For Peat's Sake

Braving the most intriguing flavour of them all
By Charles Montanaro
My greatest joy when working behind the bar is to enchant guests with drinks they would have never thought able to appreciate. When it comes to mixing whisky, there is nothing more testing than bold, strong polarising flavours such as a good peated whisky.

Making mixed drinks with them is particularly difficult and this drove me to launch myself in a personal challenge, creating three drinks based on the boldest drams at my disposal. The first product I trialled was Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney. I remember receiving this bottle two years ago and finding myself having a difficult time working with the liquid in cocktails or even appreciating it on its own. Things had changed.

After my first sip, I discovered a pleasant elegant smoke with a touch of sweetness and brine - the palate was completely different from my recollection: delicate tropical fruits, papaya, mango with a hint of pine resin before a strong peat built to dominate the finish.

This immediately brought an idea to mind. Instead of catering to the peat, work with the lighter notes to accentuate them and match the intensity of the peat.

I began by combining a generous measure of Wemyss Peat Chimney to maple syrup for added vanilla and wood overtones, a couple of dashes of barrel aged bitters accentuating the depth with its strong cardamom, cinnamon and bitterness.

Finally, I finished the drink with fresh pressed mango juice and an orange peel, offering sweetness, depth and perfect pairing with the array of tropical flavours, The Re-Treacle.

The second challenge was bolder. I grabbed the bull by the horns with Octomore 7.1, the peatiest commercially available dram at 208ppm phenol. This powerhouse of peat was close to unbreakable.

It took me several tries to overcome the strength of the peat, yet, its aroma with notes of mint, toffee, pipe tobacco followed by smooth velvety sweetness infused with vanilla and honey inspired me to brave this overwhelming peat to bring out its youth and fruitiness.

Looking back at the Prohibition, turpentine filled alcohol was combined with other ingredients in order to make it palatable. Using a similar train of thought regarding peat, I was inspired by an all-time classic, the Mojito.

I began pouring a measure of Octomore 7.1, followed by freshly pressed Granny Smith and lemon juice. I then added a measure of pear liqueur and a handful of fresh mint with a dash of ginger ale, the sweet ginger depth completing the complex fruitiness and elevating the vanilla notes of the dram and creating an intriguing youthful, fruity and smoky cocktail, the Octojito. Finally, the one peated whisky with world recognition, Ardbeg 10 Years Old. Even though the distillery has only been re-opened for the past 27 years, the following behind the distillery and its products is astounding, to the point of a cult.

This final drinks challenge was special to me as Ardbeg 10 Years Old was the peated whisky which kindled my love for peat. From its strikingly identifiable peat, the nose strong with citrus, salinity and a touch of vanilla followed by a complex palate with surging Ardbeg smoke, lime, lemon, sea salted caramel and beach bonfire smoke. I combined the Ardbeg with a sweet Italian heavy vermouth and a French semi-dry vermouth both offering herbal flavours, a bouquet of red berries and slight bitterness. The final additions of a dash of maraschino for its nutty notes, lemon juice to balance out the drink and a couple of drops of orange bitters offer complexity and spice. This intriguingly balanced tipple is a twist on one of my favorite drinks, I call it the Smoke Formula.

The cocktails

The Re-Treacle

Rocks glass.


  • 40ml Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney

  • 5ml maple syrup

  • 2 dashes Fee Brother Whisky Barrel Aged Bitters

  • 15ml mango juice

Combine all ingredients except for the mango juice in a glass. Stir with fresh ice until chilled and diluted, strain into a rocks filled with cubed ice. Slowly pour the mango juice, give a quick stir and garnish.

Discarded orange peel and mango.




  • 30ml Octomore 7.1 (Bruichladdich)

  • 30ml cold pressed Granny Smith juice

  • 15ml Zuidam pear liqueur

  • 15ml lemon juice

  • 4-5 mint leaves

  • 5ml sugar syrup (2 parts sugar 1 part water)

  • Top ginger ale

In a shaker, combine all the ingredients except for the soda water. Shake and strain over cubed ice in a hiball. Top with ginger ale and garnish with a mint sprig and an apple fan.

Mint sprig and a few apple slices.

Smoke Formula



  • 20ml Ardbeg 10 Years Old

  • 25ml Antica Formula

  • 25ml Lillet Blanc

  • 2ml Maraschino liqueur

  • 2 drops lemon juice

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a glass, add ice and stir until chilled and diluted. Do not overstir, this is a delicate drink. Strain into a coupette and garnish with an orange peel expressed in the glass.

Orange peel.