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

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

September 17, 2019 –––––– Susannah Skiver Barton, , , ,

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, $75Method: Peated maltTastes like: Dark chocolate, cigars, apple-ginger cakeWales: Penderyn Celt Single Malt—91 points, $50Method: Finished in Islay whisky quarter casksTastes like: Glazed pork ribs with salted plumsIreland: Connemara Single Malt—87 points, $55Method: Peated maltTastes like: Spiced lemon-ginger tea and earthy chocolateSweden: Spirit of Hven Tycho's Star Single Malt—87 points, $132Method: Imported Islay peat, Swedish peat, and seaweedTastes like: Grilled apples and sausage, salty seaweed snacksFrance: Armorik Triagoz Single Malt—89 points, $75Method: Imported peatTastes like: Malted cereal with fresh fruit, savory cooked mushroomsFrance: Glann ar Mor Roc'h Hir Single Malt—91 points, $150Method: Peated maltTastes like: Rubber and ash, charred pineapple, vanilla-iced sugar cookieFrance: Rozelieures Peated Collection Single Malt—90 points, $75Method: Imported peatTastes like: Clove-studded orange, bittersweet chocolate, black pepperIndia: Amrut Peated Single Malt—90 points, $73Method: Peated maltTastes like: Peppery charcoal-roasted chicken with mango pickleIndia: Paul John Peated Select Cask Single Malt—88 points, $95Method: Imported Islay and Highlands peatTastes like: Grilled pineapple and salted caramelsJapan: Hakushu 12 year old Single Malt—86 points, $85Method: Peated maltTastes like: Moss, grilled pineapple, roasted sunflower seedsJapan: Yoichi Single Malt—92 points, $80Method: Peated maltTastes like: Crushed oyster shells, semi-sweet chocolate, cigar wrapperJapan: Yamazaki 12 year old Single Malt—93 points, $85Method: Peated maltTastes like: Lime zest, plum skins, pouch tobaccoJapan: Ohishi Islay Cask Finish Rice Whisky (2017 Release)—90 points, $100Method: Finished in Islay whisky casksTastes like: Clay oven-baked chicken with fresh cantaloupe (pre-release sample)United States: Berkshire Smoke & Peat Bourbon—88 points, $60Method: Finished in Islay whisky casksTastes like: Menthol cigarettes and coriander seedsUnited States: High West Campfire Whiskey—90 points, $70Method: Peated blended malt whisky from the Highlands blended with bourbon and ryeTastes like: Charred marshmallow s'mores with a side of fruit saladUnited States: Kings County Peated Bourbon—85 points, $40 (375ml)Method: Peated maltTastes like: Charred corn, burnt sugar, and dark chocolateUnited States: Liberty Pole Peated Bourbon—84 points, $57Method: Peated maltTastes like: Pepper-crusted burnt endsUnited States: Oppidan Smoke + Sea Bourbon—90 points, $40Method: Finished in Islay whisky casksTastes like: Breakfast sausage with pancakes and maple syrupUnited States: Two James J. Riddle Peated Bourbon—86 points, $45Method: Peated maltTastes like: Cinnamon-dusted popcorn, charcoal-grilled beef franks