02 Apr 2009
Ten days of… peated Bruichladdich
Posted by: Ruben In: * News
A new series that I would like to introduce on this blog: “Ten days of…”. It will consist of 3 or 4 posts with tasting notes from a single distillery and / or with a common theme and spread over 10 days. I’ll start with a couple of peated Bruichladdich releases.
First, a word or two about peat. Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter (swamp forrest), a few thousands of years in age. It can be cut in the form of bricks, dried and used as a fossil fuel. Prior to distilling whisky, the barley is malted and dried. Traditionally on Islay, they used the heat from peat fires for this. Interestingly, peat smoke chemically ‘sticks’ to barley grains, which is the reason why the exotic aroma of peat smoke can still be experienced in the distilled spirit.
Peat in Scotch whisky is measured in parts per millions (ppm). Only a few percent of the production is peated, but on Islay that percentage is a lot higher. An “unpeated” Scotch may clock in at 5 to 10 ppm. A typical Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig will contain between 30 and 50 ppm of peat phenols which makes a huge difference in the taste. Recently, there has been a small race in obtaining the highest level of peat. Bruichladdich introduced the Octomore which contains a stunning 131 ppm. Soon after that, the Ardbeg Supernova was announced, which weighs in at around 100 ppm. This race is quite useless, but it’s a fact that peated whisky is gaining popularity and even distilleries outside of Islay are experimenting and releasing peated versions of their spirit (e.g. BenRiach, Caperdonich, Longrow…).
Although Bruichladdich is on Islay, they don’t have a tradition of using much peat in the production of their whisky. The new owners started some peated experiments in 2001, such as the 3D series (now replaced by Bruichladdich Peat) and the Port Charlotte bottlings.
Let’s have a look at some of those peated experiments from Bruichladdich in the next couple of days, starting tomorrow with the Bruichladdich 3D3.