An Idea

Sometimes in life, you have an idea. Not just any idea, but the best idea ever. It is normally something you think no-one else has thought of and that is going to make you millions of pounds. You tell everyone about it, and most people nod and say ‘I never thought of that. It’s a good idea’. That’s your market research finished, so what next? Well this is where you have your moment of doubt. Most people at this point decide to forget about their idea and go down the pub.

Some people decide to pursue their idea. Of those people, 1 in every thousand have a good idea: Google, and the other 999 have a really bad idea: Minidisc players.

My idea is not a revolutionary idea. It’s just a variation on an already existing idea. So my expectations are slightly lower. I suspect someone has already thought of it. If it is a new idea, I suspect it will be worth a couple of bottles of Whisky.

Anyway, enough pre-amble. My idea concerns the Whisky making process. Currently in Scotland, we use peat to smoke the barley creating a peaty, smokey and awesome whisky. Done.

But what if we were to use other fuels to smoke barley? This could create barleys that have different flavours and aromas.

The Fuel for the fire

Here is a list of woods that could be used:

Apple-wood: Ever had apple-wood smoked cheese? Imagine if you could smoke barley with it and make a whisky. Fruity.

Whisky Oak: Ultimate recycling. Would this enhance whisky flavours?

Hickory: Quite a meaty BBQ smoke.

(Just a small list. There are lots of other woods that could be used)


A good example would be Balblair 89. One of my favourite light, fruity whiskies. What if the barley had been smoked using apple wood. Would this enhance the fruitiness?


With any idea, there are always problems. The main one, is that the wood smoke may not be strong enough to linger through distillation. This is where I need Whisky distillers or the Scotch Whisky research people. Has anyone tried this? Any Biologists, chemists or genius’ in general who can tell me if it would work? Any distillers who would like to take up a challenge of trying it out?

There are other problems. Costs, supplies, upsetting the SWA. I will try not to think about the problems. Instead, I will get carried away on what will hopefully be a wave of success.


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  1. That’s funny, I actually had the same idea and at that point I decided to forget about it and went to pour me a dram :p

  2. Check out Copper Fox Distillery (Virginia, USA), makers of Wasmund’s Single Malt:

    They malt their barley with apple wood and cherry wood smoke. Nice stuff!

  3. Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia (USA), uses barley malted over apple wood. I believe they also use fruit wood chips in the aging process. Their first couple of attempts were nothing to write home about, but the recent batches have been stellar. It’s bottled under the name Wasmund’s Single Malt. We are a little more low-key in the States though. The SWA would have a conniption.

  4. Wasmund’s Single Malt. Brilliant! Thanks guys. I will check it out.

    I wonder if the SWA would allow it?

  5. Well, I think you can work on it. For brewing there are various types of smoked malt ready to use. E.g. there are smoked beer in bamberg/germany (rauchbeer) that uses beech wood. Ther are also some new whisky bottling using roasted (not smoked) beer malts from Glenmorangie Signet (chocolate malt) and Balvenie (christal malt) so the road is open for experiments…

  6. Interesting. What about Mackmyra, who use juniper wood and bog moss to dry the malt? There’s nothing in the rules about how the malt is dried, or about experimentation, but we must remember to keep Scotch unique…

  7. Thanks for the response guys. I guess the question I am going to ask now is quite a difficult one.

    To those that have tasted Whisky that has used Applewood smoked barley juniper smoked barley, was there as noticeable difference? Do you feel that it made the whisky vastly different?

    I have tried the Glenmorangie Signet, which had elements of Chocolate or Guinness malting. It is an unusual whisky but this could be to-do with Dr Lumsdens blending prowess aswell as the malting itself.

    It is a fair point that Scotch Whisky should be unique, and that is why experimentation is important. It re-invigorates the product and creates more choice. Look at wood finishes. Something that has worked extremely well for Scotch Whisky and has turned more people on to our product.

  8. I’ve been drinking quite a few beers that has been smoked on beech, which seems to be thing used for smoke stuff around here

    The taste is quite different from peat. Think of a smoked salami

    For Lapsang Tea cedar and pinewood is used. Clearly different from peatsmoke, more similar to rauchbier

    There’s even a liqueur made on Smoky Lapsang Souchong Tea

    I immediately thought that this liqueur would be excellent for a peated whisky tasting as tasting it clearly points out and clarifies exactly what kind of smoke the peat contributes with


  9. Rick Wasmund and the folks at Mackmyra have already been mentioned as examples of your EUREKA in practice.
    Mackmyra uses “frisk svensk rök”, fresh Swedish smoke. The whisky is made from (some) barley that has been dried over a juniper and peat fire.
    To answer you question, Chris, I think the apple wood/swedish juniper are noticable. In fact, that element of juniper/piney smoke is now a keynote characteristic of Mackmyra.
    Could it work for Scottish whisky? I think there would be a legal issue. Does that mean no one is trying it? I can guarantee you that at least three Scotch whisky companies are looking at wood smoking their barley. Who knows what the future will bring, but I don’t imagine you’ll be getting a royalty cheque, unfortunately.

  10. To Macdeffe: The problem, I find, is that there are soo many things I want to try and such little time. Beech smoked beer and Smoky Lapsang Liquer get added to the ever lengthening list!

    To Dr Whisky(Smsmmns): Saw your Blog. Congratulations!

    As for Scotch distilleries potentially using wood to smoke the Barley, I look forward to it. I think it will be really interesting.

    Until then, I have to save up and get flights all over the world to source all of these amazing smoked beveridges!

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