For the Whisky Expert Only: the World’s Peatiest Whiskies

Where there’s smoke, there’s Islay—Scotches, that is…


There are whiskies with a hint of smoke, and then there are smoky whiskies—whiskies that’ll send the fire department to your home in search of whatever’s burning. Whiskies so smoky, they’re not allowed in smoke-free bars.

Smoky whiskies are made all over the world, but when you want serious smoke, there’s only one place on earth to go, and that’s Islay (pronounced EYE-la), a small island off the southern coast of Scotland that’s more or less covered in peat. Dried peat, a dirt-like material made from decaying vegetation, has been burned for fuel on Islay for centuries, and it’s also used to roast—or malt—the barley that’s used to make Islay whisky. That peat smoke gets into the barley, and man oh man does it get into the whisky as well. Islay whiskies aren’t one-dimensional by any means, but if you’re looking for smoke, Islay is Smoke Central.

Here are five of Islay’s—and thus the world’s—smokiest whiskies. Our advice: If you’re a whisky novice, you may want to start elsewhere. These smoke bombs can be dangerous to the untrained tongue.