I was so proud!  I had been to my holy grail! I had walked in the halls of the White House! Visited the Palace stables where price stallions are nurtured! I had spoken to the Gods!

Ok ok, I had a tour at the Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay! I have actually been in the other White House, the one in DC.

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Me at the White House, 2001

Anyways, I had been sorta intelligent by bringing sample bottles with me. One I filled with peated barley which I had taken from the keeps. Ehmm, the Laddie shop counter …

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My Peated Barley

I made sure I was going to smell the “Peat” for ever and ever! Relive the experience! I was so sure of it I offered to send some of the Devine grains to Bart. Boom!!! Bart always says “Boom!”. Bart is one of the Scotch Test Dummies. The other is Scot. Bart loves “the peat”. The peat has been growing on Scot. Not literally off course.  So I created an expectation and I sure as hell was going to “bring it”!

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Letter to Bart

I send some over and to make a story short. Peat had left the building! How Peat! Why Peat! Tell me where I went wrong Peat! For Peats sake!

So I asked one of the Gods to enlighten me! It turns out that the peat rather quickly but definitely leaves the building starting with the outer husk. Even in so short a time as a day. Peated barley is used very quickly after it has been delivered from the maltings. Not for that reason, but it just is.

The phenols were to blame. Phenols are flighty buggars! The tip was to grind some barley granules and see if that brought the peat to the forefront again. Ones at home, with kids to bed, I took some granules and start grinding them in my palms. Since my palms are not roller mills nothing really happened except loosen some of the husk.

Ah! Some of the peat was back. Lets grind this stuff further down, get to the flour. With this the peat was sorta back and. I nosed it. Yup, it was back, but still less intense. Added a drop of water. That worked to. The moisture could evaporate.

Grist / Husk / Flour

After awhile the smell got less and less rather quickly. I thought of comparing it to the nose on the Laphroaig 10yo. I had some left from the sample bottle I got when I planted my flag. Oh what a mistake did I make. The nose of content of the glass was so much more  concentrated than the flour Grist in my palm. I could not smell my grist anymore. Well at least I learned that the  nose of 4 granules of barley is less intense than a matured distillate. Makes sense in a way. I only realised that at that moment in time.

So, my expectations for the peat on the nose of loose granules had been brought back to realism. I have learned something. I have also sparked within me loads of questions like:

  • if the peat is so flighty, how does it transfer through the whisky making process?
  • is what we smell on the finished dram actually “Peat”?
  • if it isn’t peat we smell on the finished dram, then why do we use “Peat” as a descriptor?
  • are the phenols transported through the process and just are, or is there an interaction with the wood, the spirit, the copper?

This is the nerdy stuff I like about whisky. There is always a new question to answer. Always something new to discover. I don’t have the answers yet to my questions, but when I do, I will share my findings here! (update 05-12-2016 : check this link for parts of the answers)

Putting the peat in:

The peat gets into the barley during the drying of the malted barley. This is mentioned by Highland Park in one of their video’s. The peat is mentioned as the “flavour”. No reference to smell is made, just flavour. Also notice the correction that is made from absorbtion to adsorbtion.

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