Bruce, to quote Guns n Roses "Are you trying to antagonise me?"
Seriously though, this is an extremely interesting subject for me. Whilst researching my book, which does have a few glaring mistakes (heck all books do), I tried to get peating levels out of distillers, but was told, for the most part 'we use a lightly peated Highland Malt' or words to that effect.
Although I cannot substantiate anything with real hard evidence, I would say that most (90% or more) of the malt whiskies made today are unpeated. There are those that claim to be 100% unpeated like Glengoyne (although notice they havec now changed their marketing slant) and Hazelburn - but due to the fact that most tasters detect a degree of smokiness in these whiskies leads me to believe that smokiness, or eathiness (or any other flavour linked to Phenols) is not 100% derived from the kilning process.
Actually, it really annoys me when I hear people criticising others for detecting such a flavour saying things like 'oh no, there is no smokiness in our whisky - we use unpeated barley for a smoother flavour' - what utter nonsense.
As for Islay peat being made with the 'real hard stuff' and Speysiders using essence, I would bet a fair whack of money that at least one Islay distillery* does not use 100% peat to obtain its smokiness. Remember that not all of the Islay malt comes from Port Ellen Maltings, and very little malt is actually prepared 'traditionally'.
I think this is an area for Whisky Mag to step in and commission a really in-depth look at maltings - not some wishy-washy look at how it is done 'traditionally' by the likes of Springbank (after all you can visit them and see exactly how it is done, no skeletons in the cupboard of that place - a few cobwebs perhaps), but a really good explanation of how Drum and Saladin maltings work, and how much peat 'essence', peat and other materials are used in the process.
Gosh, that's a lot of writing for this time of the morning!
* one distillery actually boasted of their 'revolutionary use of peat'