Peat Ceiling Effect?

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Peat Ceiling Effect?

Postby kallaskander » Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:26 pm

Hi there,

in Malt Maniacs own Luca Chichizola, Italy writes in his E-pistle 2009/06 - A Dozen Chaotic Drams:

“Ardbeg NAS 'Supernova' (58.9%, OB, Advance Committee Release, 2009)

Comment: Can you feel the 100ppm peat, which is the selling point of this malt (in addition to being a very limited release for Committee members… and for eBay profiteers)? Actually I think there is a saturation level, that taste and smell work like other senses like hearing and vision do: doubling the ppm does not result in double an impact on the palate and nose (our senses are logarithmic, in case you didn't know). So, it actually is only slightly more peaty and smoky than other young Ardbeg cask strength expressions. I have no comparison with the equally peated Octomore, which I have never had an occasion to taste, but to make a comparison I slightly prefer it to the very intense and smoky PC7 (which is a bit astringent and butyric, IMHO).”

The passage about doubling the ppm not resulting in doubling the impact of peat on the palate and nose struck a cord with me.

It was along the lines I read in a book about Indian cooking when I started to deal with that subject.

The author said that in an Indian recipe when you double the the ingredients because you cook for the double number of people there is no need to double the spices as well. It will only spoil the dish most of the times.

And Luca`s lines reminded me of another thing. I tried the Bruichladdich 3D range 3D, 3D Moine Mhor 3D3 Norrie Campbell and was surprised.
3D contained Port Charlotte 4 years old Moine Mhor Port Charlotte 5 years old and the Norrie Campbell bottling contained Port Charlotte and Octomore. And I tried the Bruichladdich Peat.

My surprise, apart from the fact that I find only smoke in Peat and almost no peat at all, came from finding that the Norrie Campbell bottling with the fabled Octomore was the softest and mildest malt of the 3D range.

There a first suspicion formed. I was not surprised later to find that the Octomore cask sample from the Octomore future bottlings of May 2008 the one with 80.5ppm I tried before the Octomore batch 1 came out was not a peat monster crying peat peat peat and nothing else.
It was subtle, sweet and smokey and peaty to a certain extend but surely not what you had expected after knowing an Ardbeg usually has 55ppm in the malt and knowing your peatiest Islay whisky well along with his cousins of Lagavulin Laphroaig Caol Ila and even Port Ellen.

I was less surprised when I tried the 131ppm Octomore. I had expected what I found. Here, with 50.5ppm more in the malt than the futures bottling it tasted and smelled like the futures sample I had had. A bit more mature and again all you can say is it is not a peat monster even if the malt was designed to be exactly that probably.

Now the perception threshhold for peat or phenol is rather low. 2ppm are enough for our senses to tell us something tastes peaty.

Now why are Octomore or Supernova for that not the crying peat whiskies they shold be in theory? That question is based on the data available.

Is it in the distilling process that the peat gets “lost” or do our senses shut down and even a 500ppm malt would not taste peatier to us than the above mentioned malts do?


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Re: Peat Ceiling Effect?

Postby borgom » Tue Feb 10, 2009 1:43 pm

It just proves that the industry needs to start quoting the peating level at bottling rather than the way it does now. A system akin to the age statement being based on the minimum values would be great.
Do we have any friendly neighbourhood scientists who can tell us how to measure peating levels ourselves?
I'd suspect that many of our favourites have dropped their peating levels over recent years.

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Re: Peat Ceiling Effect?

Postby The Third Dram » Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:46 pm

borgom wrote:It just proves that the industry needs to start quoting the peating level at bottling rather than the way it does now.

I like this idea very much, but wonder if such an approach is possible given that phenolic compounds in whisky include others besides those derived from the peat-reeking process. How to separate them?

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Re: Peat Ceiling Effect?

Postby lucabeer » Thu Mar 05, 2009 10:16 am

Glad you found that part of my tasting note interesting!

And yes, the idea of logarithmic senses came from my experience with sound (myself being a Hi-Fi enthusiast). Also sight works that way: and it's the reason why gamma curves on digital cameras are exponential, to compensate this lack of linearity in our eye/brain vision system.

IMHO it's a combination of logarithmic curve AND saturation, anyway, not simply one of the two.

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