What Is Peated Whiskey?

Peated whiskey is either loved or hated, as it has enough room for different tastes. The best Peated whiskey comes from the extensive Islay shores, located on Scotland’s South coast. 

Peated whiskey is all about the smoky flavor given by elements released by peat fires used for drying malted barley. The length and intensity exposure of the peat determines the taste of the peat. 

How did this whiskey come into existence, and how did it become popular? In this write-up, we are going to discuss everything about peat whiskey. 

Existence of Peat

For a long time now, peated whiskey has been readily available in some parts of Scotland. The creation of peat is all about the decomposition of plant materials such as grass, moss, and roots. Peat is collected from the boggy areas where usually the water is accumulated. The accumulation of peat is prolonged, and the bogs are decades old, which leads to peat being classified as fossil fuel. Peat was used as a domestic fuel for many years in Scotland. It is very easily accessible in some areas. 

Peat and Malting Process

Today, many distilleries rely on commercially malted barley. Although, those days are gone when they have to malt their barley. Malting is all about making the starches with barley corn solubles for converting sugar into alcohol. First, the barkley is steeped into the water, and then it is left for germination before the halting process takes place in the kiln. Then peat is burned for heating the kiln, and it offers an aromatic smoke. 

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Some Distilleries Have Stopped Using Peat

Because of fewer alternative fuel sources, whiskeys that use entirely peated barley were ruling the industry. This was true in the remote Highland and Island Distilleries until there was an introduction of Coke or coal.

The Lowland and Speyside were the first who decided to convert into peat. The rail transport of Scotland led to the massive availability of Coke, which burned more evenly and led to less smoke than peat, so such regions took advantage of this and started making unpeated whiskey. 

Mining peat

Continuation of the Peat Tradition

Some regions like Islay, Orkney, and other mainland distilleries continued the tradition. The distilleries still used some proportion of peat at the time of the kilning process. This led to a unique style of whiskey with various flavors and variations. Distilleries with their malting moved ahead with peating small quantities of barley for their use. 

Examples of Peated Whiskey

Peat is still a defining aspect of scotch whiskey with a smoky flavor. Here are some examples of peated whiskey that you must try. 

#1. Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Islay is the main center of Peated whiskey worldwide, and many people regard Lagavulin as the best Islay Malt. The distillery got its license in 1816, and they produce various expressions of peated whiskey. The 16-year-old flagship is the whiskey to start with.

It has everything that Islay lovers love and beginners want in a smoky whiskey. It has a great balance of salty air and iodine with fruity sweetness beyond the peaty surface, as well as notes of vanilla, caramel, and a dash of oaks. It is not only the best Islay whiskey but known to be one of the best single malt whiskey that comes under the range of $70. 

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#2. Port Ellen 37 Year Old

Port Ellen is the most defined and oldest distillery, known to be the Ghost Distillery of Scotland. Here the barrels there were filled and kept for ages before the whiskey was finally bottled.

The 37-year-old whiskey was kept from 1979 and introduced in 2017, which seems to be the last out of all. The whiskey comes with a high hint like a hint of apple, citrus fruit, dry pepper, and casks oak on the palate. Such a long time in the barrel has reduced the effect of the peat and smoky element only slightly. 

#3. Macallan Exceptional Cask 1950

Macallan peated whiskey is very rare. They had used peat for malting their barley for a few years after World War 2 due to a shortage of fuel all over Great Britain.

After a few decades in the oak, the whiskey has distinct smoky and gentle notes. Macallan is known for its aging sherry cask, a well-known modern vintage whiskey. Unfortunately, only 336 bottles of Macallan are available worldwide, which comes short of its demand. 

Peated whiskey and cigar

#4. Compass Box Peat Monster 2019

Single malt snobs may give blended whiskeys the short shrift. But the CompassBox craftsmanship has won several accolades even in this crowd. The new CompassBox Peat monster version comes with more straightforward and older blended malts that consists of Islay Stalwarts, Caol Ila and Laphroaig.

Both play together, with notes of iodine and seaweed. The creamy vanilla flavor with the notes of smoke gives you a genuinely fine peated malt. The cost of this peated whiskey is around $65. 

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#5. Ardbeg Uigeadail

Ardbeg is the peatiest whiskey among all in Scotland, measured keeping in mind phenol per million. The Ardbeg Uigeadail gets its name from the Loch which was used in Ardbeg water source, a mystery without an age definition.

But the Ardbeg Uigeadail is a popular core range for many good reasons. Peat drinkers love its smoky mouth in flavor, but you will find much complexity in the smoky flavor, where you will get hints of caramel, orange powder, and dark chocolate. The cost of this peat whiskey is $75. 

Parting Words

Many Peat lovers say drinking peat whiskey is like drinking an ashtray, and sometimes they smell like a tire store. This is a better experience than it sounds! Peat whiskey encompasses a wide variety of smoky flavors, often along with a hint of citrus fruit and dried mushrooms. With the above list of Peat whiskeys, there are many choices to try, with sourcings from different regions that bring unique flavor profiles.