Smoke Beyond Scotland: These World Whiskies Are Made With Scottish Peat

Until the mid-20th century, it was taken for granted that all scotch included some peat. After all, peat was the country’s main fuel source for thousands of years, and the flavor became entwined and admired in many styles of Scotch whisky. Perhaps surprisingly, Scotland has only 0.3% of all the peat on earth—and yet the flavor and success of peated Scotch whisky has spawned admirers around the world who are eager to give their own whiskies the pungent, powerful character of Scottish peat. These distillers introduce peat in a variety of ways: by blending peated spirit from Scotland with their own whisky, distilling with imported barley that was malted and peated in Scotland, or finishing local whisky in casks that previously held peated scotch.

A few, like Paul John Distillery in Goa, India, even go to the trouble of importing actual peat from Scotland. Paul John imports bricks of peat from Islay and the Highlands and then uses it to dry locally grown six-row barley. The peated grain is used to create Paul John’s range of peated single malts, including Edited, Bold, and Peated Select Cask. “Six-row barley contains a high amount of husk,” master distiller Michael D’Souza explains. “You tend to get a higher amount of phenols, because ultimately, when you kiln [barley], the husk is what absorbs the smoky character.”

D’Souza prizes Scottish peat for its range of flavors, which vary depending on its source. “Islay peat has a lot of medicinal character—it’s sharp and intense, whereas Highland peat is mellower and softer,” he says. “These are two different characteristics, so ultimately I peat the barley differently. It is processed separately and matured separately.”

Whatever method a distillery uses to add a dose of peat, the impact is unmistakable. Even in small amounts, peat makes itself known by delivering smoky, ashy, tarry, and medicinal flavors. Its isn’t limited to single malt or scotch-style blends, either; in the U.S., some craft distillers have added peated malt to the mashbills of their bourbons.

From Scotland, With Love: World Whiskies Made with Scottish Peat

England: The English Smoky Single Malt—88 points, $75
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Dark chocolate, cigars, apple-ginger cake

Wales: Penderyn Celt Single Malt—91 points, $50
Method: Finished in Islay whisky quarter casks
Tastes like: Glazed pork ribs with salted plums

Ireland: Connemara Single Malt—87 points, $55
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Spiced lemon-ginger tea and earthy chocolate

Sweden: Spirit of Hven Tycho’s Star Single Malt—87 points, $132
Method: Imported Islay peat, Swedish peat, and seaweed
Tastes like: Grilled apples and sausage, salty seaweed snacks

France: Armorik Triagoz Single Malt—89 points, $75
Method: Imported peat
Tastes like: Malted cereal with fresh fruit, savory cooked mushrooms

France: Glann ar Mor Roc’h Hir Single Malt—91 points, $150
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Rubber and ash, charred pineapple, vanilla-iced sugar cookie

France: Rozelieures Peated Collection Single Malt—90 points, $75
Method: Imported peat
Tastes like: Clove-studded orange, bittersweet chocolate, black pepper

India: Amrut Peated Single Malt—90 points, $73
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Peppery charcoal-roasted chicken with mango pickle

India: Paul John Peated Select Cask Single Malt—88 points, $95
Method: Imported Islay and Highlands peat
Tastes like: Grilled pineapple and salted caramels

Japan: Hakushu 12 year old Single Malt—86 points, $85
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Moss, grilled pineapple, roasted sunflower seeds

Japan: Yoichi Single Malt—92 points, $80
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Crushed oyster shells, semi-sweet chocolate, cigar wrapper

Japan: Yamazaki 12 year old Single Malt—93 points, $85
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Lime zest, plum skins, pouch tobacco

Japan: Ohishi Islay Cask Finish Rice Whisky (2017 Release)—90 points, $100
Method: Finished in Islay whisky casks
Tastes like: Clay oven-baked chicken with fresh cantaloupe (pre-release sample)

United States: Berkshire Smoke & Peat Bourbon—88 points, $60
Method: Finished in Islay whisky casks
Tastes like: Menthol cigarettes and coriander seeds

United States: High West Campfire Whiskey—90 points, $70
Method: Peated blended malt whisky from the Highlands blended with bourbon and rye
Tastes like: Charred marshmallow s’mores with a side of fruit salad

United States: Kings County Peated Bourbon—85 points, $40 (375ml)
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Charred corn, burnt sugar, and dark chocolate

United States: Liberty Pole Peated Bourbon—84 points, $57
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Pepper-crusted burnt ends

United States: Oppidan Smoke + Sea Bourbon—90 points, $40
Method: Finished in Islay whisky casks
Tastes like: Breakfast sausage with pancakes and maple syrup

United States: Two James J. Riddle Peated Bourbon—86 points, $45
Method: Peated malt
Tastes like: Cinnamon-dusted popcorn, charcoal-grilled beef franks

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