What Contributes to a Smoky Flavor?
I'm a new Scotch lover--I only have about a year or so experience. Bottles I've owned are JW Black Label, Glenfiddich 12, Bunnahabhain 12, Balvenie 12, Laphroaig 10, Bruichladdich Laddie 10 and Highland Park 12. I've tried many others out at bars and restaurants.
On my very limited journey, I've come to very much appreciate Scotch whiskies with a smoky character. My favorite examples are probably the HP 12 and the Laddie Ten, though in my opinion both have a different type of smokiness. The Laddie has a (slightly) peaty smokiness, but the HP is more reminiscent of, say, a steak off the grill. I'm fine with a touch of peat, as in the Laddie, but Laphroaig is peatier than I care for.
So what contributes to the smokiness of a Scotch whisky? Is it always related to peat content? Or can it be caused by the charring of the casks? How can I direct my Scotch search toward mildly peated smoky whiskies or, if possible, whiskies that are smoky without a very forward peat expression (if any at all) a la Highland Park?
Apologies if this has been well-covered before, but I tried a number of different search terms and didn't quite find the answers I'm looking for.
Thanks in advance!