There are many common misconceptions about the peatiness of whisky, chief of which is the notion that the peat flavours come from the peat in the dark waters which we draw from the hills above the distillery and use to create our spirit.
This isn’t true. If you taste peaty water you’ll find it tastes slightly minerally, but certainly not smokey. The peatiness is in the barley itself.
To prepare barley for distillation it must first be malted. Anyone who has ever sprouted seeds at home will be familiar with the process. Steep the grain in water, allow it to germinate, generating the sugars that are so important for fermentation. After drying, the barley is known as malt and has that characteristic rich breakfast cereal/ Horlicks flavour.