created about 1 year ago | Tagged:
Our taste for smoke appears to be rising. Bacon is everywhere. Southern barbecue is hot. Trendy restaurants are dishing up smoked paprika, sea salt, even ice cream. Nowhere is the fashion more apparent, or sensible, to me than the world of Scotch.
Distillers are outdoing each other with smokiness and names that conspicuously emphasize the age-old tradition of drying barley malt over peat-fuelled fires, such as Smokehead Islay Single Malt, Blackadder Peat Reek, Bruichladdich Peat and, for the inevitable Loch Ness allusion, the Peat Monster. Ardbeg, maker of the smokiest widely available single malt, launched a limited edition bottling a couple of years ago called Supernova, delivering twice the smoke of its flagship 10-year-old. It was outdone by Bruichladdich Octomore, a limited-edition brand now asserting the title of peatiest whisky on Earth.
In a sense, the trend is a return to the past, when peat was commonly used across Scotland. The decomposed vegetation is especially abundant on Islay, a flat, windswept island off the southwest coast. As sphagnum and other mosses decompose in waterlogged bogs, the anaerobic conditions trap carbon rather than releasing it as carbon dioxide, creating a combustible fuel.