In honour of peat

Peat Furnace

Dark. Sinister. Mysterious. All words associated with the chat up lines used by Hoban on unsuspecting girls over the weekend, but also words which describe the goings on at Edinburgh Whisky Blog HQ over the past couple of days. As you’ll have noticed, we’ve been taken over by an ethereal spirit of a rather smoky persuasion. This week, we’re paying homage to the brown, sludgy, partially decomposed plant material which, when used in whisky production, gives the final product very distinctive aromas and flavours. I’m of course talking about peat. This substance is revered by a vociferously vocal and raucously fierce worldwide band of followers, affectionately referred to as ‘peat freaks’, who proudly proclaim to know the phenolic ppm of any given Scotch whisky and enjoy discussing which Octomore turned their face inside out the most. It is a substance never far from debate in the whisky world, and its powerful contribution can turn even the lightest and most delicate spirit into a cursing, brooding menace.

Peat itself goes back to the origins of organic life. When the first primeval plant died and started to decompose in the primordial soup, the first peat molecules were born. In Scotland, we are blessed with having the largest single peatland in the world, with over 1500 square miles of the stuff covering the Flow Country in the far north of our land. Other pockets of peat exist all over Scotland, most notably in the Hebrides as well as on the mainland. Since the humble beginnings of whisky production, peat has been used to dry malted barley and fire the pot stills. These processes still occur at some distilleries but the practice isn’t nearly as widespread as it was several decades ago. Those distilleries who still use peat in the malt kiln have garnered something of a cult status amongst whisky aficionados, with Ardbeg being arguably the most cultish of the lot. Polemic in their aroma and flavour, peated whiskies are never dull. They provide an insight into a bygone era of whisky production and stir emotions in even the most placid whisky drinker. Without it, our world would be a much duller sensory experience.

Peat fire at Laphroaig distillery

And so it is in recognition of this simple, ancient, boggy muck and all that it has brought to whisky that we dedicate this week on Edinburgh Whisky Blog to a stalwart of the industry. We’re giving this hard-working, behind-the-scenes, integral component of many globally-adored whiskies the chance to shine on the red carpet. Depending on your opinion of peated whisky, it will either shuffle along reluctantly like a teenager being dragged on a family holiday or strut its stuff like Beckham in a mankini. We’ll be posting peat-related content all week, so stay tuned. Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, whether you’re a peat-head or a peat-hater, we hope this week will enlighten you in the ways of peat and you’ll see our old friend in a new light.


PS. What inspired us to do all the hard(ish) work and give you all the upcoming Peat Week content, was the release of the anCnoc Peaty Collection (we’ll talk about those whiskies in due course, who knows maybe we’ll even give them a quick review towards the end of the week). To cut a long story short, when we told the good people at anCnoc about the idea to have a whole week’s worth of posts in their honour (although not all about their whisky of course) they loved the notion so much they offered to do a bit of ‘upgrading’ on how the blog looks and feels. As you can see they clearly got carried away but we’ll let them get away with it, after all it’s for one week only. Last but not least, if you fancy a trip for two to the Knockdhu Distillery with all the VIP trimmings, check out anCnoc’s competition.

Enjoy the Peat Week!


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