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Issue 106 - Holy Smoke

Whisky Magazine Issue 106
September 2012


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Holy Smoke

Martine Nouet looks at the kiln's part in whisky making

When you live on Islay, especially on the south-east coast, you know that “where there is fire there is smoke”, to misquote the old saying. I would not be surprised to hear that Port Ellen villagers' blood tests come back with the noted presence of phenols! The peat reek which is released in the air from Port Ellen maltings can be hardly tolerable at times, at least for the Islay westerner like me. When I scanned Islay whiskies aromas through to establish (or try to) the Islay taste map last year, I was puzzled by the different expressions of peat in peaty whiskies. If it is easy to understand the difference between a heavily, medium or lightly peated whisky, why do two single malts distilled from two equally peated barleys show so many differences in the expression of their aromatic profile, even if we take into account the differences in the making? The other itching question was about the differences imparted in flavour between distillery malting and industrial malting.

I thought it would be interesting to concentrate on what happens in the kiln as this phase in the whisky making is crucial when it comes to enriching the aromatic profile.

Port Ellen maltings had stopped producing for maintenance and were just resuming at the steeping stage when I visited. But one of the kilns was still operating, so Islay group manager Brendan McCarron could clearly illustrate his explanations as we stood in front of the kiln.

Brendan McCarron has been in place for 15 months, coming...

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