Gotta Have Smoke?
7 Smokey Whiskies You Need to Try Now!
by Milo Kaciak
There is nothing more divisive in the whiskey community than smokey whiskies. Some love it, some hate it. For those who love it, the taste can be addicting. The aromas of campfire, tobacco and salt make it a blissful experience. Those on the other side of the spectrum can find it harsh and unpalatable. One thing for sure, smokey whiskey is ingrained in whiskey tradition. If you love smokey whiskies, then check these out below. If you are not a fan, you may have not found the right one yet. There are a few milder and sweeter ones on this list. Give it another try!
Lagavulin 16 year is one of the great classics. It is known as “the king of Islay”. Its distillery is located on the picturesque Lagavulin Bay in the Islay region of Scotland. This region’s unique climate makes it the perfect location to develop this truly exceptional whisky. It is a must have for any whisky connoisseur to have in their collection. Its complex, rich, and peaty character takes time, a lot of time to develop. It is definitely worth the wait.
Nose: Intensely flavored, peat smoke with iodine and seaweed and a rich, deep sweetness.
Taste: Dry peat smoke fills the palate with a gentle but strong sweetness, followed by sea and salt with touches of wood.
Finish: A long, elegant peat-filled finish with a hint of figs, dates and vanilla with lots of salt and seaweed.
Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5
Scotch ageists may have a hard time coming to terms with this delicious, smokey morsel. It is hard to imagine a whisky aged 5 years should be in any serious whisky collection. In this case, you would be wrong. This youngster shows more complexity than some whiskies twice its age! It has a smokey, fiery and potent flavor that will not disappoint. Ardbeg has sent a shot across the bow to the other scotch distilleries. Will other distilleries follow suit and put out their own young whiskies?
Nose: Bright herbal notes with hints of vanilla and pear with a heavy smoke and black pepper.
Taste: Bold smoke with milk chocolate and smoked brown sugar bacon.
Finish: A smokey and salty finish with hints of cocoa and fudge.
Tomintoul Peaty Tang
A light, gentle whiskey with a bold smokey flavor. This is by far the most complex of the Tomintoul line. The smokey peat brings balance to this sweet toned spirit. This Speyside whisky does not hit as hard as the heavily peated Islay whiskies but if you want to enter the world of the ashtray spirits, the Peaty Tang may be an excellent introduction.
Nose: A waft of heathery smoke balanced with subtle, fragrant floral and sweet tones.
Taste: A sweet start with a peaty earthy finish with a hint of malty nuttiness.
Finish: A persistent vein of smoke with a hint of cocoa, malt, fruit and nuts.
I have to thank my ex-wife for this amazing find. Her mother was born and raised in the town of Campbelltown, Scotland. This town was once called “The Whisky Capital of the World”. It held the title until whisky production primarily moved east to the highlands. Springbank distillery still calls this quaint Scottish town home. They are the ones responsible for making this perfect peaty gem. This distillery is also unique amongst Scotland’s distilleries in that all parts of the production process, from traditional floor malting to bottling, are carried out in the one location.
Nose: Vanilla, herbs and sea-spray
Taste: A smooth, not overpowering smoke with hints of oak, coffee and honey.
Finish: A dry finish with lingering smoke.
An outlier in Irish Whiskey, it is one of the only peated Irish whiskies available. It has a lighter flavor than the Scottish whiskies of Islay. It is more herbal and subtle. The taste has a silky-smooth honey start, followed by malt and fruit flavors, finally giving way to a full-bodied peat flavor. Although it does not have “as in your face” smokey flavor as some whiskies in Scotland, it has won over fans of peated scotches such as Laphroaig and Ardbeg.
Nose: Heavily smoked and peated, with hints of heather and floral notes and honey.
Taste: Full and smooth with notes of malt, peat, honey and vanilla oak.
Finish: Long peaty smoke with honey, chocolate, vanilla and oak.
Monsho, like most Japanese whiskies, has a very smooth and clean flavor. What makes this unique is the hint of smoke that follows. It is a pure malt whisky blend. The water used to create this delicious whisky comes straight from the snow melt at the base of the Japanese Alps. This whisky is smooth, balanced with a hint of honey and smoke.
Nose: Sweet raisin, menthol and smoke.
Taste: The taste has hints of vanilla, sweet red fruit, chocolate followed by a smokey bite.
Finish: A sweet vanilla, honey with a smokey finish.
Balcones Brimstone is truly an original when it comes to smokey whiskies. It comes straight from the great state of Texas. In typical Texas fashion, Brimstone is bold and unapologetic. They make this whiskey from roasted blue corn. Using their own secret process, they then smoke the whiskey with sunbaked Texas scrub oak. The result is a whiskey that is perfectly smoked, with a delicious and rich flavor.
Nose: Confectioner’s sugar, cold-smoked butter, corn husk, BBQ pit, stone fruit, chili peppers and graham crackers.
Taste: Candied oak smoke, English pipe tobacco, butter, orange marmalade, fruit cocktail, sweet, chili peppers.
Finish: Long dry finish, herbal/mint ends in a mineralness as smoke returns.
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