Do you know the places that make you feel like you are at the end of the world? Well, Lossit Bay in the west of Islay is one of them!
It was at the end of a small road from Port Charlotte through the green hills, that I was forced to abandon BRAD PEAT on the side of the road. The end of the road towards the coast was to be done on foot.
At my back, the island of wonders (and 10 distilleries) and in front of me...America beyond the ocean. Not a living soul, just a few ruins, deer grazing on the grass of the salt meadows and, on the white sand of the small beach, seals basking in the sun!
A perfume of Eden ! Well, Eden...today it will be more like a peat perfume !
It is in this timeless place that SCOTT WATSON had given me an appointment to taste his mysterious BIG MOUTH batch No 0001. He was waiting for me there on the rocks overlooking the sea.
I approached him and said, "What a special place for a tasting! He looked at me and said that I didn't know how special this place was.
That was enough to make me curious.
In fact Scott tells me that a little more than 200 years ago, in this place (Lossit Bay), the Whisky of Lossit distillery (the first farm distillery in Islay) was shipped to the mainland and beyond and that on stormy days, the ghost of Malcolm MacNeill (the owner at that time) came to roam around ! Ah, Scottish ghosts! And it is said that this famous Malcolm was quite famous in the area for producing a good whisky but also for having a voice that carried quite far (even if it meant luring sailors passing by to sell his distillates to them) ! Here is perhaps one of the explanations of the label of the bottle of the day.
I was quite surprised by such knowledge of Islay's history. But Scott explained to me that as Master Blender of BIG MOUTH, he was also founder of Crucial Drinks (in Ayrshire in the south of Scotland). He explained to me that they were also the instigators of THE LOST DISTILLERY COMPAGNY whiskies (whose range offers a modern rebirth of long closed and legendary distilleries).
So I understood better why he had chosen this place.
Then he started to introduce me to this mysterious blend hidden in his ceramic bottle (which in itself showed a certain desire to stand out from the crowd and to be original).
He explained to me that its originality went beyond the simple framework of the bottle and also affected its composition. Indeed, unlike some blended Scotch Whisky, BIG MOUTH was composed of much more single malt than most of its peers (at least half of the distillate, i.e. 3 times more than usual and less single grain).
This blend was thus halfway between a blended scotch whisky and a blended malt scotch whisky (which was made exclusively of single malts).
And what about the bearded redhead mooing on the label... (the experience of the two companions was even pushed to its maximum with the dedicated website which is called no more and no less: https://shutyourbigmouth.co.uk -NDLR).
It made you want to try it all the same.
As the wind blew across the bay like a weird rattle (or unless it wasn't the wind, it was Macneill's ghost!!), Scott popped the cork beer-style and let out a beautiful terracotta-orange distillate.
As we were about to taste the distillate, I asked Scott what single malt and single grain he had used to create it. But he said "you'll see, Big Mouth is Big in flavour and even bigger in personality".
The mystery of the composition of BIG MOUTH remained and only the instigators have the keys. Scott only told me that they enhanced an old recipe in found within years or Lost Distillery Research and thought it was worth shouting about,
So what does this big-mouthed blended malt taste like?
Again, as a twist of fate, just as I was about to taste it, the wind started to blow forcing us to shout to share our feelings! It was certainly another Macneill trick!
As I shouted I told him that I found that on first taste my nose sensed a caramelised apple but also the sweetness of a single grain. The first smell was nevertheless quite pronounced and announced a whisky with a marked smell despite the "only" 41.2% alcohol/volume. In the background, I also smelled a very light peat.
On the second pass, the smell of this whisky was very close to that of a sherry cask aged distillate and showed a lot of heat. This second run was thunderous and then became more citrusy (like orange, certainly an effect of the single grain) but also spicy (pepper).
The third passage turned out to be much sweeter, coming closer to honey and vanilla. The overall atmosphere had become warm despite the trade winds.
A few drops in my hand then helped me to detect the peat and barley that composed it.
The wind was still as strong as ever and I could barely hear the Slainte that Scott threw at me.
The time it took to slip it into my mouth and to discover a distillate with a much stronger taste than its degree would suggest.
My tongue quickly detected the presence of spices. As this tickled, the rest of my mouth began to bathe, half in fudge, half in a hint of bitterness. The usual struggle between grain and malt was felt perhaps a little less than usual.
I could then discover the presence of citrus and a light, expected sea peat (saltiness). I could detect a hint of grape (would one of the single malts be aged in sherry casks?).
After swallowing it, the memory it left was long. It started with a taste of cinnamon and then lingered on smoke and spices.
Once the tasting was over, the wind dropped strangely and the atmosphere became calmer.
We had the impression that the ghost of old Macneill, counting on his effect, had nevertheless thrown in the towel in front of the success of this new distillate, halfway between the sweetness of a whisky to be enjoyed by the fireside and the strength of one intended to keep sailors on the alert.