Well this was interesting. I don’t normally taste things blind. For one reason, anyone who pretends to know anything about wine, beer, spirits, etc. knows to avoid blind tastings like the plague because they have a way of revealing exactly how full of crap we are. For example, at a recent tasting group I attended, 24 whisky enthusiasts had two chances to guess the origin of a mystery pour for an opportunity to win a bottle. It turned out to be Johnnie Walker Green Label (which is now back on shelves after a hiatus), and nobody even got close. At a similar event last year, nobody was even able to guess that a blind pour was rum instead of whisky!
So when reader Scott N. sent me a blind sample to get my opinion, I was wary. It was medium-gold in color, like an average ex-bourbon-matured single malt, so no help there. The nose was significantly iodine-heavy which hinted at peat (although it wasn’t smoky), and some industrial oils and coconut reminded me of Redbreast. I guessed either Irish whisky, or an American malt (or some other grain like quinoa) aged in a cask previously containing peat.
Turns out I wasn’t 100% off, as the sample turned out to be Té Bheag (pronounced ‘chey vek’), a blended scotch with a big peated malt component made by Pràban na Linne Ltd. on the Isle of Skye. Boasting a high malt content of 40% malt and a peaty profile, Té Bheag is not chill-filtered and bottled at 40% ABV. The malts are purportedly in the range of 5 – 11 years and come from Islay, Island (Talisker, I’m guessing), Highland, and Speyside. Some portion of the malts used were aged in ex-sherry casks.
On to the tasting notes! Please remember that these notes were written while tasting blind, which show clearly that I don’t really know what the heck I’m talking about.
Color: Medium gold, like an average ex-bourbon matured single malt.
Nose: A *strong* whiff of Iodine, with a savory undertone – like soy sauce or Thai fish sauce (but not fishy). There’s also a layer of industrial oils, which reminds me of Springbank. An unusual grain profile, suggesting quinoa or oats or something.
Palate: Silky, syrupy body. Slightly sweet on the outset, with a hint of peat (or maybe that’s the iodine again) after awhile. Some barrel char on the mid-palate, and a few baking spices (anise, cardamom especially). Remains sweet in a cereal way, but not particularly fruity.
Finish: Medium-long. A slight oiliness and a hint of toasted coconut. Meaty and not bitter. Fades with the coconut.
With Water: A few drops of water make the nose sweeter, which now definitely smells like Thai fish sauce. Palate/finish unchanged.
Overall: I quite like it, although the savory/iodine on the nose is teetering on the edge of “rotting meat” without quite falling over. There’s a good, heavy body, a lot of complexity, and interesting coconut, all of which are things that I like about Redbreast and (sort of) Springbank. If you can find it and you like a little peat in your blended scotch, this is definitely worth investigation.