To describe a Whisky, a taster often talks about its peatiness, or absence of peatiness. (in French : la tourbe)
But what exactly is peat?
Peat is a plant material extracted from the ground. It is formed by mucus in wetlands or bogs. Peatlands are fragile balanctodaye, their composition is mainly made of organic materials.
It is frequently said that only Scottish whiskeys are authentic because they are made with the local peat. But peat is not exclusive to Scotland at all! It is certainly very common in Scotland, but is found in many soils elsewhere in Europe, and especially in the Lorraine basin and in the Vosges, where soils are home of ancient volcanoes and left a heritage of exceptional peat.
What relationship with the whiskey?
Malt (the barley grains germinated) is dried before being distilled. Traditionally, to dry the malt, producers have the choice between a selection of combustibles: wood, peat (and today often gas). Producers using peat as combustible will soak their spirits of peaty notes. Indeed, burning peat releases phenols which flavors the barley grains, and can be tasted in the spirits (with subtle and elegant notes, which is the whole secret of the master distiller).
Whisky-lovers refer to ppm (parts per million) to classify the level of peat in a given whiskey, it is the measure of the amount of phenols. The Whisky presented by Alcopedia develops a beautiful and delicate, pretty iconic, peat.