Get to know and love the smoky whisky ingredient peat in our four-part series, beginning with the unique “underwater” peat used by Laphroaig
Peat is one of the whisky industry’s most celebrated ingredients, but what on earth is it and how does it change the flavour of a whisky?
WHAT IS PEAT?
It might not sound flash, but peat is made from compressed decomposed vegetal matter, and is like a time capsule of what was growing in a particular area thousands of years ago. This means that there are vast differences between the flavours that each peat can bring to a whisky, depending on where it was sourced from. If a distillery is located in the mountains or the rocky terrain of the coast for example, the local peat used could bring notes of heather or seaweed to the whisky. Pictured above, peat gathering for whisky on the Isle of Islay, Scotland.
HOW IT’S USED IN WHISKY
Civilisations throughout the world have been burning peat for thousands of years to heat their homes, cook their food, and to smoke meat and fish. But most excitingly for us, peat is used by distillers to smoke the barley used to make whisky, bringing peated whiskies a flavoursome smoky quality.
SMOKE FROM UNDER THE SEA
The Islay region of Scotland is one of the world’s most prized whisky spots, and Islay peat is the most intense and definitive style in the whisky making industry. This is because the island of Islay was once partly under the ocean bed, so the peat has a large proportion of decomposed seaweed and maritime material. This means you’ll find intense iodine and salty flavours to the smoke when the peat is burnt, which in turn gives Islay whiskies a very distinct flavour.
SEAWEED AND PLASTERS?!
The Laphroaig distillery is located on the south coast of Islay, across the water from Ireland, and has been distilling for over 200 years. Lovingly described as “a big peaty slap in the face”, Laphroaig 10-Year-Old is highly respected for its heavy peat, which has intriguing flavours of intense iodine, sticking plasters (yes – we said that!), and seaweed notes that push the boundaries in a very good way.
LAPHROAIG: TASTING NOTES
- Appearance: Sparkling gold
- Aroma: Intense, earthy and smoky
- Flavour: Surprising sweetness with hints of salt and layers of peatiness that linger on the palate