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Bring on the peat!

Bring on the peat!

The times when the most popular single malt whisky brands offered two or three basic expressions, and their profile differed only marginally, depending on the type of casks and age used in a given selection, are definitely a thing of the past. For over a decade now the imagination of whisky lovers is fuelled by three magic letters – ppm. And whereas the peat phenol levels seemed to be ascribed to a given distillery and did not vary too much, these days we are witnessing one distillery after another admitting to having experimented with that – traditional after all – method of drying malted barley.

On Islay, the island famous for top-quality peated whiskies, there’s Bruichladdich breaking one record after another with consecutive expressions of their Octomore. With Octomore Masterclass 8.03 an unbelievable level of 309 ppm in malted barley was reached. What is interesting, nobody is even trying to challenge Bruichladdich. Since they were first introduced, Octomores have been an unquestioned peatiness leader.

However, as it perspires now and then, here and there distilleries not necessarily associated with peat smoke, located in regions renowned for subtlety and softness, more and more often decide to bottle results of their experiments from a decade or more ago. For many the launch of Balvenie Peated 14yo came as a surprise. Peat has been added to the Tomatin portfolio (Cù Bòcan), since its reactivation BenRiach has been using it more and more boldly, just as Tomintoul and Edradour have.

A few days ago another two distilleries have admitted they have been experimenting with peat, too. A couple of Highland distilleries – Knockdhu and Glenturret. With Knockdhu it is no news, in fact. The Inver House Distillers brand has given us a whole new range of peated whiskies to enjoy. It started three years ago with the introduction of anCnoc Rutter, anCnoc Flaughter, anCnoc Tushkar and anCnoc Cutter. Since that time, three more peated expressions from Knockdhu have been released. They were all no age statement expressions (so-called NAS). And so is the new expression, just released anCnoc Peatheart. With Peatheart, however, we are offered an exceptional whisky, at least from the distillery’s perspective. Namely, anCnoc Peatheart is a whisky that was distilled with the use of malt smoked to the level of 40 ppm, which – in this category at least – makes it equal to some of the traditional peat monsters from Islay. And it is, naturally, the most highly peated whisky released so far by Knockdhu.

Peatheart matured in ex-bourbon casks. Despite the lack of age statement, it has spent at least ten years in oak, so it is hardly under age whisky-wise. Actually, it compares quite well with the probably best known expression from Islay’s Laphroaig, which is also 10 years old, and peated to approximately 40 ppm. Interestingly, with earlier peaty expressions from Knockdhu the peatiness level was measured in the distilled spirit, so the whiskies must have been far more smoky that those from other distilleries with a similar ppm statement, where the peatiness was measured in the malted barley, and a lot of it lost in the production process. With Peatheart the ppm declaration comes from the malted barley. A representative of the manufacturer declared that the change was introduced to accommodate the anCnoc norm to that used widely in the industry. It might also be that they just wanted a “nicer”, more impressive figure to feature on the label. And who can blame them if everybody else does the same?

Peatheart is non chill-filtered, and bottled at 46%. The retail price of a single 70 cl bottle has been set at £52. The good news is it is not a limited edition. AnCnoc Peatheart has been added to the official core range.

AnCnoc is a brand of single malt whisky distilled at Knockdhu, a distillery located in the village of Knock, Aberdeenshire, east of Keith, in the direct proximity of the Speyside region. It is a common practice for a single malt whisky to be named after the distillery it is made in, but in the case of Knockdhu the name of the whisky was changed to anCnoc (initially spelt An Cnoc) in 1993, to avoid confusion with the malt made at Knockando on Speyside.
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