One of the most divisive style factors in whisky, smoke is loved passionately by many and reviled by plenty. But, between sweet, smoke-free Speysides and peat monster Islays lies a diverse spectrum of smoke that we believe offers something surprising for everyone to enjoy. That's why our September box, Spectrum of Smoke, is an exploration of the many ways smoky flavours can enhance whisky. In this box, we traverse a peaty pathway that aims to delight both trepidatious peat toe-dippers and full-blown smokeheads alike.
Check out the line-up below.
Spectrum of Smoke: An exploration of peat and smoke in whisky
Loch Lomond, Open Special Edition 2021
A delightfully gentle peat smoke underlies this Loch Lomond single malt. A highly versatile distillery, Loch Lomond can create a wide variety of flavours and styles, including various peat smoke levels. This particular dram was created in partnership with Colin Montgomerie, Scottish pro golfer and Loch Lomond ambassador. A combination of spirits from both their unique straight-neck and traditional pot stills was aged in three types of American oak cask, before a finish in virgin oak.
On the nose are flavours of caramel and toffee, poached pear, red apple with fresh vanilla. Chewy toffee with green apple, apricot jam and lemon citrus. Toasted oak on the finish, with a gentle smokiness then warming oak spice of cinnamon and clove.
This aptly named whisky from one of India's oldest distilleries is a true meeting of East and West. It's made with both barley grown in India, and peated barley from Scotland (there isn't anyone peat-drying barley in India yet!). Aged in ex-bourbon barrels, it is surprisingly complex for a non-age-statement whisky - thanks to the local climate in the Himalayan foothills. A delightfully gentle peat smoke threads its way through the spicy, tropical fruit notes of this unique single malt. The name Amrut literally translates to "immortality" - but is often translated as nectar, which we think is a pretty good name for a whisky!
Sweet, with candy necklaces and Love Hearts, honeysuckle and sour lemon. Notes of both sweet and floury apple develop. Initial creaminess followed by sweet and sour fruit – apples, crunchy pears, unripe pineapple, mango and hints of banana. Sharp clove and gentle peat smoke. Very long finish - sweet and grainy, with damp leaves and liquorice.
The English Whisky Co, Smokey
Joining Amrut in proving that the Scots aren’t the only ones capable of producing exceptional smoky whisky are The English Whisky Company, whose St George’s Distillery in Norfolk is the oldest English whisky distillery, founded back in 2006. While they might be relatively young compared to the bastions of peated Scotch whisky-making, this dram firmly and tastily makes a strong case as an alternative tipple for even the most die-hard of Islay fans.
A gentle aroma with hints of vanilla, aniseed & ginger. A creamy palate, a little peat initially and then the smoke bomb! Long, spicey and smokey finish.
Benromach, Château Cissac Wood Finish
Not all great peated whiskies come from Islay. While most people associate Speyside whiskies with a rich, sweet, non-smoky style, a handful - like Benromach - use peat smoke sparingly to create a unique flavour profile. This lightly peated malt was finished in Bordeaux red wine casks from the illustrious Haut-Médoc vineyard Château Cissac.
The influence of the Bordeaux casks is immediately apparent, with melon notes, red apples, zesty orange peel and dark chocolate. Slightly peppery on the palate with sweet vanilla, creamy milk chocolate. Satisfying hints of red wine tannins emerge, complementing a lingering peat smoke. Deeper hints of bonfire embers, complemented by Brazil nuts and gorgeous cocoa flavours.
Ledaig, Sinclair Series, Rioja Cask Finish
Peated whisky is often aged in plainer casks, as complex flavours can fight with smoke. But, great exceptions exist, like this vibrant new entry from Isle of Mull distillery Tobermory. Ledaig (pronounced 'letch-igg') is their heavily peated, punchier label. Ledaig have earned themselves somewhat of a cult following, due to their no-holds-barred, full-flavoured whiskies. This release was first aged in ex-bourbon, with a finish in Spanish Rioja red wine casks providing the spice and colour.
Notes of Turkish delight and rose petals balanced with candied fruits and grapes, followed by rich leather and peppery spice. Creamy mouthfeel packed full of almonds, barley and sweet malt, giving way to black raspberries, vanilla and cocoa, cinnamon spice and hints of freshly cut grass. Lingering smoky finish with red fruit and sea spray.
That Boutique-y Whisky Co. - Bruichladdich - Batch 15 11 year old
We've thrown a little curveball in for our sixth dram: this single malt is from a famous Islay distillery, but one better known for its unpeated whisky than its smoke. This rare indie TBWC release from the Bruichladdich distillery was aged in an ex-bourbon cask and is a wonderful example of the subtle end of our smoky spectrum. This is a whisky we think will delight both newcomer Scotch drinkers and staunch Islay fans alike. (Top tip: If you're a true smokehead, try Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte or Octomore releases!).
Subtly floral at first with orange blossom and fresh barley, soon becoming rich in honey. Wood spice and leather add depth. Salted butter on crumpets, sticky toffee and stem ginger, then blueberry muffin, citrus peels and a touch of red chilli powder. Drying malt on the finish, with thyme, sea salt and vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce.
How to get your Spectrum of Smoke box
Whether you're a proper peat-head or a smoke-curious toe-dipper, we think this is the best way to try smoky whisky in all its glory.
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