Originally Posted by poena
Well I have Lagavulin 16 at home and Bunnahaibhain 12 at home also and enjoy both. The Laphroig just had a slightly different flavor. Hard to pinpoint.
I'm still new to drinking scotch so pardon my questions!
Making beer and making malt whisky share a common beginning--malted barley. To make Scotch barley must be "malted"--this entails moistening the barley so that it begins to sprout. There is an enzymatic process that is initiated by the sprouting that converts the starch in the barley to maltose. The sprouting process must be stopped before it goes too far, however and this means roasting and drying the malted barley over the malting floor and/or in peat fired kilns. That's a simplified version and the details maybe slightly different depending on the distillery and the fashions of the day.
Most of the distilleries in the islands dry their barley over peat fires. Some in the Highlands still do this, also and most in the Speyside and the Lowlands dry their barley over coke. (anthracite coal)
Every place, every island, has a little different vegetation. But while the peat in Scotland is mainly spagnum moss, there's woody materials such as heather in some locales, not so much in others. So the peat in these places differs and the flavours the smoke from the peat imparts is different...unique, actually. But peat is the traditional fuel and the standard by which all single malt Scotch is measured simply because Scotch is commonly regarded as having a smokey character...even if it doesn't have any.
Island malts can have as much as fifteen times the amount of peat reek (as expressed in parts per million of phenols) as Speyside or Lowland malts. Island malts also have the salt spray which permeates the peat and perhaps a bit of kelp worked in there as well. So you may get iodine and other medicinal flavours.
Ardbeg and Laphroig, in that order, are generally regarded the most heavily peated malts.
No pardon necessary...
--Edited by DWFII - 1/14/13 at 1:45pm