But first things first:
What is Peat?
When peat is harvested, it’s cut up into small sloppy slices of ‘sod’, stacked in pyramids and left to dry. Before you know it, well, 2-3 weeks later, you have yourself some tough peat bricks, which contain more energy than coal. Peat fires are an ancient Scottish tradition; the stuff is so compact that it burns piping hot for ages.
How is peat used in making Whisky?
Barley grain, or damp malt, is exposed to the smoke of a peat fire in order to arrest germination; a crucial part of Whisky production. Peat smoke produces chemicals called phenols and these are absorbed by malted barley. The amount of time the barley grain’s exposed to the peat smoke determines the level of phenols, and therefore the spirit’s flavour. For an idea, damp malt is usually dried for about 30 hours. Laphroaig dries its malt over peat fire for between 12 to 18 of these 30 hours.
How is peat in Whisky measured?
What does peat taste like?
Peat is not for everyone, granted. But when you want to try a peated dram, look for these
Peated Whisky brands
In other parts of Scotland, peated Whiskies can be found as well: Springbank, Benromach, Ardmore, Highland Park, Talisker, Leadig and Longrow, to name just a few with peaty expressions in their portfolios.
Looking for peated Whisky outside Scotland, India’s Peated Amrut is an emerging classic, Japan is also big on the peat, particularly at the Yoichi distillery, Swiss Saentis is an absolute hit, whilst in New Zealand the Manuka Smoke single malt has recently been introduced.
Like your Irish? Try the very peated Connemara Peated Single Malt, a lovely liquid.
If you like your curry extra spicy and your espresso double, you might want to go all in on the peat and are starting to wonder right now:
What is the most peated Whisky in the world?
Go ahead, be our guest, just beware; this Whisky was born from a dare and your first sip of it will feel like you are actually biting into a clump of peat. No doubt future releases of the Octomore will look to build on this extreme peating, but only time will tell when they reach the upper limit.
So what do you say – peated Whisky yea or nay?