A peaty problem: Islay peat to run out by 2021?


Peat shortage

A shocking problem has been revealed in the world of whisky. The beautiful Scottish island of Islay, famous for its whisky distilleries, has been struck unlucky by an accidental discovery, which suggests its peat could run out by 2021.

A moment of silence for the terrible news please.

This all started with a feasibility study, conducted by a company looking into opening a new distillery on the island.

From the study, a significant drop in peat beds was discovered. The last survey was conducted in 1980 but there is a possibility that several mistakes were made as various assumptions were concluded from only a few core samples.

This made the recent study even more shocking for many in the industry.

Why should Islay whisky lovers be worried? What does peat have to do with whisky in the first place? If you’re not a whisky connoisseur, these are valid questions.

Well, peat is influential in the taste of many whiskies.

But what is peat?

Peat is a mixture of decayed vegetation. This could be anything from dead plants, moss, grass and other organic material that has built up over thousands of years.

Before you can actually use the peat, it has to be harvested, dried and carved out into ‘bricks’. These ‘bricks’ are no one trick pony. They can be used for cooking and domestic heating too.

Peat is behind the smoky taste you might love in so many single malts.

It is used in the process of drying the barley in many of the world’s finest single malt whiskies.

During the drying process, the smoke works into the barley taking on the characteristics of the peat, which is what you can taste in the final product.

The longer the barley grain, or malt, is dried for over peat fire, the smokier the single malt whisky will be.

Laphroaig dries its malt for around 18 of the average drying time of 30 hours, for example.

For the big peaty hitters that are so popular around the globe, you can understand how much of a concern a lack of peat might be.

There may not be any need to panic though. Our genius Islay distillers have been aware of this issue for a while and none of them are terrified by the news.

Laphroaig will be launching an unpeated whisky called Glan Muir. Bowmore are looking to put more emphasis on sherry cask whiskies.

And Ardbeg have been working on a very exciting peated water process to combat the shortage.

Of course, if you’re not a fan of peaty whiskies then none of this will be of concern to you.

One of our Islay peaty favourites…

file_4_1 Ardbeg Corryvreckan

As a replacement for the much-loved 1990 Airigh nam Beist, Ardbeg Corryvreckan had some pretty big shoes to fill.

The good news is that this is a belter, winning World’s Best Single Malt Whisky at the World Whisky Awards in 2010 and Best No Age Statement Scotch from Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible


Would you like to learn more about single malt whisky? Great! Keep an eye on this blog or why not visit us at 133 High Street, North Berwick? We love to talk whisky!