The whisky drinker eventually makes his or her way to peated whisky, or so it it said. 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. Part of the reason is that the peat destined for whiskey needs to be of a certain quality. The Lowlands and Speyside were the first to convert. 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. It shut down in 1983, during a fallow time for… The rating is a blunt tool though and whiskies of similar ppm can still taste very different. Place of origin matters here because Islay Scotches are believed to be from the birthplace of whisky in Scotland (brought, of course, by some kindly and proselytizing monks). Scotch single malt whisky can be classified into two main flavours: peated (smoky) and unpeated (non-smoky). PPM, or phenol parts per million, will convey the peatiness of a whisky. 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. 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. 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 is responsible for scotch’s distinct smoky flavor, that palate-tingling fire that drives whisky fanatics to spend ridiculous amounts of money on booze. 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). But what exactly is peat, and why does it matter? Before it can become malted barley (or any malted grain), it must germinate and then peat comes into the picture. Auchentoshan 18 Year Old ($150): This Lowland distillery is an oddball in Scotland, because it triple … It was a name given to a person who was referred to as Peat. 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. Peated whiskies have the smell and flavor of peat smoke. 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. 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. In the early days of whisky production, peat was one of the most readily accessible fuels in many areas of Scotland. 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. 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 … 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. But how did this style of whisky come into being and why has it now so popular? Port Ellen is perhaps the most legendary “ghost distillery” in Scotland. 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. 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. (Distillery: Balvenie, Region: Speyside, abv: 46%) Balvenie is better known … But why should this be? Today, distilleries largely rely on commercially malted barley. Moved from the kiln, the peat smoked malt endures the same mashing, fermentation and distillation process as any other non peat-smoked whisky. And perhaps one of the reasons for their current popularity is their ‘authenticity’, their ‘heritage’. Peat gives scotch that signature smoky profile. Peat was the primary domestic fuel in Scotland for a long time due to it’s ready availability in many parts of the country. Actually no. Eight distilleries to visit before you die (2019). such vegetable matter used as fertilizer or fuel. 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. The development of rail transport in Scotland led to the wide availability of coke. Learn more. Starting out with the obvious, Ardbeg’s whiskies are some of the most famous smoky drams in the world, and are a great… And it fired not only hearths but distillery kilns as well. 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. That was, until the introduction of coal and, by continuation, coke. India, Japan and New Zealand all boast peated whiskies of their own so the peat party is certainly not just for the Scots. The Whisky Peat Scale The affect of peat (ie the peatiness or smokiness) on whisky is expressed as phenol parts per million (PPM). Under the correct conditions, peat is the first step in coalification – the conversion of plant matter into coal. Phenol levels are often used to compare scotches. When peat is burned to heat the kiln, it also produces an especially aromatic smoke. 2 : partially carbonized vegetable tissue formed by partial decomposition in water of various plants (such as mosses of the genus Sphagnum) Ardbeg 10 Years Old ($60) Buy on Drizly Buy on Flaviar Buy on Caskers. Although now mainly reserved for the whisky industry, some Scottish households still exercise their right to cut peat to burn as a domestic fuel. 99.9% of peated whiskies are Scotch. given a smoky flavour by compounds which are released by the peat fires used to dry malted barley. 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. In days gone by, however, they necessarily had to malt their own. In other words, malting tricks barleycorns into thinking spring has come. peat meaning: 1. a dark brown substance like soil that was formed by plants dying and becoming buried. 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. What's the connection between whisky and sherry? The accumulation of water in boggy areas wasn’t exactly ideal for drainage, instead, it slowed the decomposition of moss, grass and tree roots, culminating in the creation of peat. As a result, different peat will impart different flavours, and different distilleries will use peat for different length of time when drying their malt. The ancient history of the name Peat dates back to the days of the Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. Peated whisky is given a smoky flavour by compounds which are released by the peat fires used to dry malted barley. These five peated whiskies give a great sense of what’s on offer. In a very literal sense, peat is terroir (take that, wine!). Peat cut by hand on Islay. Barleycorns are steeped in water and allowed to germinate before the process is halted in the kiln. 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. 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. 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. For a long time this was the most readily accessible fuel in many areas of Scotland. The Ardbeg distillery is well … Part of the process of distilling whisky involves malting barley. These distillers continued to use varying proportions of peat during the kilning process. The Length and intensity of exposure to the peat smoke dictates the strength of this flavour as do the characteristics of the peat itself. Peat is the most Scottish thing about scotch. The other .1% are single malt whiskies from Ireland, the US, India, and elsewhere. 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! 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. 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. This was especially true of the remote Highland and island distillers. Initially out of necessity, Islay to the west, Orkney to the north and several mainland distilleries held on to tradition. Very few of the other single malts produced in the world use peat, opting for kiln-dried or roasted malt instead. 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. This maintains a traditional and now largely unique style of whisky with lots of variation and flavour. 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. The qualities of peated whisky divide consumer opinion. Unmalted barley can also be used in whiskey production, but that grain will not be used in a single malt whiskey. This has always been the case. 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. An atavistic folk memory, like candles and open fires, Christmas trees and stormy nights.”. It’s usually found … (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Others followed, but not all of them. But what does peat taste like and how does it make its way into your glass of whisky? Peat is whisky terroir. It is much more than a simple addition of ‘smoky’ flavours which overwhelm all the many others. Peat bog is burned under the soon-to-be malted barley to stop the germination, thus drying the grain. 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. Malting makes the starches within barleycorns soluble so that the sugars may be converted into alcohol. How One Craft Distiller Is Making Single Malt With American Peat Typical flavours include tar, ash, iodine and smoke. 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. Peat can be found all over the world, not just Islay or even Scotland. We use cookies – want to read the policy. It is…. Peat itself can hold water, which in turn leads to expansion as further plant matter continues to decay. This refers to the quantity of phenols in the malt itself rather than the contents of the finished whisky. Let us begin with the peat. And yet due to a lack of alternative fuel sources, whiskies using entirely peated barley were once the mainstay of the industry. The only difference is that the malt used has been peat-smoked. ©2020 Group Nine Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. The surname Peat was originally derived from the Old English word which meant a spoiled or pampered child. To a point, this smoke has a considerable influence on malt during kilning, imbuing it with compounds called ‘phenols‘. Peat is used in whiskey making during the drying process and to stop the germination of the grain, also called malting. Good Caol Ilas and good Laphroaigs achieve this balance nicely: bitter peat and sweet malt in a happy marriage. World Whisky Day is a registered trademark. Balvenie Peat Week 14. The full process takes hundreds of millions of years, with peat appearing after thousands. 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. Some lighter whiskies might measure up to 20ppm. 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