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[All About Whisky]: Peat


[#AllAboutWhiskyph] Peat.

Peat is a word you'll tend to hear a lot from more experienced whisky drinkers. Islay whiskies are known for being peaty. Brands and enthusiasts would say that whisky has a "peaty" tasting note. But for a beginner who has never seen or smelled peat before, peat can be hard to imagine.

The photo above is dried brick of peat harvested from Hokkaido, and used by the Yoichi distillery.

Peat consists of ancient partially decayed vegetation and organic matter. It is usually harvested from wetlands known as peat bogs. Peat is harvested by cutting the peat into bricks, which are then dried. Traditionally peat bricks are used as a fossil fuel.

Somewhere along the way, they also realized that peat can be used to infuse whisky with a distinct smell and flavor.

Such smells and flavors are very closely associated with smokiness, but can vary from the smell of burning vegetation, to a more earthy campfire, to tobacco smoke, and even to leather, some cured meats and smoked fish, and even iodine (like betadine).

These flavors are added by burning peat with its smoke coursed upwards into a massive thermally insulated room known as a kiln (like an oven) where the distillery's barley is undergoing a malting process. This allows the malt to gain compounds known as "phenols". Thus, peatiness is often measured in phenol parts per million or (ppm).


The whisky with the highest ppm is Bruichladdich's Octomore ranging from 167-309ppm, Ardbeg has 50-55ppm, Laphroaig usually has 45 ppm, Caol Ila and Lagavulin are both reported to have 35ppm. But it is important to note that ppm measures the peatiness of the malt and not the final whisky.

One last thing is that the longer a peated whisky stays in a barrel, the less smoky it will taste as the smokiness of the liquid gives way to the other characteristics it acquires from the barrel.

Peated whisky is a very divisive category. It's a love it or hate it thing. For many, it is also an acquired taste.

As a peathead myself, I love it.


Image Courtesy of @WhiskyPH




At its core, whisky appreciation is an exercise in memory. Notes of a whisky enthusiast in the Philippines. 🥃🇵🇭