How Is Peaty Whisky Made?
During the malting process, barley is slightly germinated. But this needs to be stopped halfway which is done by applying heat. The fuel used for roasting is usually peat, which burns like coal and is abundant throughout Scotland. The smoke from the burning peat imparts a distinct flavour to the barley which finds its way into the final liquid, much to the joy of most peaty scotch lovers (and the chagrin of a few). The smokiness in whisky is measured in ppm (phenol parts per million). Phenol is the chemical that gives a whisky its characteristic, smoky notes.
1. Lagavulin 16 Year Old
This quintessential Islay malt is a good place to start the peat odyssey. Expect lots of ashy smoke (35 ppm) and salty sea air, some seaweed and iodine. But that’s not all. There’s just a trace of fruity sweetness, vanilla and burnt caramel, with a healthy dash of oak for balance. Intensely flavoured cheeses complement the deep, peat-rich, sweet and salty character of this Lagavulin wonderfully.
2. Amrut Fusion Single Malt
This whisky has been picking up awards ever since it first appeared in 2009. Amrut Fusion gets its name from the fact that it uses two barleys: Indian and Scottish—with the latter being peated for good measure. Robust and smoky with a real hit of fresh fruit and black pepper, this whisky lingers on the palate well beyond each sip. Try it.
3. Bowmore 12 Year Old
This ‘medium peated’ whisky is a favourite with many-a-whisky drinkers. The reason could be the enchanting balance of fruity elements with Bowmore’s trademark smokiness. Enjoy this warm and delicious dram over ice.
4. Paul John Peated Select Cask
Peat is procured from Islay and Aberdeen for this heavily peated single malt packed with rich tropical fruits, a soft dose of vanilla from bourbon cask maturation and a delightful punchy smoke. Tender, juicy steaks and blue cheese can help you unravel every nuance of this magnificent malt from Goa.
5. Octomore 10 Series
This is a bonfire of a whisky. While Bruichladdich’s signature namesake whiskies are unpeated, the Ocotomore series are peat bombs after having spent three years entirely in heavily-toasted (not charred) virgin French oak. But it’s not a smoke monster. There is a heavy barley influence with softer notes of vanilla and lemon zest. This is a whisky that may not be for everyone, but for the fans, it’s just fantastic. Give it some time in the glass to develop and showcase its brilliant charms.
6. The Hakushu Single Malt
This complex and deeply enjoyable expression from the Hakushu distillery captures the smoky, herbaceous characteristics of their whiskies. It’s made by combining whisky of a wide variety of ages, from across the range of casks used by the distillery to create a gently smoky dram, packed with fruity flavour. A fresh and easy going drink this works fantastic in a Highball.
7. Laphroaig Quarter Cask
You will either love or hate this big, powerful dram that is both assertive and full of flavours. The double maturation (once in ex-bourbon barrels and then in quarter casks) gives the spirit more contact with the wood, imparting warm and spicy oak flavours. It’s easy to compare the flavour of this whiskey with a campfire. It has a smoky side to it, but the vanilla and butterscotch flavours still come through. It should be enjoyed alone, over ice or with a splash of water
8. Compass Box ‘The Peat Monster’
Blended whiskies are usually sneered at by single malt snobs. But this blend of Islay stalwarts Caol Ila and Laphroaig has won many accolades. As with all Compass Box releases it comes without chill filtering or the use of artificial colour. What you see is quite literally what you get. This ones deserves a place on your bar shelf if you enjoy peated whisky or like making smoky cocktails.