Wes, can you help me determine the difference between tasting smoke and tasting peat in a Scotch?
Good question! Really, it’s a bit of a tough one, because when you are speaking of smoke and peat, you are talking about very related things. And definitely for myself, when I taste Lagavulin, or Talisker, I get more wood smoke, compared to Laphroaig and Ardbeg - all peat. But here is the dilemma, the “smokiness,” and the “peatiness,” comes from the same source: burning peat. So I would break down peated whiskies into these three categories: Smokey: like Talisker. Medicinal: Like Ardbeg. And Ash: like Smokehead. Though I would also say there is plenty of smoke in Ardbeg. Think of peat smokiness as what it is, more vegetal and phenolic, where a woody smokiness is closer to smoked meat. Why peat can actually give two distinct flavor compounds is so is a whole other discussion - I mean Talisker is a fairly heavily peated whisky at about 25ppm. Hope that helps - Cheers!
I've got a bottle of 'Old Pulteney'single malt whiskey. I had a measure straight and just found it to be foul. Anything I can do to maybe enjoy it more? Let it breath? add ice?
Old Pulteney is a great one to start with. Letting it breath and open up will do wonders, but by the sound of it, you may need to do something more. If you are unaccustomed to single malts or “neat” drinking I would suggest ice or water to round out the “seemingly” harsher edges. Generally I simply tell people to stick with it, take it slow, and acquire the taste - by the end of your first bottle you will be well on your way. If all else fails… add ginger ale.