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