Islay whiskies get their signature flavour from smoking peat — the same vegetation that Scots have long been burning to heat their homes — in order to dry the malted barley used to create whisky. Ice numbs the tongue and melts too fast. But the odds of the latter happening are incredibly slim. Speaking of bars, there is a certain protocol to ordering malt in Scotland. The results are polarising; some purists believe the peat takes away from the true flavour of the whisky, others become addicted, perpetually searching for something peatier. The island is rugged and tempestuous; winds gusting straight from the sea are powerful and unrelenting. Wine drinkers like to talk about terroir: the environmental condition, geology and geography that give a wine and the grapes that make it its unique flavour. For me, distilleries are near magical places, where alchemy meets science to create something far greater than the sum of its parts.
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