WELCOME to the darker side of whisky” is the strapline on Peatreekers’ web site. It’s a reference to the illicit Scottish whisky distillers that inspired the branding for this Islay blended malt whisky, which was launched in 2017 by serial entrepreneur Calum Leslie.

“We wanted to tell the story of whisky from a different angle,” says Mr Leslie, a 28-year-old law graduate who was previously involved in tech start-ups ReQwip and Wooju.

Peatreekers is on the dark side in another way too. In the tsunami of new craft distilleries, special bottlings and supplementary expressions that has hit the Scotch whisky industry in recent years, single malts, not blends, have crested the wave. Mr Leslie concedes that this can make his job as a salesman for the brand harder. But that fits with the company’s ethos of walking a different path – just like the real 18th century peatreekers who defied royal decree to produce illegal whisky – and it’s a job of work he considers worth doing.

“Blended malt sits in a real niche,” he says. “It can be an improved version of single malt.”

Fighting talk that Peatreekers backs up with educational initiatives such as blend roulette, where quaffers are poured three award-winning single malts and a dram of Peatreekers, which they rank. Very often the rebel blend does none too shabbily. The advance of blended malts chimes with industry-wide developments.

“The industry has come full circle,” says Mr Leslie. “A lot of distilleries are bringing out non-age statement whiskies. It’s about flavour profile.”

His hope is that the flavour profile of Peatreekers, which was achieved through long nights with cask samples from brokers and working with a blender, will appeal to a younger generation of whisky drinkers.

“Young fathers who don’t get out as much as they used to typically find themselves getting into whisky,” says Mr Leslie. “And because the sweetness comes through, a lot of women who try the whisky at our stalls find it very drinkable.”

Peatreekers’ marketing methods also speak of a younger target market, with the emphasis on social media and connecting with the end customer. That being the case, the company prefers to sell through independent outlets, with the emphasis on off-trade rather than on-trade.

It currently works with about 100 independents, as well as six wholesalers, and counts Harvey Nichols among its clients. Most of its business is in the UK, but it is expanding into Norway, Finland and Croatia. With Scotch whisky being primarily an export product, Mr Leslie has further overseas expansion in his sights, including the US.

Having launched 18 months ago with a single investor, Robin Knox, Mr Leslie is seeking further investment - and expertise - to take Peatreekers to the next stage. Participation in the RBS Accelerator scheme is also helping grow the business, he says.

“Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely and challenging, so having access to a group of people that are in a similar position allows you to ask advice and benefit from the experience of others. It’s a great environment to build a company in.”

Peatreekers is currently a two-man band, with Mr Leslie’s colleague, Pramay Rai, handling operations, while Mr Leslie concentrates on sales. With new investment in place there will be further hires, as well as further releases, which could take Peatreekers in a new direction.

“The next release might not be peaty,” says Mr Leslie.