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10 Best Peaty Scotch Whiskies For a Smoky Dram

Single malt Scotch whisky in glen cairn glass with peaty

Scotch whisky is a world of flavors, and for those who enjoy the strong, smokey flavor that peat adds, there is a unique range of whiskies to discover. We cordially invite you to embark on a sensory symphony with us as we explore the core of peaty Scotch, where the distinct scent of burning heather and maritime essence coexist. Connoisseurs have a special place in their hearts for peaty Scotch whiskies, which are recognized for their robust and smoky profiles. We will journey through the finest distilleries that encapsulate the essence of peat, taking enthusiasts to windswept landscapes and historic distilleries from Islay to the rugged coasts of the Highlands.


Compass Box Peat Monster

Compass Box Peat Monster
Source: Instagram

As quirky as it is delicious, this whisky features fantastic artwork on the bottle to accompany your pour. I was taken with the personality of this one before I even took a sip – and surprised at the taste’s ability to match its style. Compass Box has reinvented the Peat Monster several times, promising something deeper and more enticing with each new expression. Rich, smoky, and unendingly flavorful, I recommend this to someone whose palate is developed enough to appreciate its complexity. Modern and engaging, Compass Box knows what they’re doing here. It’s a step forward from the old traditions into a new era of scotch making.


Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Lagavulin 16 Year Old
Source: Instagram

This is a scotch for the man’s man. Don’t believe me? Ask the crusty character Ron Swanson on NBC’s comedy show Parks and Recreation, who’s known to be a huge fan. However, this dram doesn’t need a TV mention to secure its place in the league of tasty peat options. Lagavulin has been providing scotch drinkers with quality for decades – so much so that it’s the go-to choice for many who still choose to explore others. There’s an amazing aroma that you don’t get with some other whiskies that are more subtle. I found my nose returning to the rim of my glass multiple times, even as I got a mouthful. Classic and classy, this one will secure a place on my shelf. Ron Swanson has good taste.


Talisker 10 Year Old

Talisker 10 Year Old
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There’s only slight peat here, making the Talisker delicate and approachable to the novice taster. The whisky is a beautiful golden color for an elegant pour that satisfies any drinker. Their tagline, “Made By the Sea,” supports the ocean theme from Talisker. This is undoubtedly the case with its styling as well as its flavor. Briny, warm, and with a faint whiff of oyster, you’d almost think you were sitting on the bonnie shores of Scotland as you enjoy sipping. Pepper, barley, smoke, and pear round out the body of this scotch. The brilliant yellow and fruit notes are reminiscent of apple juice. This one’s okay to have as a follow-up to a meal if you’re a scotch fan who likes to enjoy it after dinner.

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Bruichladdich 10 Port Charlotte Heavily Peated

Bruichladdich 10 Port Charlotte Heavily Peated
Source: Instagram

Aged in French wine and American whiskey casks, the Port Charlotte is a respectable mix of traditional and modern. It’s smoke-forward, assertive, and aromatic, belying the gracefulness of its blend. As the name suggests, this is a very strong flavor. If I’m being honest, it’s a bit too much for me, though I like the underlying flavor. This one’s best saved for the experienced scotch drinker in search of a bolder glass. The Heavily Peated also pairs well with food. Try with barbecued meats or shellfish for the full effect. Typically, I wouldn’t drink this one on its own, though more fanatic scotch whisky aficionados may do fine with it.


Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dha

Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dha
Source: Instagram

This sip of scotch also comes with a different kind of mouthful: its ultra-cool Celtic name. “Bunnahabhain” translates to “mouth of the river,” a fitting description for the origin of this northern Islay draft. The company’s claims of it as “beguiling” are not unfounded. Interesting, unique, and delicious, this is one of my favorites out there. The smoky offering arrives with just a touch of sherry for a lingering sweetness after each taste. Oak and pepper also make an appearance for a multifaceted profile. It’s centrist in terms of extreme scotch flavors but certainly not boring. As a bonus, you get a rockstar of a bottle sleeve, with the brand’s seal superimposed over a waft of smoke. Add this hip choice to your bar cart as soon as you get the chance!


Caol Ila 12

Caol Ila 12
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Just south of Bunnahabhain is the Caol Ila distillery, which puts out mostly Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle. If you can get your hands on the 12-year scotch, you can appreciate its homage to the craft’s tradition. Refined and nuanced, the 12 is an excellent choice for a whisky connoisseur. It’s a bit floral, with notes of olive oil and leather for a clean, masculine finish. There are a lot of flavors here, so let the sip linger – and be sure to take it in with your nose as well. Part of the appeal is its creamy golden color, like a late autumn sunset, and just as warm on the tongue. In Gaelic, Caol Ila translates to “Sound of Islay.” Though it’s the taste and aroma of Islay that appealing, it’s neat to have that connection to the distillery origins.


Port Charlotte 10 Year Old

Port Charlotte 10 Year Old
Source: Instagram

Though you’ll pay a steeper price for this one, it’s worth the money. Port Charlotte is a “ghost distillery,” meaning there’s no longer a distillery in production. However, the scotch it did put out is circulating on the market, some still in barrels. Parent company Bruichladdich is a highly sought-after brand and – interestingly – does not use peat in its scotch making process. This means the smoky flavor keeps to a minimum, making it accessible to the scotch-curious as well as expert sippers.

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Ardbeg Peated Scotch Whisky

Ardbeg Peated Scotch Whisky
Source: Instagram

Ardbeg doesn’t mess around with their smoky scotch. You want peaty, that’s what you’re going to get here. There’s a heavy scent of iodine in this classic Islay dram – yet somehow, it’s not so full-bodied that a newbie couldn’t attempt it. “Ardbeg Day” occurs every year in June, on which the brand introduces a new and experimental scotch. It’s worth seeing what else they put out, as this distillery knows their peat.


Bowmore’s Peated Scotch Whisky

Bowmore’s Peated Scotch Whisky
Source: Pinterest

The Bowmore Distillery was established in 1779, giving them nearly 250 years to perfect their brand. Their tagline, “The Art of Time,”  proudly boasts the tradition while consistently providing appealing offerings. Bowmore uses some sherry casks in their process, lending a sweeter sheen to the peat that beckons the uninitiated to give it a try. This made the Peated more enticing to me, both as a standalone and also as an after-dinner pour. I envision it paired with a light dessert like tiramisu or coffee ice cream.


Laphroaig Peated Scotch Whisky

Laphroaig Peated Scotch Whisky
Source: Pinterest

Laphroaig takes care of its fans. Join the “Friends of Laphroaig Club,” and you get a square foot of land next to the distillery, which you can visit anytime you wish. In return, Laphroaig pays you a dram of whisky per year. How’s that for a fun connection to your drink? Full-bodied and salty, this sip is perfectly balanced. I enjoyed it though there’s not much sweetness in the profile. I’d think it could be accessible to someone who doesn’t know whisky well but wants to try it. Since 1815, Laphroaig has known its craft. Give this one a shot, whether you’re an expert or simply curious.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian attended West Virginia University, then started his career in the IT industry before following his passion for marketing and hospitality. He has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and bar industry.

As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.

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