what is in scotch that makes it taste smokey?

What makes a scotch whisky so smokey in flavor compared to a canadian whisky or irish whiskey? Canadian whiskies are usually sweet but scotches have that distinct smokiness. chivas 12 year and johnnie walker red and black for example have that smokey flavor and i love it but where exactly does it come from? Is it just the barrel that gives it that flavor or is it something else?

9 Answers

Relevance
  • Anonymous
    9 years ago
    Best Answer

    The smokey character of scotch whisky/whiskey originates from the peat used in malt kilns. It is further distributed into the mash and finally concentrated during distillation.

    http://pottery.about.com/od/potterykilns/tp/heatso...

    Malt whisky, until the mid 1960s, was made of the following ingredients: barley, water, yeast and peat. Until then, all the distilleries were using large amounts of peat for firing the stills and drying the barley in the kilns. At the turn of the 1960s, with the help of all the progresses in still firing (e.g., indirect firing, steam coils) and in maltings (e.g., large and industrial scale maltings), it became possible to produce large quantities of high quality malted barley without the use of peat. The Speyside and Lowlands distilleries were amongst the first to convert to non-peated whiskies.

    Other areas, such as Islay maintained the traditional production of peated whiskies (at the exception of Bunnhahbhain, Bruichladdich and Caol Ila (to some extend with their highland style)). The influence and flavours of peat are easily recognized by the whisky drinker and the peating level expressed as phenol in parts per million (PPM, 1 PPM equals to 1 part (e.g., phenol) diluted in 1'000'000 parts (e.g., spirit).

    Peat is defined as follows on http:www.wildlifetrust.org.uk/facts/peat.htm: "Peat is an organic material that forms in the waterlogged, sterile, acidic conditions of bogs and fens. These conditions favour the growth of mosses, especially sphagnum. As plants die, they do not decompose. Instead, the organic matter is laid down, and slowly accumulates as peat because of the lack of oxygen in the bog. In other terms, in wetlands or peatlands called also bogs, moors or mire in some countries, peat is the result of the decomposition of vegetal matter, composed mainly of Sphagnum. Spaghnum is the genus of bryophyte ("mosses") plant division and contains a few hundred species.

    peat is still used in high quantities by the Scotch whisky industry. The distilleries of Highland Park, Springbank, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Kilchoman still use peat for the malting process, as well as Balvenie but in a much lower proportion. At Balvenie, in order to have little peat influence, there is a little peat fire adjacent to the kiln heated by coke and the peat smoke is mixed with the hot air generated by the coke fire. The other distilleries buy their peated malt directly from Maltings such a Port Ellen, Tamdhu or Glen Ord or from other Maltsers (Malters) such a Simpsons. In Maltings such as Port Ellen, as much as 5 tonnes of peat can be used per run and as little as 5 tonnes per year at Tadmhu. Drying the malted barley with peat gives some pleasant smoky flavours to the spirit and allows a better storage than non-peated malt, but might also reduce the yield (number of litres of pure alcohol by tonne of malt). Depending on the degree of peatiness, peat can be from any time for up to 48h. After 48h, the husk (envelope) of the barley grain will be dry and prolonging the exposure of the barley to the peat smoke will not increase the peaty character of the spirit. This treatment will result in an increase of a group of aromatic chemical compounds called phenols.

    The concentration in phenols in the distillate flowing out of the still (new make) is between 30 and 50 percent of the initial barley concentration. For example, the barley for Ardbeg is peated to 54 ppm of phenol and the final concentration in the new make is between 17 and 24, depending on the milling and mashing process (1). For a second example, the barley used for the BenRiach Curiositas is peated to 55 ppm and the level of phenols is 35 ppm in the new make. An important property of the peat smoke is to make the barley more resistant to bacterial infection.

    Distilleries prefer to use the upper part of the cut peat, because the top layers are richer and more rooty. The upper peat layer generates more smoke and is ideal for flavouring the barley. For domestic use, the lower part is preferred; since it will burn better, generate more heat and less smoke.

    Source(s): A very large warm thank you to Dr P. Brossard
  • jaffar
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Smokey Scotch

  • 4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.

    RE:

    what is in scotch that makes it taste smokey?

    What makes a scotch whisky so smokey in flavor compared to a canadian whisky or irish whiskey? Canadian whiskies are usually sweet but scotches have that distinct smokiness. chivas 12 year and johnnie walker red and black for example have that smokey flavor and i love it but where exactly does it...

    Source(s): scotch taste smokey: https://biturl.im/Rqn9n
  • 9 years ago

    During the drying process of the damp malt over a peat heated fire, the smoke gets into the barley. The difference in the smokiness of the whiskey depends on the time the barley is exposed to the biting peat smoke.

    If you like the smoke, then you should pick yourself up some Laphroaig 10 year old.

    You will like! It smells and tastes like a campfire.

  • How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
  • 9 years ago

    It is NOT the barrels

    The grain used to produce the wash that is distilled to make the Whisky has to be heated to stop the germination process that produces the fermentable sugars (malting).

    This is done by heating it in kilns, and with most Scotch Whisky the smoke from the fires is allowed to get into the kiln with the malt.

    The smokey tang you are referring to comes from whiskeys that are heated using peat files, or have peat added to the fires to produce the smoke (which is strangely enough why the smokeyness is properly referred to as being peaty"

  • 3 years ago

    Smokey Whiskey

  • 9 years ago

    The Barley is processed in an open kiln, that allows the smoke to infuse its flavour.

    In Irish, the barley is processed in a closed kiln, which excludes the smoke.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    It comes from the oak that the whiskey is aged in. The length of time it ages in the barrels gives each whiskey the distinct smokey flavor you mention.

    The same thing happens with many wines (mostly red).

  • The barrels are smoked before the whiskey is aged.

Still have questions? Get your answers by asking now.