Peat – a global event

6ish weeks ago saw the last Whisky Lounge Tasting in York, eagerly awaited by many, Eddie had sourced peated whisky from six different countries. It was a blind tasting, as befits the showdown format which meant we should have been in with a chance to spot some of our favourite drams. In theory..

The peated flavours come from the barley maltings, the drying kilns were historically fired by peat bricks which allowed the moist barley seeds to absorb phenols from the peat smoke. The strength is measured in phenol parts per million (or pppm), about 75% of this is typically lost during the brewing and distillation process, so don’t be afraid that you’re drinking liquid compost!

With no further ado, to the whiskys!

1. Penderyn Peated

This pale, but not clear whisky had a nose that was sweet like confectionery. Opinions ranged from Pine and Melon towards Tropical Chewits. The palate was very easy, almost a breakfast whisky. A drop of water brought out the caramel in the body. The finish came and went, with the peat only barely noticable at the end
2. Hakushu 12 yr

This nose was more developed, with notes of citrus, grapes or raisins, honey and vanilla. It was subtle with a number of harder to spot darker scents. It tasted almost like a white wine and had a fairly average finish
3. Connemara Sherry Wood Finish

This was very dark to look at, which suggested it had taken on its colour from some new European oak. Its nose was unpleasant to me, a musty rubbery scent prevailed, with hints of salt or blue cheese. The palate was spicy and had a strong dry sherry composition. It was very characterful, but the oily sickly aftertaste and rubbery smell was not for me
4. Caol Ila 26 yr. Single cask filling by Berry Brothers.

Non-chil filtered, this clouded easily in a cool breeze. It had a light colour and had some odd scents of kippers, tar and iodine. It had a full flavour, slightly seaweedy and had a stereotypical Islay body. Benefited by a drop of water, the finish was woody and citrus.
5. St. George’s Chapter Four

This looked and smelt green and pleasantly creamy. I thought it was new make spirit, but it had its edges rounded off and had taken on some oaky flavours from somewhere. It was more akin to a Calvados or a Schnapps or a Tequila. Turns out this was because it wasn’t cask strength and it was only 18 months old, so technically can’t be marketed as a Whisky.
6. Amrut Peated Cask Strength

This was a deep and sherried colour with a sweet, thick nose. By this stage of the evening, I was struggling to describe it, but I wasn’t alone. It’s a complex beast that builds up momentum as you progress through the dram. It’s not heavily peated and a drop of water helps penetrate the layers of flavour. A clear favourite, it was to many people’s tastes.

I managed to spot the St George’s, strongly suspected the Amrut but wasn’t trying too hard for the Japanese or Scottish, there’s too great a range of styles to remember. I was totally thrown by the Connemara’s addition of the sherry maturation, the oily, sickly sweetness of the finish dominated it’s usual signature.

The Amrut Peated Cask Strength consistently scored highly from around the country, we’ve come to expect greatness from Bangalore and this was no exception, there are few 4 year old whiskys that can manage that depth of flavour AND are still suppable at cask strength. The real star of the show for me was the Penderyn, which is something I thought I would never say. It threw off the stereotypical flavours from the Welsh distillery and added some novel fruity sweetness. As Eddie said, you would feel quite comfortable serving it up as an aperitif to the unsuspecting!

The final scores and discussion can be found on the Whisky Lounge Facebook page