How to Taste Maritime Notes in Whisky

The sensory pleasures of the seaside can sometimes be found in your whisky glass, remarkably enough. The lip-smacking combination of sea spray, rock pools, vanilla ice cream, beach barbecue, and smoked shellfish all come together in the best peated whiskies, creating a delightful maritime journey in a dram. Saltiness imbues these whiskies’ peat smoke notes on the nose, and deliver a briny character to the spicy smoke on the finish. Maritime tasting notes like tarry boat rope, wooden fish boxes, and lobster pots on a boat’s deck all invoke the pull of the sea.

Smoky Islay whiskies are of course the world’s signature peated expressions, but unpeated whiskies finished in Islay casks can also accomplish this goal. Those smoke flavors come from the hardy compounds that envelop the malted barley when peat’s lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose constituents are put to the flame. The flavor possibilities vary, depending on the history and location of the peat bog, the depth and moisture of the cut peat, the judgment of the maltster presiding over the kiln, the aptitude of the distiller making the cuts, and the wisdom and experience of the blender. All that work with peat creates some of the most refined flavor characteristics present in any whisky.

The Coast Is Scotland’s Undersung Whisky Region

Furthermore, some distillers, like those at Old Pulteney and Bruichladdich, believe that storing their casks in warehouses close to the ocean augments the final flavor of their whiskies—the saltiness in the air imbues a maritime quality in the maturing spirits. Conversely, Talisker, Lagavulin, Oban, and Caol Ila mature their whiskies in warehouses located in central Scotland, yet still produce lip-smacking coastal scotches.

The best peated whiskies strike a balance between the medicinal end of the phenolic spectrum—characterized by carbolic soap and antiseptics, the syringols with their spicy peat smoke and creamy vanilla sweetness, and the guaiacols with their aromas of wood-smoke and crispy bacon rind. Grab one of the whiskies from our picks, and you’ll never be far from the beach.

Indulge your palate with these maritime whiskies

Experience the force of a gale warning in Talisker Storm, with notes of salty surf spray, sweet red berries, & peppery peat.


Savor the taste of tides in Laphroaig 10 Year Old, abundant with flavors of seaweed, Band-Aids, bladderwrack, & vanilla caramel.


Submerge your palate in Bunnahabhain Toiteach A Dhà, with notes of salt water, brine, pipe tobacco, & smoked fish.

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