Whisky Magazine Issue 106
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Joel Harrison takes a pilgrimage to the isle of peat and wonder
From the moment I was handed my first glass of smoky whisky, its pungent and aromatic aroma rising from the glass, hitting my nostrils with a kaleidoscope of aromas, I knew I simply had to discover more about the origins of this liquid, the roots of this hooch, the lineage of this liquor if you will.
Let's face it: smoky whisky is the Marmite of the Scotch world. You either love it or you hate it. For those of us that love it, it can become something of an obsession.
I grew up in the English countryside but would holiday once a year in Norway, visiting my mother's side of the family. One place we would regularly visit was a small island called, Fedje. Home to a sardine tinning factory, the island was also a substantial supplier of peat to pre-oil rich Norway and this aroma had been a key part of my upbringing. As a result, nosing a peated malt for the first time whisked me right back to summer holiday island life, in the misty Norwegian rain. I simply had to visit where this stuff was made.
As a tourist wanting to discover peated whisky, you are faced with a few options. For the less aggressive, more subtle peat tones one can head to the extreme north of Scotland, to Orkney and to Highland Park distillery. From London, two flights will get you there with Highland Park just a short jaunt from Kirkwall Airport.
Or you could choose to visit Talisker on the Isle of Skye. Ideal for those of you not keen on tiny aeroplanes operated by someone with name more akin to brand ambass...