Wednesday, 12 July 2017



Distillers can specify the degree of peating that they want in their malt. This is measured in parts per million (ppm) phenols. A measurement of one ppm means that there is one milligram of phenol per kilogram of malt. Generally speaking, concentrations of less than five ppm are virtually undetectable for most drinkers. Lightly peated malt measures two to ten ppm, medium peated malt will range around 15 ppm, while heavily peated malt will range between 25 and 35 ppm. The measurement is taken of the maltings, before it is mashed, not of the resulting whisky. 

Over the last several decades there have been two contrary trends in the use of peat. Overall, the level of peatiness in Scotch whisky has decreased, but at the same time the level of peatiness in some heavily peated whiskies has increased dramatically as distillers have competed to produce ever more powerful so called “peat monsters.” In the process they have created a new category of “super-heavy peated” whiskies.

Who is king? Bruichladdich Octomore. Octomore, a whisky produced by Bruichladdich, has the distinction of being the world’s most heavily peated whisky. The initial release, made available as a 5 YO in 2008, was peated at 131 ppm, and subsequent releases have been increased to even higher levels, topping out at 258 ppm for the 6.3 Edition, released as a 5 YO in 2014. The 5.1 boasts 169 ppm; the 6.2 is peated at 167 ppm. In addition to smoke, the 5.1  packs an alcoholic punch too, bottled at 59.5% and in one of the sexiest bottles ever seen, an all black matte finish. The 7.1 and 7.2 hit a motherless 208 ppm. The Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky is the smokiest whisky in the world, though peated at 167 ppm and does not taste like the inside of an ashtray.
Phenol levels are measured after the malt has been dried in the kiln. Typically, about one-third of the phenol concentration is lost in the distillation process.

Bruichladdich is itself an Islay, which is home to some of the peatiest scotch in all the land, but it’s regular lineup is unpeated. It’s only the Port Charlotte and Octomore line that gets the peat. Port Charlotte is “heavily peated” to 40 ppm, which puts it on par with some of their peaty island-mates. Ardbeg’s expressions are peated to 55 ppm with two exceptions, Blasda at 8 and Supernova at 100. Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach is heavy at 35 while Toiteach is a smoked peated whisky at 30. Cruach Mhòna is mild at 20.

Talisker is 25-30 & Ardmore 15, Bowmore at 20-25, while Caol Ila is 35 ppm. Benromach Peat Smoke has been peated to 67ppm but with the milder Speyside peat! Old Ballantruan is at 30, while Tomintoul Peated is at 28. Hoghland Park is the only peated whisky from Orkney, a throat parching yet pleasing addition to the expression at 20 ppm.


(1ppm – 2ppm)

(3ppm – 4ppm)

(7ppm – 8ppm)

Benromach Peated       (67 ppm)

(10ppm - 15ppm)

Highland Park

(20ppm – 25ppm)

(25ppm – 30ppm)

Caol Ila
(30ppm – 35ppm)


(35ppm – 40ppm)

Port Charlotte

(40ppm – 43ppm)



Ardbeg Supernova

Octomore 5.1 Edition

Octomore 6.3 Edition