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