What is it about their making process that makes them have a smoky taste
Predominantly the incorporation of peat (and/or coal at some sites) during the malting process (when the partially germinated barley is being dried by warm air circulation). Another (albeit it much
less significant) factor could be the supply/reduction water if it is sourced from streams that course through peatlands.Is the amount of years the whiskey has been barreled up (12,18 and so on) really an indication to its rate and taste?
Greater age can certainly affect the taste, imbuing the whisky with more pronounced oak nuances (though this factor is highly dependent on the type of casks utilized - are they 1st-fill, 2nd-fill, etc?). That said, there is (despite the fact that producers will generally be quite careful in selecting casks of whisky for their older, more expensive bottlings) not necessarily
any correlation between greater age and better quality. Whiskies of any age can be poor or stupendous. You're the final judge of that, of course!Any recommendations on good books on single malt whisky from Scotland would be great!
There are numerous well-written, informative books out there. Lately, I've been reading the following a fair amount:
Charles MacLean: Whiskypedia (good distillery information)
Charles MacLean: World Whiskey (covers many whiskies from around the globe)
Ian Buxton: 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die (an entertaining read)
Dave Broom: The World Atlas Of Whisky (quite comprehensive within its scope, and with valuable tasting notes on new-makes - i.e. whiskies straight from the stills)
You'd also likely want to have this one on hand, as it's a classic:
Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion (6th Edition) provides numerous tasting notes that will, in many cases, make your mouth water.