Copperpot’s Whisky Buyer’s Guide Vol 2

Sam @ Copperpot Bar

Copperpot’s whisky buyer’s guide vol. 2


This week in our whisky buyer’s guide, we’re going to chat about our favourite style of whisky, peated. Full of smoky and sometimes medicinal flavours, these whiskies have a tendency to divide scotch drinkers and it’s not difficult to tell the two sides apart.

If your pet whisky drinker is strictly no smoke then maybe avoid this section and skip straight to Irish, but if they are like us where no dram is a bad dram then you’ll find a great selection of peated whisky below.

Peated Whisky

Peated whiskies are something of an acquired taste but their fans are a dedicated bunch and we count ourselves amongst them. Most of them come from the western coast of Scotland and the intensity of their smoke varies quite considerably. All of the selection below are produced on Islay, a craggy whisky producing Mecca off of the western coast of Scotland. Traditionally, grains would be dried using peat, a dense, fibrous type of mud which when dried and properly prepared can be burnt as fuel. Island peat is comprised of a large part of seaweed, which is naturally high in Iodine. This iodine, when burnt is what gives the whisky a slightly medicinal aroma.

The “lighter in colour generally means a lighter tasting liquid” rule is a little less steadfast when you apply it to peated whisky. Because it’s the malt that’s peated and not the liquid itself, and no colour is retained after the distillation process (an important part of making whisky) the colour of the liquids has no bearing on their smokiness.

A darker whisky will still be woodier and have more tannin than a lighter one, except now you’ve got the interplay of wood and smoke to worry about. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

These suggestions are for people who you might find enjoying a dram of one of the following:

  • Johnnie Walker

  • Laphroaig

  • Lagavulin

  • Highland Park

Bit of disclaimer here. Whilst Johnnie walker is traditionally a west-coast blend and will have smokier elements than Chivas – it’s major east-coast rival, it’s not quite in the same league as some of our suggestions when it comes to smokiness. If you have a pet Johnnie Walker fan, it might be worth probing them for their thoughts on big, peaty whiskies before you go spending your hard-earned cash.

If our whisky drinker fell into this category, we would consider any of these as a great gift.


Ardbeg 10

How much is it?

Approx £45

What’s it like?

Our all-time favourite entry-level expression of any scotch, anywhere. There is subtle wood at work here, tempering the smoke but very refined in terms of tannin. The malty centre is light with a crisp, fleeting sweetness, which helps to balance a big, powerful smokiness. The smoke reminds us of toasted walnuts more than anything else and at £45 a bottle, this is serious stuff. Ardbeg do loads of expressions, but for all the bells and whistles, we aren’t sure any of them are better than this.


Bowmore 15 Darkest

How much is it?

Approx £60

What’s it like?

We’re going to be honest here. If Ardbeg 10 was our first choice when it came to all whiskies, then Bowmore 15 is hot on its heels even though its a very different beast. If the Ardbeg 10 was all about the raw smokiness over a light sweet middle, this is very much dark and sumptuous.

Lots of dried and candied fruit character couple with ample tannin from the sherry barrels to give that classic fruit-cake complexity, although this time it’s wrapped in a silky, smoky veil. A great after dinner drop from one of Scotland’s greatest distilleries.


Kilchoman Machir Bay

How much is it?

Approx £45

What’s it like?

With whisky being such a “heritage industry” it’s brilliant to see some newcomers making fantastic liquid. Enter Kilchoman who only established in 2005. To put that into context, many of the other distilleries on Islay have whiskies that have been ageing for longer than Kilchoman has existed.

Their Machir Bay expression has all of the complexity and poise of its more established peers, boasting a centre of honey and vanilla with an ample serving of peat smoke on the side. No major tannins here but the combination of flavours leaves us thinking, unmistakably of pear-drops. Yum.


Our last two choices will consist of something really expensive for those of you with particularly deep pockets and something that’s not a whisky but will suit drinkers of this category.

Bruichladdich Octomore

How much is it?

From £100

What’s it like?

Conceived from the sole ambition of making the smokiest whisky available, Bruichladdich’s Octomore is a bit of a loose cannon. Some of these boast PPM (phenolic parts-per-million, a numerical rating of something’s smokiness) which are many times higher than what you find in most expressions of other distilleries, even those known for producing particularly peaty whiskies.

The exact flavour profile of Octomore varies from release to release so we’re going to leave you with the fact that its smoky. Really smoky. Oh, and delicious.


Ilegal Mescal Anejo

How much is it?

