9 Peaty Scotch Whiskies for Smoke Lovers to Try Now [LIST]

Peated scotch can be divisive, but for those who love it, there’s no acceptable substitute. Building an appreciation for peated single malt may start with whiskies like Laphroaig 10 year old, Ardbeg 10 year old, or Lagavulin 16 year old, but there is a wide world of deliciously smoky scotch beyond those building blocks. And while Islay tends to be most directly associated with peat, its neighboring Scottish isles and the mainland produce equally exquisite drams every bit as briny and ashy.

In the Winter 2020 Buying Guide, peat lovers will find plenty to enjoy, as limited editions and seasonal releases of old favorites abound. Stalwart single malts are represented, as are a few blended malts worthy of consideration. There’s even a cask-strength whisky on offer from Highland Park for those looking for an extra-powerful punch of peat.

The Winter Buying Guide features scores and tasting notes for 170 whiskies, from scotch and bourbon to Irish, Japanese, and more. Start with these nine scotch whiskies for a supply of smoke, and then check out the full lineup of reviews.

Feel the Peat With These Smoky Scotch Whiskies

Ardbeg 19 year old Traigh Bhan (Batch 2) bottle.Ardbeg 19 year old Traigh Bhan (Batch 2)
95 points, 46.2% ABV, $300

The early nose offers hand-rolled tobacco, ginger, black pepper, and fragrant woodsmoke. Medicinal notes, brine, and lemon develop in time. Sweet peat smoke, tropical fruits, toffee, and aniseed on the palate, with smoked haddock and a suggestion of tar. Iodine, black pepper, and sea salt in the lengthy finish. —Gavin Smith

Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020) bottle.Lagavulin 12 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020)
93 points, 56.4% ABV, $164

Sweet woodsmoke, peat embers, Jaffa oranges, new leather, sea salt, and cigarette smoke on the nose. Orange carries over onto the robust palate, with quite pronounced smokiness, black pepper, and dark chocolate. Long and peppery in the finish, with lingering smoke and brine. —Gavin Smith

Talisker 8 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020) bottle.Talisker 8 year old (Diageo Special Releases 2020)
93 points, 57.9% ABV, $119

The youngest of the 2020 Special Releases. Warm tar, farmyard, charcuterie, and faint iodine on the fruity nose. Peppery stewed fruits and gentle woodsmoke on the voluptuous palate. Very prickly in the long finish, with fruit-and-nut dark chocolate and chile paste. An intriguing and attractive take on Talisker. —Gavin Smith

Compass Box The Peat Monster Arcana bottle.Compass Box The Peat Monster Arcana Blended Malt
92 points, 46% ABV, $95

Comparatively speaking, this is a little monster for peat-loving monster hunters. Lemon, attractive florals, pine forests, and gentle peat smoke. Sweet flavors cascade through honey, lemon, candied peel, and vanilla fudge, heading toward sweet cinnamon, chocolate, clove, and a dry finish of oak and straw bundles. The neat touch here was filling cask-strength Peat Monster into custom French oak casks. A very fine blend indeed. (8,328 bottles, 3,900 for U.S.) —Jonny McCormick

Highland Park Cask Strength (Release No. 1) bottle.Highland Park Cask Strength (Release No. 1)
92 points, 63.3% ABV, $90

This first cask-strength expression in Highland Park’s core range was matured predominantly in sherry-seasoned American oak. Honey, bonfire smoke, orange peel, and a suggestion of treacle on the nose. Sweet and smoky on the palate, with toffee and orchard fruits turning more citric in time. The finish yields sweet spices, more honey, dark chocolate, black pepper, and bonfire embers. Classic Highland Park—turned up to 11! —Gavin Smith

Kilchoman 100% Islay (2020 Release) bottle.Kilchoman 100% Islay (2020 Release)
92 points, 50% ABV, $120

The nose opens with relatively light sweet woodsmoke, then red apples, sherry, iodine, sea salt, and lively spices emerge. Spicy citrus fruits, toffee, and more sweet smoke on the palate. The finish carries citrus fruits, with sherry, spice, and peat smoke. (12,400 bottles, 1,440 for U.S.) —Gavin Smith

Octomore 10 year old (2020 Release) bottle.Octomore 10 year old (2020 Release)
90 points, 54.3% ABV, $235

Malted to 208 ppm and matured in a mix of virgin oak and first- and second-fill bourbon and Tennessee whiskey barrels. The nose is fragrant, with pepper, iodine, intense peat smoke, and lemon peel. Juicy orchard fruits and more smoke on the palate, with treacle, caramel, and spice. Black tea, licorice, lingering woody peat, and chile in the finish. —Gavin Smith

Big Peat Christmas (2020 Edition) bottle.Big Peat Christmas (2020 Edition) Blended Malt
90 points, 53.1% ABV, $59

This is a spicy prospect, with pepper, lemon bonbons, and dense peat smoke, though the toffee and sweet lemon are well-balanced against the smoke. Sweet lemon meringue pie, candied peel, and a twin assault of smoke and clove-led spices on the palate, though the sweetness mounts a fight back. Great crescendo of flavor as Big Peat tries to show he is the perfect house guest for the holidays. (900 bottles for U.S.) —Jonny McCormick

DS Tayman 10 year old Flam Wine Barrel-Finished (Distilled at Caol Ila)
88 points, 46% ABV, $65

This kosher-certified single cask was matured in a refill bourbon barrel before finishing in a wine barrel from Israel’s Flam Winery. The nose opens with barbecue smoke and new leather, then rosé wine, salt, and ginger cookies emerge. The nutty palate features woodsmoke, cocoa, instant coffee, stewed fruits, and more salt. The finish is long, with coffee, dry red wine, and prickly oak. (400 bottles) —Gavin Smith

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