Top-Flight Tasting: Meet Peat

These Smoky Whiskies Pour on the Peatiness

     To make malt whisky you need malted barley. To malt barley, you need to dry germinating barley in a kiln. And, to fire up the kiln at certain whisky distilleries, you use peat.

     Biologically speaking, peat is an accumulation of decayed vegetation in some bogs and wetlands found, most notably for the whisky world, in parts of Scotland. In places like Islay, where for centuries, scotch has been made using peat-smoked malt, the whisky has a truly one-of-a-kind taste. Smoky notes, sure, but saline, herbal, and even medicinal. You can often sense it from across the room.

     But not all peated whisky need be as overwhelmingly smoky as those from Islay. Today’s distilleries can control the PPM (phenol parts per million) levels of their malt and use further techniques such as finishing to balance the smoke with sweetness. For your next progressive tasting of peat, start with a lightly peated single malt (from Japan no less!) before moving on to the medium-smoky peated whiskies of the Highlands and Ireland, finishing with the peat monsters from Islay.

Bowmore® 12 Year Old
The distillery believes this bottling reflects the essence of Bowmore, which is located near the sea and whose barrels age below sea-level in some of the oldest warehouses in the world. The aroma is lemon and honey balanced beautifully by peat smoke. The palate is more gentle peat smoke, leading to a long and mellow finish.

Hakushu® 12 Year Old
This champagne-colored single malt offers a nose of basil and pine needle with
a palate leaning more toward sweet pear, mint, and kiwifruit, with just subtle smoke on the finish.

Laphroaig® 10 Year Old
Islay personified. The nose offers huge peat smoke, medicinal ozone characteristics, and just a hint of sweetness. The palate is more peat, with salty undertones and an echo of sweetness, leading to a long and powerfully smoky finish.

Connemara® 12 Year Old
Hand-picked from the finest casks of Connemara at Cooley Distillery in County Louth, Ireland. Initially light-bodied, sweet, and fruity, but with welcoming smoke and vanilla notes that give way to flavors of pears, apples, vanilla cream, and a touch of gingery, spicy oak before a light finish of vanilla, with traces of oily smoke and spice.

Ardmore® Legacy
This lightly peated whisky celebrates the distillery’s unique location on the fringes of the Highlands, whose rich soil and frequent rainfall informs the earthy flavor profile. The nose offers slight hints of smoke, leading into a palate that is full of creamy vanilla spice, giving way to more overt charcoal notes.

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