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Alternatives to peated whisky...

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Octomac started a discussion

While I am not one to attack tradition and fully respect the heritage and predominantly localized nature of whisky production in Scotland's Islay region. The fact that the usage of peat in the malting process cannot possibly be sustainable. As I am all the way over here on the west coast of Canada, don't pretend to fully understand the geological make up, or the ecological efforts of my Scottish brothers; this is not my ax to grind. I just so happen to really like Talisker.

My question is, what are the alternatives? Could any source of material that is high in tannens and phenolsthat isn't extreamly toxic be used instead? What about acorns? Perhaps alternate malting styles will be the next finished caskings?

11 years ago

7 replies

@GotOak91
GotOak91 replied

I do agree that its unsustainable but I also wouldnt know of an alternative. I guess the only good news they have lots of bogs(I assume so I haven't heard other wise) left and that not everyone likes a smoky peaty whisky. I can't be considered part of that category because Laphroaig 10 was love at first taste for me. I do also believe that there is probably a conservatory peat cuttings in place to make it last as long as possible. But that's my two cents.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nock
Nock replied

Andrew Jefford's Peat Smoke And Spirit cites an estimate of 5,000 years' worth of peat on Islay, and world-wide sustainability of this "finite resource which renews itself only very slowly." "Globally, two-thirds of peat is burnt as fuel...and around a third used for horticulture; its use in whisky production is statistically insignificant." (p196)

I think the issue of peat in Canada is a different story altogether.

11 years ago 5Who liked this?

@systemdown
systemdown replied

Great topic, was wondering about the sustainabiilty of peat used in whisky production, glad there are no problems for the immediate future ;-)

11 years ago 0

@Mammon
Mammon replied

The problem is that phenols are toxic themselfs (BTW tannins are also phenols). Therefore it is not possible to get rid of the toxicity without altering the flavours. Here in switzerland they put labels on the bottles of peated whiskies (seen various times on bottles of Bruichladdich) that forbids you to pour the whisky down the sink or in the environment. But who would do that anyway?

11 years ago 5Who liked this?

@GotOak91
GotOak91 replied

@Nock Well assuming that estimate to be true we have 2 and a half millenniums worth of peated whisky but again assuming the consumption is at a foreseeable constant. Either way happy drinking gentleman.

Oh and the pouring of Bruichladdich down the drain I think that's on the level of whisky blasphemy as long as there wasn't a righteous reason like jumping on the wagon. I haven't had Bruichladdich but Id know Id have someone to share it with instead of do that. Just my way of answering that.

On a serious note though Im quite sure one would have to consume or dispose of massive amounts of whisky in order to do harm to themselves or the environment. When regarding people I would believe alcohol consumption would do more harm than the phenols would in any stretch of time.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Nock
Nock replied

I can't speak to the estimate (it isn't mine). It seems like I've heard other people estimate it in the hundreds of years (200-600). Quite frankly I have no clue. But it does seem like peated whisky won't face any danger of shortage in our life time (or our great grandchildren's lifetime). And not that it is an excuse to avoid the issue of sustainability . . . but I think we have much greater concerns in the next 100 years then peat. If we haven't figured out our energy issues in 200 years I think there are going to be much bigger problems to worry about.

Still, I could be wrong . . .

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

@NilsG
NilsG replied

We should stop using peat as fuel, and just keep it for whisky, so we can drink preated for a virtual eternity.

11 years ago 1Who liked this?

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@Wills