The flavour of peat is one of the most misunderstood and least explored aspects of whisky. Most contemporary peated malts display an up-front, ashy and aggressively smoky style of peat, but this has not always been the case.

This tasting will explore an era of whisky production when many distilleries operated their own floor maltings and had their own peat sources.

It features some stunning examples of single malts that express starkly differing aspects of peat flavour. From the deep, herbal and heathery peat of Orkney, via the more farmyard and medical styles of Glen Garioch and Ardmore, all the way to the powerfully chiselled, sharp and purely smoky style of 1970s' Port Ellen. A journey through history and geography with some stunning, rarely available whiskies.

Show founders Sukhinder Singh, Jonny McMillan and Angus MacRaild will be joined by The Whisky Exchange ambassador Billy Abbott, Scotch Whisky Research Institute senior scientist Frances Jack, and photographer, author and smoky whisky expert Marcel van Gils. 

 

Highland Park 1960 17 Year Old, 43%

Angus MacRaild – This is an early official bottling of Highland Park, released as part of a series of vintage-stated bottlings. Some were from plain wood, while others like this one were from sherry. The quality was almost universally superb in this series.

I've chosen it because it's long been a favourite bottling of mine. The combination of rich, fruity, beautifully old-style sherry sits in perfect balance with the Highland Park distillery character. Most of all, the unique flavour of Orkney peat sits at the heart of the whisky. Rich, earthy, drying, herbal and distinctly heathery – it's an exquisite example of old-style, deep-cut Orcadian peat and a powerfully illuminating counterpart to the more smoky Islay style.

Ardmore 1977 Samaroli 35th Anniversary, bot.2003, 45%

Jonny McMillan – Ardmore is one of my favourite distilleries, and the Highland peat it uses shows a different style of smoky flavour to the west-coast distilleries. The peat character here is earthy, bordering on smoked haddock and bonfire ash, a style I really adore. This was bottled by the maestro of independent bottling – Silvano Samaroli – to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his company.

Glen Garioch 1972 Oddbins, bot.1990s, 43%

Sukhinder Singh – Glen Garioch’s spirit were very heavily peated up until 1976, and are quite different to any other malts. I have tried similar vintages but not this one, and I am expecting something like a sherried Longmorn mixed with some big fat peat and a herbal element. This is a rare bottling done for Oddbins back in the mid 1990s, and was selected by a chap called Grant Ramage. He was the senior spirits buyer and had a great relationship with Glen Garioch owner Morrison Bowmore at the time. Even though it was bottled from a single cask, sadly it was reduced to 43% before bottling.

Port Ellen 1974 22 Year Old, Signatory Silent Stills, cask #6754, 59.2%

Angus MacRaild – This is a lesser-known example of Port Ellen from a transitionary vintage for the distillery. The 1974s tend to exhibit a balanced style, with some of the residual fruitiness of earlier years combined with the more assertive, petrolic and coastal peatiness which would define its later years. I think this will make a fascinating and extremely delicious counterpart to the Highland Park – two sides of the peat coin. 

Brora 32 Year Old, Diageo Special Releases 2011, 54.7%

Jonny McMillan – Perhaps the most distinctive style of peated whisky comes from the legendary distillery of Brora – a style which can best be described as ‘farmy'. In my option its spirit is among the most complex and cerebral whisky ever produced, and generally takes many happy hours of contemplation to get your head around – time well spent with glorious whisky.

Glenlochy 1965 37 Year Old Dun Eideann, 46.8%

Sukhinder Singh – There have not been many Glenlochys from 1965, and I have only tasted the Signatory Silent Stills bottling, which I found to be extremely complex. I am expecting this to be like an old Islay malt, with fruit and peat nicely integrated.

The Line-Up

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