Peat. Its unctuous smoky iodine-rich influence on whisky is profound. Not many Australian craft whisky distillers use it in their spirits, but for those who do, the results speak for themselves. Here are three of the best.
Like all great food discoveries, the effects of peat on whisky were found by happy accident.
Hundreds of years ago, when fuel to dry the malted grains for whisky mash was a ‘use anything that’ll burn’ situation, a distiller somewhere in the marshes of Scotland would have decided to try peat.
After all, it burns easily and consistently, and it would have been in plentiful supply.
But little did this distiller know, while the peat burnt and smouldered beneath his malted grains, that its pungent smoky byproduct was busy infusing his malt bill.
I often wonder how close that distiller was to throwing out those smoky grains when he realised what had happened.
These days, distillers from all over the world employ the rich fascinating notes of peat smoke to craft a flavour like nothing else in their whisky.
Anywhere from a gentle hint at the back of your palate to a drink that fills your nose and throat and has you tasting campfires and tarpits for hours.
Carefully crafted by distiller-owner Josh Walker in Victoria, this Australian single malt uses peat to emphasise its flavours rather than let the smokiness lead the way.
With a few drops of cool water, the peat opens up though and elevates the burnt toffee and sweet chocolate candy notes of the whisky.
Distiller-owner Peter Bignell loves making rye whisky from his farm in Kempton, Tasmania. Not only that, but he grows, malts, dries (and smokes) the rye he distills in his still that he handmade himself and powers with bio-diesel.
This true paddock-to-bottle whisky from an icon in the Australian craft spirits industry has a sweet, smoky nose, an earthy yet fruity palate with more smoke and ash notes that lead to an easy finish.
There’s plenty of texture here from the robust 50% ABV and a little honey and spice from the rye.
From the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, distiller and owner Stuart McIntosh has created a number of iterations of his splendid Scotch-style whisky, including the flawless Sweet Peat.
This whisky drinks beautifully with and without a splash of water.
Without, it has many of the hallmarks of a medium-peated Islay Scotch; iodine smoke and earthiness mixed with oak and sour cherry.