There's no smoke without fire, and the Irish Whiskey Society's October tasting is sure to set your tastebuds alight!
When the malted barley used to make whiskey is dried with peat, it adds an alluring extra character – the warming scent of the smoke used in the drying process. The result is whiskey redolent of a crackling Hallowe'en bonfire, something to warm the cockles of the heart and inflame the palate all at once.
Peaty whiskeys were commonplace in Scotland and Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, when the bogs were the only source of fuel for drying the malt. In more recent times, Irish whiskey has become largely unpeated, but just across the water our Celtic cousins still appreciate a dram with a touch of smoke in it.
The Mecca for smoky whiskey fans is the small island of Islay, just off the Antrim coast, where some eight working distilleries all produce world-renowned spirits with varying degrees of smokiness.
In our October tasting, our peated whiskey experts (?) Michael Slevin & Luke Gough will explore how peat can add amazing complexity to whiskey, and introduce us to some of the finest peated whiskeys to emerge from Islay and Ireland.
The selection includes some older whiskeys and some sherried whiskeys, to help illustrate how the smoky character mellows in complexity over time, as well as how the peat interacts with the many other taste elements in whiskey.
Some distilleries have recently produced "heavily peated" whisky with peating levels double, and triple what would previously have been regarded as "heavily peated"! Now, Cooley are launching their heavily peated Connemara Turf Mór tonight. With peating levels of ~50ppm, we're really looking forward to tasting it. What's ppm I hear you ask? Come along and see for yourself.
This is a tasting aimed as much at those who are trepidatious about smoky whiskeys as for the peat fanatics. If you've ever wanted to learn how to access these remarkable whiskeys, this is your chance!
Note: At the end of the night we vote for our favourite whiskey. Number of votes and placing are included in the tables below.
1. "Provenance" Port Ellen 26yo
2. Big Peat
3. Bowmore 25
4. Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 1991
5. "Old Malt Cask" Laphroaig 20yo
6. Bunnahabhain 1997 11yo
7. Connemara Turf Mór
8. Connemara Turf Mór "Bog Oak"