By Richard Thomas
When it comes to talk of shortages and no age statement (NAS) whiskeys, the croakers out there miss most of the real points and even manage to obscure them, as croakers often do. For example, one common misunderstanding is that when a bottler, whether it be a Scottish one like Wemyss Malts or an American one like Kentucky Bourbon Distillers/Willett, changes up a given expression to NAS, it is evidence of a profound, larger whiskey shortage.
In reality, bottlers are mostly reliant upon the excess stock from distillers, with steady supply contracts being the exception rather than the rule. That the stock in question would inevitably run down or out was never in question.
Another point that is just as routinely trammeled into the mud is that any substitution of an age statement whiskey by an NAS must necessarily represented a step backwards. Sometimes this is the case and sometimes it isn’t, but even when this nuanced view is acknowledged in the blogosphere that acknowledgement is soon discarded in favor of the simple, all-negative message.
So, when Wemyss Malts announced they would extend their vatted malt line to the U.S. while also replacing the junior, 8 year old expressions with NAS whiskies… well, I reckoned that eventually the croakers would simply holler “nay” and overlook the merits of the actual whiskies. The issue there is that, like betting on red all the time, sooner or later that cry would be right. In the case of The Peat Chimney, the bet comes up red.
The problem here is that surpassing The Peat Chimney 8 Year Old would be a tough job. I liked the junior expression even more than its older, 12 Year Old sibling. The whisky this NAS expression replaces was among my favorite Wemyss vatted malts.
Still, the new Peat Chimney has one objective point on the old one: at 46% abv, it’s stronger. In the glass, it has the pleasing color of solid gold. The nose is one of green apples and dry wood, daubed with toffee.
Note the absence of peat there, and that is suggestive of what is coming. The flavor is one of toffee and syrupy sweetness spiced with cinnamon. The smoke is there in the form of a pungent, but small note of creosote. The liquid has an oily character that extends into the finish, coating the mouth and taking hold, leaving an aftertaste that is ashy and cinnamon-ed in equal measure. Moderate warmth grabs hold and hangs on for a stroll.
The Peat Chimney NAS is nice enough, but it just isn’t particularly smoky. For a whisky that is supposed to be the smoky member of its line, that is minus.
Official prices in the U.S. aren’t available yet, but The Peat Chimney NAS has been listed in the UK for £32.