I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

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I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby bouncingnrg » Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:08 pm

Hi all,

Long time lurker here and a newbee. for a long time i though when a tasting mentioned peat this was the smoke, someone said to me this was not the case, there is peat, peat smoke and smokeness?? but i confussed to what the differences are, can someone please clear this up for me?

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Re: I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby steveblack » Sun Nov 28, 2010 7:02 pm

Glad you asked the question.

I have this confusion too. For a long time I used the words peat and smoke interchangeably. After all they burn the peat to dry the malt so both tastes get into the whisky. Or so I thought.

When I bought Jura superstition, I found something was wrong. The whisky was supposed ti be peaty and I was not getting any smoke. All I got was smell of decayed vegetation sans any spice in the form of smoke or other enhancements to the peat. It put me off. I reasoned that perhaps this is what is peat minus smoke means and may be both can exist separately. Can they?

But how do you make a whisky predomInantly peaty without also making it smoky?

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Re: I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby MacDeffe » Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:14 pm

My experience is that peat and smoke is used to describe the same = smoky flavours


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Re: I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby The Third Dram » Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:38 pm

I believe much of the confusion surrounding the characteristics of peat and smoke (which are sometimes interchangeable and sometimes apparently not) arises from a misunderstanding concerning how these characteristics can occur, primarily during the malting process.

As I've written in my most recent treatise on whisky:

"In the production of whisky, an essential key to the malting process is to arrest the germination of the barley grains at that precise moment when the conversion of starches to sugars has reached an optimum point. Any efficient system of circulating hot, dry air throughout the grains will do.

Why, then, use peat fires? ... It (peat) positively reeks when burned. And this characteristically pungent quality, when utilized during malting, permeates the partially germinated barley with a noticeable smokiness. Depending on the intensity of the peat-reek and subsequent distillation and maturation protocols, the smokiness will, to varying degrees, find its way right through to the whisky in the bottle."

However, as indicated in the first paragraph immediately above, there's more than one way to dry the barley. Producers may elect to simply use relatively smokeless (such as electrically generated) warm air. They may decide to use peat. But they also have the option of utilizing coal fires to dry the grain, possibly in tandem with one or both of the previous methods.

When you add the wide range of types of peat (varying from coastal to inland and from more vegetative - such as sphagnum - to more woody - such as those derived from old tree roots) that are available to the equation, you can see that peatiness and smokiness may, or may not, coincide with one another.

Try tasting a dram of Laphroaig and a dram of Longrow side by side. You'll immediately see the differences in smokiness between the two (with the former having a much more medicinal, kelp-like characteristic and the latter a more sooty trait).

And this isn't even taking into account the various degrees of phenolic 'infusion' that maltsters employ during the drying of the grains!

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Re: I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby matteo » Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:10 am

Where do you can find easily peat in whiskies?
Ardbeg Ten
Caol Ila 12yo
Lagavulin 12yo
Laphroiaig 10yo

How does peat taste like?
It tastes like diesel, burned tyres, medicinal, bbq bacon, smoked fish or smoked cheese (here in Italy we have "Scamorza affumicata" that reminds some aroma in whisky).

Where do you can find easily smoke in whiskies?
Bowmore (quite any)
Longrow CV
...uhm...I do not remeber any more now...

How does smoke taste like?
It tastes like burned wood, fireplace, chimney, tobacco, tobacco ashes.

Sometimes you can find smoke and peat in the same whisky like Ardbeg Uigeadail 'cause it reminds you a bonefire by seashore and ashtray, tobacco, hint of diesel...I don't like it too much because (IMHO) is too much extreme in ashes taste.

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Re: I'm confused, peat? Smoke?

Postby bouncingnrg » Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:30 pm

Thanks you all, you have cleared this up.

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