Peat was the primary domestic fuel in Scotland for a long time due to it’s ready availability in many parts of the country. ©2020 Group Nine Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Barleycorns are steeped in water and allowed to germinate before the process is halted in the kiln. Perhaps it is fair to say, then, that peat is so much more than a stylistic trait or a differentiating factor which tempts whisky drinkers to test their mettle. You can overlook that the barley may have ripened in an English field and forget that Spanish coopers built the cask from European oak; it’s peat that gives whisky its local accent. Unmalted barley can also be used in whiskey production, but that grain will not be used in a single malt whiskey. Peat is most commonly found in the Scottish single malt scotch category, although you can detect it in whiskey from Japan, Ireland, and even here … We use cookies – want to read the policy. As the author and Master of the Quaich Charles MacLean notes in MacLean’s Miscellany of Whisky: “Perhaps the big Islays, the smokiest of all malt whiskies, recollect the whiskies of the past. 2 : partially carbonized vegetable tissue formed by partial decomposition in water of various plants (such as mosses of the genus Sphagnum) Peated whiskies have the smell and flavor of peat smoke. One of three releases in The Balvenie Stories range, this is a peaty 14 year old single malt Scotch whisky, inspired by distillery manager Ian Millar installing a peat burner at Balvenie. And yet due to a lack of alternative fuel sources, whiskies using entirely peated barley were once the mainstay of the industry. For a long time this was the most readily accessible fuel in many areas of Scotland. It shut down in 1983, during a fallow time for… It is much more than a simple addition of ‘smoky’ flavours which overwhelm all the many others. Peated whisky is given a smoky flavour by compounds which are released by the peat fires used to dry malted barley. Phenol levels are often used to compare scotches. These five peated whiskies give a great sense of what’s on offer. The Length and intensity of exposure to the peat smoke dictates the strength of this flavour as do the characteristics of the peat itself. It’s usually found … Peated whiskies are generally compared using a measure of phenol parts per million (PPM). Peat is a compacted mix of dense, decomposed vegetation, earth, and water that historically has been used for fuel, especially in places that didn’t have as many trees. given a smoky flavour by compounds which are released by the peat fires used to dry malted barley. The effects of peat tend to diminish with age, meaning the Lagavulin 8 Year Old can tend to be a little stronger on the peat, despite using the same 35 PPM malt as Lagavulin’s 16 Year Old, a whisky which has gone on to become one of the world’s best loved Islay whiskies and a staple on many whisky drinkers’ shelves. Initially out of necessity, Islay to the west, Orkney to the north and several mainland distilleries held on to tradition. Peat is a mossy accumulation of compressed decaying plant material, and peaty is a word used to describe the wide range of flavors its combustion provides depending on how and where it’s harvested. It was a name given to a person who was referred to as Peat. Peat itself can hold water, which in turn leads to expansion as further plant matter continues to decay. For example, Springbank has a PPM of around 7 to 8 (lightly smoky), while Talisker hovers between 25 and 30 (fairly smoky), and Ardbeg is all the way up at 55 (seriously smoky). Peat can be found all over the world, not just Islay or even Scotland. such vegetable matter used as fertilizer or fuel. peat meaning: 1. a dark brown substance like soil that was formed by plants dying and becoming buried. Malting makes the starches within barleycorns soluble so that the sugars may be converted into alcohol. Scotch single malt whisky can be classified into two main flavours: peated (smoky) and unpeated (non-smoky). The qualities of peated whisky divide consumer opinion. But what exactly is peat, and why does it matter? Actually no. The full process takes hundreds of millions of years, with peat appearing after thousands. Although now mainly reserved for the whisky industry, some Scottish households still exercise their right to cut peat to burn as a domestic fuel. As a result, different peat will impart different flavours, and different distilleries will use peat for different length of time when drying their malt. (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Others followed, but not all of them. PPM, or phenol parts per million, will convey the peatiness of a whisky. And those which still have their own maltings such as Laphroaig on Islay, Highland Park in Orkney and even Balvenie in Speyside go one step further by peating relatively small quantities of barley for their own use. Very few of the other single malts produced in the world use peat, opting for kiln-dried or roasted malt instead. Peat bog is burned under the soon-to-be malted barley to stop the germination, thus drying the grain. This has always been the case. This maintains a traditional and now largely unique style of whisky with lots of variation and flavour. Peat is the most Scottish thing about scotch. Learn more. The other .1% are single malt whiskies from Ireland, the US, India, and elsewhere. Peat is responsible for scotch’s distinct smoky flavor, that palate-tingling fire that drives whisky fanatics to spend ridiculous amounts of money on booze. The accumulation of water in boggy areas slows down the decomposition of plant material such as moss, grass and tree roots which leads to the creation of peat. The surname Peat was originally derived from the Old English word which meant a spoiled or pampered child. Peat is responsible for scotch’s distinct smoky flavor, that palate-tingling fire that drives whisky fanatics to spend ridiculous amounts of money on booze. India, Japan and New Zealand all boast peated whiskies of their own so the peat party is certainly not just for the Scots. These distillers continued to use varying proportions of peat during the kilning process. That was, until the introduction of coal and, by continuation, coke. Phenol is a chemical that is produced when peat is burned and during the drying process described above, the malted barley