Limited forces in life stand up to the notoriously funky flavors of peat like a brisk winter. Indeed your roaring fire demands a snifter of something equally smoke-choked and fearless.
The hard-hitting, complex notes of a peat-smoked base are widely sought after, even fetishized, by experienced whisky drinkers. It is for these palates, and anyone just seeking to dip their toes into these heavy waters, that we’ve rounded up a few peaty spirits tickling our fancy as of late. Enjoy.
Octomore Masterclass_08.3: This regular whisky series from Islay’s Bruichladdich Distillery consistently ranks among the world’s peatiest. This year, they’ve outdone themselves with Octomore Masterclass_08.3, currently vying for the claim of the peatiest whisky in existence. Much more than a gimmick, it’s a mighty, beautifully complex dram aged for five years among an assortment of ex-bourbon barrels and ex-Pauillac, Ventoux, Rhone and Burgundy casks. Coming in at 61.2%, only 18,000 bottles exist. It can be found for $229.99 right here.
Laphroaig Cairdeas Quarter Cask: Another Islay heavyweight, Laphroaig is synonymous with pronounced peat. The Cairdeas Quarter Cask presents a cask-strength bottling of its Quarter Cask expression, coming in at 57.2% ABV. The distillery matures varying ages of Laphroaig for over five years in first-fill bourbon casks, before an additional six-month rest in more diminutive quarter casks, resulting in a harmonious marriage of smoke, oak, sweet and peat with a slightly fiercer scalding from the higher ABV. Cairdeas means “friend” in Gaelic and official Friends of Laphroaig are able to purchase this straight from the company, while non-friends will most likely have to search online or bug the folks at BevMo to track it down. $79.99.
Son of a Peat: This not-so-subtly named Scotch is the new private label venture from Flaviar, a members-only spirits club. A blend of eight single malts from Speyside, Islay and the Islands, the whisky was made based on feedback from members, who clearly wanted a bit more peat on their palates and don’t mind a feeble pun game. Initially big on smoke and leather notes, the flavors open up to include biscuit, fruit and citrus, making it a peat-forward whisky that’s also ideal for beginners, as opposed to the more intimidating character of a Laphroaig. The 48.3% ABV spirit is available online for members only at $60, though a sign-up appears to be $210 annually.
Paul John ‘Bold’: We recently mentioned Paul John, the Goa-distilled single-malt we enjoy inside of our mouths very much. The brand also has this peated ‘Bold’ version, bearing a more subtle expression of smoke and moss mingling with notes of honey and oak in a silky sip, ending in a wave of spice and smoke, with a prolonged finish of dark chocolate. $75. Or less. If you look.
Peat Barreled Big Gin: Gin, that spell-binding canvas for various herbs, spices and berries, is now embracing peat. The Botanist is a dry-gin from Islay filled with indigenous flavors of heather, bog myrtle and mugwort, but it’s Big Gin from Seattle’s Captive Spirits Distilling that’s making the head-first dive into a peated gin. Of sorts. Nothing is peat-smoked here, per se, but the barrels this gin spends four months inside, specifically barrels previously used to age peated whiskey at Westland Distillery, also in Seattle. The result is a juniper-forward dry gin that’s not too smoke-heavy, gracefully adding additional layers of complexity, including prominent nuttiness, pepper, spice and citrus, along with a flavorful backbone, to a unique, intriguing spirit. 47% ABV and $40, available in 20 states and online.