What is Peated Whisky? We answer all your peat related questions

Author: Nicola Taylor   Date Posted:22 May 2020 

What is Peated Whisky? We answer all your peat related questions main image What is Peated Whisky? We answer all your peat related questions image

What do the whisky brands Octomore, BenRiach and Finlaggan all have in common?

Apart from all being available on Barmania.com.au, these whiskies are all proudly peated!

Peated whiskies are smoky in flavour. They are loved by a specific kind of customer. And whilst peated whiskies are mostly associated with the Scottish region of Islay, they can be produced anywhere in the world!

From ‘What do I pair it with?’ to ‘Who wants to drink a campfire?’, – We’re answering all the common questions when it comes to peated whisky.


What is Peat?

Peat Bricks

First, we should explain what peat is.

Peat is the accumulation of decomposed vegetation, and often other organic material, that has turned into earth over thousands of years. It is actually a precursor to coal.

(Yes, by ‘other organic material’ we mean anything from decomposed meat to animal dung.)

When it is dried, peat is used as a fuel source for fires. It is the smoke from these fires that give peated whisky it’s distinct flavour.



How did peated whisky come about?

To make single malt whisky, barley must be malted - a process that requires the germination of barley to be cut short by heat. All over Scotland, malting floors, essentially a kiln heated by fires beneath it, have historically been used to dry out barley.

In the Scottish region of Islay, peat was more accessible as a fuel source than coal or wood. As peat fires were used to heat up malting floors, peat smoke elements known as phenols flavoured the barley and in turn created the distinct flavour profile of peated whisky.

You might find that peat from different regions and parts of the world imparts different flavours into this style of whisky.


How are Phenols Measured?

Phenol Parts per Million (PPM) are often proudly displayed on labels. This tells customers in the know how ‘peaty’ or ‘smoky’ they can expect a peated whisky to be.

A peated whisky with a higher PPM should be intense in smokiness. Whilst a peated whisky with a lower phenol count will likely taste less ‘peaty’.

Something to keep in mind with PPM is that there is no industry standard for when phenol measurement is to be taken. Phenol measurement can be taken before distillation when phenol count is highest, but it has become increasingly customary for labels to reflect the PPM measured just after distillation.


Who loves Peat?

You either love peated whisky or you don’t.

Here are two questions to ask before suggesting a peated whisky to a customer:

  • Have you tried single malt whisky before?
  • Do you like peated whisky?

If a customer is unfamiliar with single malt whisky, starting with a heavily peated whisky is likely to scare them away from the category forever.

And you should never offer a customer a peated whisky if they already know they don’t like the style.

Peated whisky has accumulated its own cult following – think the kind of following enjoyed by the craft beer industry. These consumers are excited about PPM levels as well as nuances in flavour profiles.

Some terms used to describe the nuanced notes of peated whisky are sweet peat, meaty, soft smoke or ash, vegetal or grassy, and iodine.

For a customer that has tried single malt whisky before and is curious about peated whiskies, you might want to start them off with a sweet peat or soft smoke option. Keep those heavily peated drams for your die-hard peat lovers.


What can you do with Peated Whisky?

Peated whiskies can be enjoyed neat, with food pairings or even in cocktails. Typical foods that pair well with the peated whisky category are red meats, pork, salmon or flavoursome cheeses and chocolate.

Pair a peated whisky with a cheese platter full of smoked meats, dark chocolate, and strong cheeses of a similar flavour style such as Dutch smoked gouda, ash brie and smoky goat cheese.

In cocktails, peaty notes can add exciting twists to Old Fashions, Whisky Sours and even Espresso Martinis.


Have you made space on your shop or bar shelves for Peated Whisky?

Barmania.com.au can help you add variety to your whisky offering with peated whisky.

As we’ve mentioned, there is a lot of creativity in the peated whisky category. Offering peated whisky means tapping into a customer base that values the nuances of a ‘smoky’ flavour profile and is here to explore the world of PPM.

Grouping all your peated whiskies together will make it easier for your peat-loving customers to explore the range you have on offer.

Learn more about peated whiskies and how we can expand your range at Barmania.com.au

Keep a look out for part two at Barmania.com.au/blog