The use of speciality malts is growing not just among craft brewers, but also among craft distillers. Peated malt from Scotland is particularly coveted by distilleries seeking to produce distinctive, smoky whiskies with traditional, authentic, Scottish ingredients.
Crisp Malt’s recent £3.3m investment in a new peat kiln in Portgordon, on the North coast of Scotland, is helping to fulfil the increasing demand for this premium speciality malt. The new plant more than doubled the production capacity of peated malt to nearly 40,000 tonnes a year.
The new peat kiln incorporates a custom-made peat burner built by Don Valley Engineering in Doncaster. When peat is burned in the kiln, it releases smoke impregnated with phenolic compounds.
“By smoking still wet but germinated barley, we ensure that the peat phenol penetrates deep into the kernel,” says Colin Johnston, Crisp’s craft brewing and distilling sales manager in Scotland. “The smoky characteristics produced by utilising this traditional method ensure that the flavour intensity lasts through the transport, mashing, brewing and distilling processes – even if the malt is being sent around the world.”
“It is this smokiness that gives peated whiskies those wondrous phenolic flavours and aromas.
“The new burner is ultra-efficient, maximising the creation and capturing of phenols – at the same time as minimising the use of peat. With the exceptionally high levels of phenol we’re able to achieve with the new burner, we are looking to release a ‘Super Heavy Peated’ malt in 2020.
Peat is sourced from the Highlands. The barley, which benefits from long summer days, light soils and sea breezes comes from farms local to the maltings. Crisp team members work closely with growers, ensuring that the barley coming into the maltings is always of the highest quality.
“This might sound simple,” says Colin, “but with all the variables involved in growing, it is an art as well as a science. We are very fortunate in having fantastically skilled farmers in the region. They have learned over generations – general barley-growing ability, but also expertise related to their own particular patches of land. Many of them have been working with us since Portgordon maltings opened in 1979. We’re very proud of that fact.”
“They intimately know the topography, the soils, and the vagaries of the micro-climates – all of which affect the crops they grow. This allows them to adjust sowing, fertilising and harvesting regimes – and to produce the highest grades of malting barley for us.
“Our new plant gives us the capacity to supply craft distillers in Scotland, Britain and across the world with premium peated malt produced in Scotland - the renowned home of malt whisky. I’m keen to talk to distillers looking to produce whiskies with distinctive smoky, Scottish peat flavours and aromas – so just get in touch.”