, and the 60%abv one has a lot of Ardbeg in it. But both are made up of nothing but Islay malts.

I eyed the 60 many times in the past, especially when it was priced at $50. Couldn't think of too many super high strength peated whiskies at that price range. Alas, I never bought it. BUT, I was gifted a sample of the 60 by Brett of Riverside last year. Let's see how it do.

Company: Duncan Taylor
Brand: The Big Smoke
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: Islay-only
Age: NAS
Maturation: probably American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 60%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? Probably not

The nose actually isn't that smoky. It's definitely peaty though. A stacking of seaweedy, salty, ocean smells. Butter and boat fumes. With time it picks up hints of vanilla, ginger powder and pears. The simple palate is hot, but young-60%abv hot. Peat, salt, barley, and ground pepper. Hints of fresh mint and dried oregano. A little bit of brown sugar. The finish has heat, peat and sweet(ness). Vanilla and peppercorns.

Gonna douse this one.

WITH WATER (~43%abv)
What an improvement! The nose is boldly fruity with more pungent peat. Also molasses, cocoa and figs. The palate has a silkier texture. Tart lemons and limes. Gritty peat and a horseradish bitterness. Some maltiness too. The finish holds tart candy, smokey reside and an effervescent bitterness.

How about a touch more dihydrogen monoxide?

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets a little more candied and minty. Still plenty peaty. And the palate stays vibrant. Seaweed, salt, peat and a good herbal bitterness. The finish is leaner, with less sweetness. More focus on the peat and bitter.

I've experienced very few whiskies that improved with dilution to the extent The Big Smoke 60 did. It becomes an entirely different whisky at 43%, and it still feels richer at 40% than it did at 60%. In fact, if I bought a bottle I'd dilute the whole damn thing to 43%abv, thus getting 1050mL of Big Smoke in the process!

So if you have a bottle of this open and you've grown bored of it, add water to see what it does. Gonna guess there's young Caol Ila, Bowmore and Ardbeg in the blend. I read somewhere that there's Bruichladdich in it; maybe baby PC then? I don't exactly know why the average US price has gone up 60% (Big 60!) in the past three years. But at $65, it's probably not the worst deal in the current market.

Availability - A few dozen specialty retailers around the world
Pricing - $65-$90 in the US, cheaper in Europe
Rating - 87 (with water only!)

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