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Smoke Trail: How Peat Smoke Gets Into Whisky

When a scotch tastes smoky, that flavor doesn't just get there by magic. It requires peat.

Smoke Trail: How Peat Smoke Gets Into Whisky

September 4, 2019 –––––– Whisky Advocate, , , ,

Most whisky drinkers can detect the presence of peat within a scotch with a single whiff, but the process of how that scent and flavor got there is much more complex. We've broken down the journey from ground to glass into ten steps. The eleventh—enjoyment—is entirely up to you. (And if you're looking for some suggestions, may we direct you to our single malt smoke scale, bevy of blends, and the all-around peatiest peat bombs you can find.)

From the Ground Up, This is How that Scotch Gets so Peaty


1. Peat Digging
Coarse fibrous peat is dug from the earth and stacked to dry over several months.

2. Germination

Barley is steeped in water and spread over the malting floor to germinate.

3. Turning

Germinating grains, or green malt, are turned by machine or hand every four hours for five to seven days.

4. Smoking
Smoke flavors created by burning low-heat peat fires adhere to the surface of the malt.

5. Drying
With desired peat flavors attained, the malt is dried, without additional peat, to stop germination.

6. Milling and Mashing
Malt is milled and mixed with warm water to extract fermentable sugars.

7. Fermentation
Yeast eats the sugar, producing alcohol and CO2.

8. Distillation
A copper still concentrates the alcohol. The selected portion of the spirit includes smoke character.

9. Maturation

Spirit is placed in seasoned oak casks and aged in warehouses.

10. Blending
Casks of mature whisky are blended to create a whisky that balances smoky, peaty flavors.

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