The monsoon is well and truly here and after you have enjoyed the petrichor and/or navigated flooded streets, you'd probably prefer to curl up indoors. Of course, a wood-burning fireplace would be nice, but a warming dram of smoky whisky comes a close second. “A lot of people confuse peat and smoke and think they are interchangeable. But all smoky whiskies are not necessarily because of peat," says Swati Sharma, co-founder of The Dram Club. So what exactly is peat? Peat is partially decomposed organic matter and is a precursor to coal. “It is like a fuel that is used during the malting or drying of barley before it gets into fermentation, and that's where smokiness of whisky comes from," explains Sharma. Scotland is blessed with an abundance of peat and Islay has a lot more peat compared to other regions, so some of the best-peated whiskies come from here. The Scottish Highlands also have peat but it's very different from Islay peat and imparts a slightly sweeter flavour to the whiskies. Some unpeated whiskies can also be smoky because they have been aged in peated casks.
Sharma picks five whiskies—four from different parts of Scotland and one made in India—for a rainy evening at home.
Paul John Peated Select Cask
Paul John's multiple award-winning Peated Select Cask whisky is a treat for the peat aficionado. They use the Islay peat to create a beautifully well-balanced whisky with smoky earthy fragrances, delicious chocolate notes, and the tartness of marmalade. “I wouldn't recommend it for people with a milder palate or those who don't have an affinity to high smoke or peat, but it's perfect for people who like strong peat," says Sharma.
Recipe: Classic Old Fashioned
While these whiskies are great on their own, if you are keen on a cocktail, a good old fashioned is the best way to enjoy them. “Because these whiskies have so much spice and smoke going on, a simple old fashioned with ginger syrup or cinnamon will do really well for the monsoon," says Sharma. She shares her cocktail recipe, which can be tried with any smoky whisky.
- In an old fashioned glass, add 15ml of honey and some cinnamon powder.
- Add 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters and a few drops of water and stir.
- Fill the glass with ice and pour 45ml of the whisky and stir.
- Garnish with fresh orange peel and a cinnamon stick
- To add more smokiness (optional), pour 10ml of whisky on the top.
If you're looking to pair your whisky with food, Sharma suggests trying smoked salmon. “Also, Indians love peated whiskies because they go very well with Indian food. Peat requires a little bit of fat layering to balance it well, so tandoori foods like chicken malai kebabs or seekh kebabs that are not very spicy pair very well with it," she adds.
All whiskies are available in India, though Paul John Peated Select Cask is only available in Goa at present
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