Peat Smoked BarrelsBy: Andrew Wiehebrink, Independent Stave Company Director of Spirit Research and Innovation
Peat is one of the more interesting ingredients in the whiskey making process. The use of peat goes back centuries when it was (and still is) used to heat homes and cook food. However, peat has carved out an interesting place for itself in the spirits world as the source of one of the most interesting and versatile flavors in the category of malt whiskey. Most notably associated with Scotch whiskies, peat can deliver unique smoky flavors to those distillers who wish to incorporate it into their malting process. This smoky flavor, which logically became referred to as ‘peat’ or ‘peaty’ can have significant impact on the overall flavor profile.
With all that in mind, I am pleased to announce we have devised a totally new way for distillers to harness that classic peat character into their barrel aged spirits with the introduction of our two new ‘peat smoked’ barrels.
- Sweet Peat – Delicate notes of vanilla and smoke on the nose. The peat gains intensity on the palate but remains a background note while the aromas and flavors from the toast profile begin to emerge. Used in conjunction with a custom toast profile designed to deliver heavy amounts of vanillin.
- Traditional Peat – Sweet smoke notes on the nose with noticeable peat character. The barrel derived flavors come forward on the palate while an intense peat character begins mid palate and is sustained through the finish.
These barrels will be manufactured using ISC’s proprietary ‘cold smoked barrel’ process. This process occurs after the barrel has been manufactured and quality tested. Each barrel spends about eight minutes in our smoking apparatus before it is loaded on a trailer and shipped out to our distillery partners. Both the Sweet Peat and Traditional Peat barrels come with custom toast profiles that accentuate the array of ‘peaty’ flavors and aromas. Each barrel is paired with a char level 1.
Adding peat during the malting process is a tedious task with different burning recipes for different products. Utilizing the barrel to add peat character facilitates the process for those looking to incorporate those nice ‘peaty’ flavors into their products. In this way, the entire batch of distillate is not dedicated to a single intensity of peat character. The desired intensity will instead be determined (post distillation) by the number of smoked barrels utilized in the batch.
With respect to efficiency, the amount of peat required to smoke a 53-gallon barrel using our proprietary smoking apparatus is far less than the amount of peat needed to smoke enough grain to produce 53 gallons of spirit. Peat grows at the rate of roughly one millimeter per year and some distilleries can use over one ton of peat per day. It is a precious resource for whiskey producers that takes many decades to regenerate.
These barrels can be filled with new make or can be utilized in a finishing application to further control the desired amount of peat intensity. The graph below represents three-year-old American Single Malt that had been finished in the Traditional Peat barrel for six months.
As you can see, there were significant increases in the key smoky flavor components in as little as six weeks and those concentrations continued to rise throughout the six-month finishing process.
These barrels were designed specifically with the malt whiskey category in mind, but I have seen them do some VERY cool things with other American whiskies such as rye. A little experimentation is always a good thing. If you think this type of barrel is something you would be interested in, drop us a note we will send out a sample kit with each barrel offering so you can see the benefits for yourself.