soaks in the phenol which flavours the grain. The only difference is that the malt used has been peat-smoked. Through this production process to make the spirit, the PPM levels drop to around 1/3rd of the original level in the peat smoked malt. The whisky drinker eventually makes his or her way to peated whisky, or so it it said. And it fired not only hearths but distillery kilns as well. The use of dried peat as a fuel in Scotland dates back to medieval times when the Little Ice Age left few trees in Scottish Highlands. Ardbeg 10 Years Old ($60) Buy on Drizly Buy on Flaviar Buy on Caskers. Coke burns more evenly, more consistently and with less smoke than peat, and so these regions were the first to realise the potential of un-peated whisky. Auchentoshan 18 Year Old ($150): This Lowland distillery is an oddball in Scotland, because it triple … Moved from the kiln, the peat smoked malt endures the same mashing, fermentation and distillation process as any other non peat-smoked whisky. The ancient history of the name Peat dates back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. Balvenie Peat Week 14. Now that you know what peat is, it’s time to taste its delicious effects for yourself in one of these fantastic, smoky scotch cocktails. Part of the reason is that the peat destined for whiskey needs to be of a certain quality. Peat accumulates extremely slowly and bogs are often thousands of years old leading to peat being broadly classified as a fossil fuel. Before it can become malted barley (or any malted grain), it must germinate and then peat comes into the picture. The simple answer to this question is that peat gives the whisky a specific smell and flavour when it’s used to heat the kiln during the distillation process. But why should this be? Understanding a scotch’s PPM (Phenol Parts per Million) can help set your expectations for how much smoke you’re going to get before even popping the bottle. 99.9% of peated whiskies are Scotch. An atavistic folk memory, like candles and open fires, Christmas trees and stormy nights.”. Peat gives scotch that signature smoky profile. Starting out with the obvious, Ardbeg’s whiskies are some of the most famous smoky drams in the world, and are a great… The Whisky Peat Scale The affect of peat (ie the peatiness or smokiness) on whisky is expressed as phenol parts per million (PPM). But how did this style of whisky come into being and why has it now so popular? Exploring those lighter, un-peated expressions which are common to the mainland generally comes first. But of course, there’s a little more to the process than just that! Typical flavours include tar, ash, iodine and smoke. What this means is that while there is an element of smoke inherent in this whiskey, the smoke plays more of a supporting role than being front and center on the palate. Today, distilleries largely rely on commercially malted barley. (Distillery: Balvenie, Region: Speyside, abv: 46%) Balvenie is better known … This was especially true of the remote Highland and island distillers. Peat (/ p iː t /), sometimes known as turf (/ t ɜːr f /), is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter.It is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, mires, moors, or muskegs. In days gone by, however, they necessarily had to malt their own. World Whisky Day is a registered trademark. Peat has got The Whisky Virgin all fired up this week as he endeavours to understand where this magical substance comes from, and how it conjures myriad flavours in whisky. The Ardbeg distillery is well … And perhaps one of the reasons for their current popularity is their ‘authenticity’, their ‘heritage’. There are many peated whiskies on offer out there and most bartenders or shops will be able to recommend drams that range across the PPM scale. The development of rail transport in Scotland led to the wide availability of coke. Peat was and still is a defining aspect of Scotch whisky, and we should approach it with reverence and an open mind from the start of our explorations. This refers to the quantity of phenols in the malt itself rather than the contents of the finished whisky. Under the correct conditions, peat is the first step in coalification – the conversion of plant matter into coal. Some lighter whiskies might measure up to 20ppm. To a point, this smoke has a considerable influence on malt during kilning, imbuing it with compounds called ‘phenols‘. Part of the process of distilling whisky involves malting barley. In a very literal sense, peat is terroir (take that, wine!). The rating is a blunt tool though and whiskies of similar ppm can still taste very different. Let us begin with the peat. In other words, malting tricks barleycorns into thinking spring has come. Islay, a region of Scotland renowned for big, peaty whiskies, averages about 30 ppm while Connemara comes in at a milder 13 to 14 ppm. Peat cut by hand on Islay. What's the connection between whisky and sherry? The Islay region is particularly known for highly-peated scotch, with distilleries like Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavulin delivering the unbridled flavor of the small Scottish island to drinkers all over the world. Good Caol Ilas and good Laphroaigs achieve this balance nicely: bitter peat and sweet malt in a happy marriage. When peat is burned to heat the kiln, it also produces an especially aromatic smoke. Bruichladdich have been very active at the other end of the scale with their Octomore whiskies ranging from 167ppm to over 300ppm in one case. Peat is whisky terroir. How One Craft Distiller Is Making Single Malt With American Peat It is…. But what does peat taste like and how does it make its way into your glass of whisky? noun a highly organic material found in marshy or damp regions, composed of partially decayed vegetable matter: it is cut and dried for use as fuel. Eight distilleries to visit before you die (2019). The Lowlands and Speyside were the first to convert. Port Ellen is perhaps the most legendary “ghost distillery” in Scotland. Peat is used in whiskey making during the drying process and to stop the germination of the grain, also called malting. In a good whisky, the bitterness of the peat on the finish is offset by the sweetness of the malt, or the sweetness contributed by the oak, and so balance is maintained. 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