Thursday, March 3, 2011

Review: The Peat Monster Malt Scotch Whisky

The Compass Box Whisky Company is not a distiller of scotch whisky.  What they do is buy the scotch of other distilleries, barrel it, age it and blend the spirit to their own particular recipes.

The Peat Monster pictured above targets that segment of the scotch drinking market that prefers Islay to Speyside malts.  This particular bottling is a vatted malt meaning it is a blend of single malts only.  Which single malts?  Ardmore, Caol Ila and Laphroaig.  Note that only two of the three are Islay malts.  Ardmore is a highland malt and a peated one at that. 

I was given this bottle by a co-worker.  James explained that a friend of his wife picked up the bottle at the local liquor store.  Had a sip and was disgusted.  She considered it vile and amongst the worst stuff she ever had.  James tried it and considered it to be awful too.  So, here I am, with a bottle that two people consider to be terrible, a monster if you will, as the title of this blended malt suggests.  Let's just see how monstrous it is . . .

Nose (undiluted)
Smells like the rubber Steve McQueen was laying down in the movie Bullitt, but in a good way.  It's rubber, but not bad rubber if that makes any sense? 

The aromas offered up by this single malt include major smoke and peat action.  Like a massive seaside bonfire that's a little out of control and suddenly the wind changes direction, blowing in your face.  Yeah, a lungful of smoke.  As I poured this malt into my glass, the room was infused with massive smoke.  Wife annoying smoke!  Dog house smoke!  Watching old war movies in the basement smoke because your presence is not welcome elsewhere in the house!

Palate (undiluted)
Sweet peat and malt begin this number.  Smoke and seaweed appear like a Mac truck, with the high beams on, appearing in your rear view mirror at night.  While it is bottled at 46% abv, it is not nasty.  No awful bite here.  No bland alcohol flavor.  The flavors of the sea and air are well integrated.  It is not spicy.  Just a lumbering, rounded taste of smoke, peat, sea salt and sweet malt.

Finish (undiluted)
You have a long, slightly dry finish of smoke with menthol, peat and heavy sea salt.  Well done!

General Impressions
I am not a peat and smoke nut, but I must say this malt was a nice surprise.  I found that if I added water, it improved a bit more.  One has to be careful not to add too much water though.  You can easily ruin it if you are too liberal with the water.  I suggest a teaspoon of water to a double pour.

This malt is firmly in the Islay flavor camp if you will.  Very smokey, peat heavy, and maybe a little rubbery in the background, but again in a good way.  Since it is an Islay style malt, I think comparisons to other Islay malts is fair.  I place this squarely in the vicinity of Bowmore 12 years in terms of quality. 

Don't worry about the rubber.  It's there on the nose and on the palate, but only faintly and strangely works well with the overall flavor profile.

I suppose someome might complain the flavor profile is not overly complex.  There is some complexity.  What I mean is the flavors do weave together in an interesting fashion, but not overly intricate.  For that reason, this is below the great Islays like Lagavulin 16 years, Caol Ila and some others.  But, you have to remember, those are single malts and this is a blended or pure malt.  Of course, those single malts I referred to are also a lot more expensive.  It's hard to knock this bottle.

I think James and his wife's friends simply are not fans of smoke and peat dominated malts.  If you too are more a of Speyside honey and cinnamon fan, to the exclusion of smoke and peat, then this is not for you either.

For those of you who like Islay malts, The Peat Monster will not disappoint.  While not a true peat monster in the tradition of Ardbeg 10 years or Laphroaig Quarter Cask, it is nevertheless a wee peat monster that may not scare you, but will certainly amuse you.


Jason Debly

P.S.:  If you haven't seen Bullitt starring Steve McQueen, then do it!  Pictured above were frames from one of the most influential car chase scenes in the history of cinema.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.

Poster owns no copyright to images taken from the 1968 Warner Brothers film Bullitt, which is posted for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.


  1. Hi Jason

    I tried this one about six months ago, and to be honest I wasn't impressed. I always feel that peat should carry other flavours in its wake rather than burying them with its presence. I thought that this is what happened here as the sweeter, maltier flavours had been buried which left the whisky rather uninteresting and uninspired.

    I am glad that you found enjoyment where I did not.

  2. In my area (Baltimore), this is the same price as a Lagavalin 16, and Bowmore 12 is $32. Now I know which ones to get when I want some peat . . .

  3. Jon!

    Same price as Lagavulin 16yrs? I'd take the Laga everytime!

  4. I have found as a general rule, my friends who have or do smoke tobacco generally find Islay type malts to be intriguing. Those who have never been smokers tend to be horrified. Not much to can do for those poor souls.

  5. Is this anything like Teachers Cream or I'm i reaching again Jason? The distiller mention bacon fat rich sweetness. It has Ardmore too.

  6. No, I can't say it is anything like Teacher's. The only bottle I have found like Teacher's has been Gordon & MacPhail bottlings of Ardmore.

    Peat Monster is similar to Ardbeg, but better.

  7. Thanks on compass replay. I have actually tried ARdbeg 10. It's like pure oil -no wood. not exactly a big filling in mouth. some older ardbegs mention pancake and toffee (1994/16y)

    i Google some teachers taste combined.
    "Treacle, liquorice, savory whisky"

    all 20-30y high/spey malts + sherred.$$$

    eg Fettercairn 30y, Fettercairn Fior is only cheapy,

    Hankey Bannister blend good?
    Malt blend in store. only one looks low carmal. must be ancient stock.


    "All revolves around a buzzy spiciness..."

    "The entire middle consists of old-fashioned cream toffee and subtle malt"

  8. Have you had Compass Box Aslya? If so is it more mouth filling then Peat Monster. it blended and used top quality grain whiskey.

  9. Hi Anonymous,

    I have only tried Compass Box Aslya at whisky festivals and I must say I was not impressed.

  10. I bought Aslya and it's boring. Wish i bought another Peat Monster with that outstanding clean oak. Apparently there is a Peat Monster Reserve. It's peatier but only in 1.5L! I wonder if vatting P.M with a spare single malt in a small bottle would give it an extra dimension. I have none left to try.

    1. Vatting your own whisky can be tricky and the most personal of endeavours.

      If I were going to vat something with Peat Monster, it would be in the same flavor profile if you will but a little toned down. For example, I would take 2/3 White Horse, add in 1/3 Peat Monster and I imagine I would have made a pretty damn good Islay blend.

      Vatting comes down to a lot of imagination.

  11. I was looking at peat monster to provide the big smoke and peatci desire without the watery feel of Laphroaig 10, however for 62.99 in my area of balmy California I think ordering Kilchoman Machir Bay, or buying a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask will be just as enjoyable.

    1. Laph and Peat Monster are comparably priced, the former is the better buy.