By Richard Thomas
When I sampled the 8 Year Old expression of The Peat Chimney in September, I discovered a lighter peaty scotch, one where the smoky and woody flavors that so often accompany peated whiskey didn’t loom over all the other notes. That scotch was aromatic, crisp, and well-balanced. So it was that I decided to sample the 12 Year Old Peat Chimney expression, while my memory of the younger scotch was still clear, and I had no need to refer back to my notes.
As it turns out, the character of the older Peat Chimney is markedly different. The peat smoke is there, alright, but at times it is such a minor player in this vatted malt that I wonder if “peat” is still the right word to put on the label.
The Peat Chimney 12 Year Old is a vatted malt, drawn from 16 different malt whiskeys and with an emphasis on Islay. The scotch is bottled at 40% alcohol, and packaged in the customary and charming style of Wemyss Malts, the labeling conjuring as it does the notion of a local whiskey maker bringing his wares to the farmer’s market.
In the glass, the scotch has a satiny character, and a mid-gold color akin to a thickened, clear apple juice. Not as aromatic as I found the younger Peat Chimney, the 12 Year Old has an earthy, peaty nose that is almost ash-like, with minor oaky vanilla and fruity, apple-and-pear notes.
Those notes and their sense of proportion change entirely with the first sip of The Peat Chimney 12 Year Old, with the peaty smoke going from the forefront to far in the background. The scotch is balanced, moderately sophisticated, and endowed with a mellow, silky texture. It’s sweet, fresh, a little spicy, somewhat woody, somewhat malty. On the finish, the peat smoke comes back up, and while this scotch has a light finish, once again that peatiness is dry and ashy, with a slight woodiness.
The main thing about Wemyss Malt’s 12 Year Old Peat Chimney is that the nose and finish are just as peaty as one might expect, but the flavor is not. Whereas the younger expression of this scotch managed to achieve a near-perfect balance, with the peat smoke enjoying first-among-equals status, in this older scotch the peat becomes a strictly minor player once on the palate. It’s a fine vatted malt in the general sense, but for peat-lovers in search of a wondrously smoky dram, the peat-retreat on the palate is a little underwhelming.
The Peat Chimney 12 Year Old retails for about £35 ($56) in the UK. In the United States, it became available through the American importer Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits in the Fall of 2012.
At the 2011 International Wine and Spirits Competition, The Peat Chimney 12 Year Old won silver and Best in Class.