Approx £65

What’s it like?

The last entry into our peated whisky list isn’t a whisky, it’s more like Tequila. Mescal is Tequila’s grumpier, less established brother and whilst it’s still made from agave (a succulent, a bit like aloe vera) the different production methods mean that it’s got big smoky characteristics which rival even the most aggressive Islay malt.

The centre will be slightly more vegetal and grassy, and the fruits you’ll find tucked away inside are more likely to be tropical than scotch whisky’s love of trail mix and fruitcake flavours but it’s a wonderful spirit all of its own and deserves its place on this list.


Next up is a section on Irish whisky. Irish whiskies tend to be lighter than their Scottish or American counterparts due to slightly different production techniques. Irish whisky might not be quite the same global behemoth that Scotch is, but despite what the Scottish will tell you, it’s where it all started so it’s more than deserving of its place.

Be aware that this little section will have the broadest range of styles since we’re trying to cram a whole nation’s worth of whisky making into four or five choices which isn’t easy. All we’ll say is that be careful before you buy a bottle of Connemara for your pet Jameson drinker.

If your whisky drinker enjoys one of the following, our suggestions might be just right for them.

  • Jameson

  • Powers

  • Bushmills


For your irish whisky drinker, might we suggest a drop of one of the following:

Connemara

How much is it?

Approx £40

What’s it like?

As the only mainstream peated Irish whisky, Connemara seems like the perfect drop to help us transition between Scotch and Ireland’s lighter style of dram.

Like some of the lighter expressions we’ve spoken about above, Connemara has only a gentle influence of wood, most of the complexity and flavour is driven by a delicately sweet malt and powerful overarching tones of smoke. Whilst it might be a bit too much for the average Jameson drinker, someone who feels at home with Islay whiskies would do well to look here.


Green Spot

How much is it?

Approx £35

What’s it like?

If you’re not one for smoky drinks then you’ll find yourself back on solid ground with Green Spot. This wonderfully weighty whisky has a sense of fullness which is really satisfying and helps to make the most out of the creamy, honeyed centre. Delicate menthol notes help to give it structure and keep the flavours focused, with plenty of tropical fruit to keep you coming back again and again.


Redbreast 12

How much is it?

Approx £45

What’s it like?

Thought by many to be the pinnacle of Irish whisky production, Redbreast 12 is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. With the exception of smoke, this whisky offers a little something for everyone. Tonnes of complexity is immediately obvious in diverse spice notes and supported by a rich, oily texture.

It’s simply a beautifully rounded whisky and we can’t recommend it highly enough.


Now for something a little bit expensive and something a little bit different.

Middleton Very Rare

How much is it?

Approx £150

What’s it like?

Middleton’s 2017 VR comes in an awesome new box and style of bottle, but the flashy presentation shouldn’t dissuade you of the whisky’s accessibility. This hits all of the bases covered already by Redbreast 12, in that it has plenty of spice, mouthfeel and wonderful complexity but because it contains whiskies aged up to 32 years old it has a certain poise and delicacy about it which you simply cannot find in younger expressions.

Old whisky is a quite unique thing to drink and you really couldn’t start anywhere better with it than here.


Don Julio Reposado

How much is it?

Approx £45

What’s it like?

Once again, the whisky that’s not a whisky turns out to be a Tequila. Don Julio Reposado is aged for just over a year, and we think it might be one of the most robust, versatile aged Tequilas available. Incredibly soft, with subtle white pepper notes, it’s quality is undeniable. Whisky drinkers might find this is a little vanilla and biscuit led than they are used to, instead choosing to focus on fresh vegetables and tropical fruits.

An awesome drop, different enough to challenge the most educated of whisky drinker but familiar enough to be most welcoming.


We know that the sheer variety of whiskies available can be intimidating, doubly so if you aren’t a whisky drinker yourself so we hope that this article has helped clear away some of the mystery surrounding them. We’d love to write more of these guides in future but if you have a specific request then let us know and we’ll get right on it!

We’d love to know what you think of our whisky buyer’s guide, you can let us know across social media platforms using @copperpotbar. If you bought a gift using our guide and the recipient loved it, we want to hear about it too!!

As much as we love writing, our calling is in events and consultancy, so if you know a drinks business or bar that needs a new menu, an event putting on or managing send them our way. Even better if you’ve got a party coming up and you want to really pull out all the stops we’re here to help. You can enquire through the website or contact Sam directly on Sam@copperpotbar.com.

Stay safe, be lucky.

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